Easing the burden for rural cancer patients
Cancer sufferers and their carers from remote areas of South Australia are receiving vital information and support online thanks to a clever initiative developed by PhD graduate, Dr Kate Gunn.
Kate's passion for assisting people diagnosed with the disease in rural communities prompted her to develop the Country Cancer Support website as part of her PhD.
"I grew up on a sheep, wheat and barley property in South Australia, 650 kilometres from Adelaide," says Kate. "From that community I watched people struggle with the challenges a diagnosis of cancer brings, particularly when it is accompanied by isolation and the need to travel for medical treatment.
"With these experiences in mind, I chose to conduct my PhD research on how the social, emotional and practical needs of rural cancer patients could be better addressed."
This led to the development of www.countrycancersupport.com.au which is now run by Cancer Council SA.
Kate's had a busy few years. In-between attending and presenting at international conferences in Brisbane, Budapest and Berlin, spending time at the United Kingdom's major cancer support service in London and completing clinical placements in Clare and Melbourne, she has managed to complete a Master of Psychology (Clinical) and a PhD.
She was awarded a Dean's Commendation for her PhD research, she was the mace bearer at her graduation ceremony in September and also won the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Rural Health Award.
Then, to add to her growing list of accomplishments, Kate received the prestigious 2013 Premier's Young Achiever of the Year Award for South Australia.
"Being nominated was a great honour, and then to go on and win the award from such a strong field of nominees was, and continues to be, a real thrill," she says.
Kate splits her time working at both the Royal Adelaide Hospital Cancer Centre and Cancer Council SA.
"My role as a psychologist in the RAH Cancer Centre is to help support people affected by cancer to cope with the many challenges that it often brings," she says.
"This includes things like adjusting to the news of their diagnosis, how to speak to family about their condition, how to cope with the emotional side of treatment and how to manage feelings of grief and loss."
In her other role as a Research Project Coordinator at Cancer Council SA, Kate is working on a randomised control trial to test the effectiveness of telephone-based intervention to support the carers of cancer patients.
"I see it as a real privilege to be able to work with people through what is often a very challenging period of their lives and find doing so both rewarding and uplifting."
story by Connie Dutton
Dr Kate Gunn
Photo by Chris Tonkin