The Rockies and back! a PESS graduate research journey: Dr. Clodagh Toomey

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Facing the reality of an economic recession upon graduation from a B.Sc in Physiotherapy in 2010 meant looking for alternative sources of employment. I was lucky enough to get an EHS Summer Research Student Bursary that year which took me down a path I did not expect. I did not envisage myself doing a PhD in body composition research and was fearful it was taking me away from my chosen career path. However, without delving into this area under the guidance of Prof. Phil Jakeman (PESS), Dr. Karen McCreesh and Prof. Susan Coote (School of Allied Health), I would not have attracted an offer from the University of Calgary to undertake an incredible postdoctoral fellowship opportunity. Many times, sitting in the DXA lab in PESS, thoughts of “I’ll just go back and be a physio again” would pop into my head, and that continued to enter my thoughts at each stage of my academic journey. However, to my surprise, research just kept pulling me back in.

Mo Shúile Togam Suas

“Mo Shúile Togam Suas”, translated roughly to “I will lift up mine eyes”, was the inscription that greeted me from the top of an impressive looking donor wall on my first day at the University of Calgary. I later found out this was the university’s motto. Surely a good sign? In Calgary, I got to work with Prof. Carolyn Emery on the Alberta Youth Prevention of Early Osteoarthritis (PrE-OA) study, investigating risk factors for post-traumatic osteoarthritis in over 250 youth and young adults that had sustained a sport-related knee injury. Being a member of the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, one of 11 IOC Research Centres for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health, allowed me to collaborate with world experts in the fields of musculoskeletal and concussion injury in the top rated sport science school in North America. It wasn’t all work and no play. Hiking became my new favourite hobby and with the incredible Rocky Mountains on our doorstep, it was easy to get lost in the wilderness (as long as you remembered to bring the bear spray!).

Keep Reaching

Since my return to Ireland, I have developed a new appreciation for the outdoors and all that Ireland has to offer, without the threat of predators! An HRB Emerging Investigator Award has brought me and my family back to UL once again, albeit a different UL in the middle of a global pandemic. I will be undertaking a €700,000 project that aims to implement clinical guidelines of exercise and education as the first line of treatment for hip and knee osteoarthritis in the Irish healthcare system. This giant task will be done in conjunction with UL and international research collaborators, in addition to clinician and patient stakeholders, to inform the best way to change practice. The project will also support a PhD student and Postdoctoral Fellow to carry out related projects. We are currently recruiting a PhD candidate so interested readers should apply before October 23rd, 2020. You never know, this may be the start of your own research journey!

For more information on the Implementation of Osteoarthritis Clinical Guidelines Together (IMPACT) project PhD Scholarship: Contact Clodagh on Twitter: @clo2me

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