STEMM Profile: Kristin Edwards | Research Fellow | James Cook University | Townsville | QLD

Kristin Edwards Ph.D(c), RN, MSN, BSN, Mn(Psych), Mn(PhysEd), CertIV(TA) [image: Allan Reinikka]

“Pay close attention to the evidence of ‘pre-threshold alarms’; the increase of healthcare service activity that indicate volume stress. Researchers see it in the data, and we hear it through the surveys and interviews of healthcare providers at the bedside. We can’t afford to risk safety and quality in Australian healthcare”

Research Fellow Kristin Edwards’ love of learning is evident in enrolments and degrees from seven international universities, across chemistry, international relations, environmental conservation to nursing. She’s currently enrolled in a PhD at James Cook University, supported by grants from the Emergency Medicine Foundation (Australasia) and Central Queensland Hospital and Health System. She is also the recipient of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and is thrilled to hold a CSIRO Top-up scholarship and learn from the smartest data analysists and statisticians in the country.

Kristin’s research has linked together big health databases: air ambulance, emergency department, hospital and death registry, that created new data infrastructure for future linkage research. She hopes that the results of her current work will highlight patterns in mortality, morbidity, length of stay for emergency departments and hospitals, and interhospital referral regions in rural, remote and regional communities.

Kristin is driven to improve air ambulance patient journeys, by understanding emergency health service utilisation and allocation. Her twenty-year long love of air ambulances and critical care nursing has brought her to these projects where she helps to create a more comprehensive, coordinated emergency care system.

Kristin’s path in STEMM has taken some scenic detours: professional windsurfing in Maui, Hawaii, downhill ski instructing and racing in Colorado, countless mountain bike and running races in the Rocky Mountains and USA NCAA springboard diving competitions. Her competitive nature is fuelled by her curiosity and her drive to learn new skills. However, she used to keep this part of her life a bit of a secret. She thought that she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a scientist, if people knew about her athletic accomplishments. Now she sees that her grit and determination translates perfectly in her world of data.

What inspired you to do science/technology/engineering/mathematics/medicine? Have you always liked STEMM?

It’s not what inspired me, but who. My Mom continues to be the most curious person, I’ve ever met. She’s not afraid to ask questions and learn something every day. My Dad is a pathologist and a veterinarian, so the wonder of science was all around me. Growing up, we had jars of various animal tissue in formaldehyde, lining shelves in our basement. I could guarantee family holiday slide-shows would include surprise photos of bloody tissue samples, on blue or green surgical drapes, next to a scale ruler. Everyone would cringe, “Urgh, geez dad!” all together and move onto the next photo of Grandma. Science is full of surprises!

What do you think is the most important character trait in a successful STEMM academic researcher, clinical professional and educator?

Grit: the passion and perseverance for long-term and meaningful goals (Angela Duckworth 2016). Being curious and hard-working, go hand-in-hand with being gritty. Grit is something you practice, so it’s as much of a honed-skill, as it is a character trait.

What is the role of men in advocating/supporting/championing women in STEMM?

Men have to be comfortable in their clinical/academic/industry level of knowledge and confident in their professional roles, to be a champion of women in STEMM. My husband is one of those. He’s a PhD aerospace engineer, before he switched and became an Emergency Medicine Consultant. He was geek, before geek was cool. If the most accomplished rocket scientist-bachelor-master-doctor-doctor understands that women, actively engaged and contributing in STEMM can move us toward solutions not previously possible, then other nay-saying men in STEMM have no excuses. Shape-up and work together!

If you could give one piece of advice to the current government what would it be?

Pay close attention to the evidence of ‘pre-threshold alarms’; the increase of healthcare service activity that indicate volume stress. Researchers see it in the data, and we hear it through the surveys and interviews of health care providers at the bedside. We can’t afford to risk safety and quality in Australian healthcare.

How do you cope with self‐doubt? How do you cope with imposter syndrome?

A year into my PhD, imposter syndrome was over-whelming. I knew that sharing this heavy load was fatiguing my friends and family, so I found a fabulous counsellor that helps me walk through the hard times. She helped me see the perfect storm that I was living; badly behaving senior academics, massive power-differential, my new role and false fear that I wasn’t good enough. My other coping strategy is to get outside and breathe. I feel like a warrior after a run, listening to my ‘Rising Strong’ playlist. Here’s a sample: “Don’t kill my vibe”, by Sigrid, “Brave” by Sarah Bareilles, “Fight song” by Rachel Platten, “This is me” by Keala Settle  “Roar” by Katy Perry, “Unbreakable” by Birds of Tokyo.

LinkedIn: Kristin Edwards


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