Laura Hutchison – 2021 SEPA Research Scholarship Recipient

Laura Hutchison

Laura Hutchison (University of Sydney) is the very first recipient of SEPA's Research Scholarship.

In this Q&A, read about Laura's journey in podiatry so far, as well as her research into knee osteoarthritis.

Tell us about your career in podiatry so far
I have had a varied and rewarding podiatry career and have been lucky to work with many wonderful people in most areas of podiatry (including teaching and research). I began my career with a graduate position in high risk at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Although this is a different area to where my career has progressed it provided a valuable foundation. I then transitioned to private practice where I developed a special interest in biomechanics and musculoskeletal health. I had a couple of casual teaching roles at the time which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I then spent four years as a Lecturer in Podiatry and completed a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary and Adult Education, whilst still working in private practice. Currently I am completing my PhD at The University of Sydney in the wonderful collegial environment of the Neuro-Musculoskeletal Research Collaborative. I love how a podiatry degree is so versatile in terms of the rewarding career paths it can offer, and with each year my podiatry career evolves which keeps it exciting.

Why did you decide to start a clinical research career?
This answer is multi-faceted. I had so many wonderful mentors at the University of South Australia where I completed my honours, and this is where I first realised my clinical research passion. I also enjoy the problem solving, teamwork and working towards long-term goals that comes with research. There are many clinical questions still to be answered, and I have always wanted to further contribute to the podiatry evidence base. I also love the opportunities and collaborations that research can provide with people from different disciplines and backgrounds. I have been so lucky to learn so much from many talented health professionals, academics, and research participants.
What is your PhD project about?
My research is in biomechanics, knee osteoarthritis, gait retraining and pain. I am really interested in the relationship between biomechanics and pain and am finishing a systematic review and meta-analysis on this topic in people with knee osteoarthritis. I’ve also worked on another systematic review and meta-analysis led by colleague Nicole D’Souza (recently published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage and featured by The University of Sydney News) that identified certain biomechanical characteristics at baseline present an increased risk of medial tibiofemoral osteoarthritis disease progression. We have conducted multiple pilot studies and are now running a large randomised controlled trial (The GREAT Study) that is evaluating the effect of three different gait retraining interventions on medial knee load and pain in people with medial knee osteoarthritis. Channel Nine News recently aired a segment about our research featuring my supervisor A/Prof Milena Simic, and colleague Nicole. 
How do you think your research might help the Sports & Exercise Podiatry profession in the future?
I hope our research can provide valuable high-level evidence for the use of gait retraining in people with medial knee osteoarthritis. Gait retraining can reduce pain, but it may also have potential to stop or slow disease progression due to its load-modifying capability. As we are studying the effects of three interventions, our research should provide evidence as to which strategy is best. As podiatrists, we are experts in gait analysis so are ideally placed to be researching and implementing gait retraining clinically. However, our research is also applicable to any health professionals treating individuals with knee osteoarthritis. I also hope our research can provide valuable knowledge regarding the relationship between biomechanics and pain in people with knee osteoarthritis and I look forward to sharing my research with the Sports & Exercise Podiatry community. Thank you so much to SEPA for supporting me through my PhD journey.

Applications for the 2023 SEPA Research Scholarship will open soon. Stay tuned for updates. 

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