Winner of the 2019 Capstone Editing Early Career Academic Research Grant for Women
We are extremely proud to announce Dr Claire Henry as the inaugural recipient of the Capstone Editing Early Career Academic Research Grant for Women.
Dr Claire Henry is a research fellow at the University of Otago, New Zealand (NZ). She completed her PhD in 2017 via a series of publications at the University of New South Wales, Australia on the molecular biology of ovarian cancer. She has recently moved to Aotearoa, NZ for the unique opportunity to develop new research streams in the department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women’s Health at Otago. Since she began her new position, Dr Henry has undertaken a review of current research and has identified an unmet need in endometrial cancer. She quickly formed collaborations with leading clinicians and researchers to assemble a team with appropriate skills to realise the success of her research projects, and to support her career trajectory. She has already submitted three grant applications, was a member of the women’s health seminar committee, presented, promoted and socialised her research plans, aided in the co-ordination of a research strategy for the department and is currently preparing a peer review article on the current status of endometrial cancer in NZ.
Dr Henry’s research aims to improve outcomes for women with endometrial cancer, which is a cancer on the rise in NZ. Abnormal bleeding is the most common symptom of endometrial cancer, but only about half of women with these symptoms seek medical investigation. Studies often note that women who identify as Māori or Pasifika are diagnosed with more aggressive tumours that are assumed to be due to ‘late presentation’—which implies that the woman is at fault for not seeking timely medical intervention. Dr Henry’s research will investigate women’s journeys to the clinic for abnormal uterine bleeding. She will conduct documented interviews with women to look beyond the numbers, gain a deeper understanding of unmet needs and give voice to the challenges that women face in accessing appropriate care. The results from this project will inform the current health pathway to develop better support for timely responses to endometrial cancer and to improve health outcomes of women in NZ.
Dr Henry will develop skills in qualitative research methodology in addition to her established biomedical expertise, which will place her at the unique intersection of quantitative bench science and population health. This will offer her a rare opportunity to translate biomedical science into health care policy.
The Capstone Early Career Academic Research Grant for Women will be invaluable to building Dr Henry’s career trajectory, as well as her aim of being a unique gynaecological cancer researcher. It will also support her in obtaining future independent research funding, conducting her research, funding participation koha (gifts), transcription and translation costs, and publication costs.
Beyond the numbers: Understanding women's journeys to the clinic for abnormal uterine bleeding.
Abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) can be defined as an excessive, erratic or prolonged blood loss that interferes with a woman’s physical, social and mental quality of life. The current health care literacy in New Zealand (NZ) must be reviewed, as approximately 21–44 per cent of women who experience AUB post-menopause are reportedly unaware that it is abnormal and only about 50 per cent of women will seek medical investigation. This could be partly due to barriers that were reported in the health care system, such as costs, overbooked clinics, low-quality health care and appropriate cultural respect of the health care provider. AUB can be a symptom of benign issues, such as endometrial fibroids, infection or even pregnancy. It is also the most common symptom of endometrial cancer (EC) or hyperplasia (pre-cancer)—it thus warrants immediate and specialist investigation. EC is the most common gynaecological cancer, with around 400 women diagnosed in NZ each year, and incidence rates are increasing, particularly in Pasifika women under 50 years of age. EC incidences and morbidity and mortality rates in women who identify as Māori and Pasifika are much greater than those who identify as European/other. Studies that report EC prevalence in NZ often note that women who identify as Māori or Pasifika are diagnosed with fewer differentiated and higher-stage tumours. AUB is assumed to be due to ‘late presentation’, which places the responsibility on the woman to seek timely medical intervention.