Meet our Researchers - Finding the Answers that help ISCRR make a difference

Dr Janneke Berecki-Gisolf always knew she wanted to be a researcher, although she hoped she might get distracted while undertaking her medical degree.  Luckily it didn't work, and the Australian research world is all the richer for it.  Janneke is currently engaged in an Early Career Fellowship with ISCRR while employed as a Senior Research Fellow at the Monash Injury Research Centre (MIRI).  Through her Fellowship, she is looking at determinants of good outcomes for people following injury.  Recently, she developed a tool that the TAC is now using to help reduce the risk of clients having a delayed return to work.  On the weekends she is kept busy by her young family.  

TITLE: Senior Research Fellow / ISCRR Research Fellowship

DEPARTMENT: Monash Injury Research Institute (MIRI)

Dr Janneke Berecki-Gisolf is one of over 80 researchers who make up the ISCRR research network. 

How long have you worked for MIRI?

Eighteen months.                                              

Where were you based prior to starting at MIRI?

I worked at University of Calgary in Canada in Alberta for one year as a Postdoc on cardiovascular research. The topic was related to what I did for my PhD.

I did my PhD at the University of Amsterdam in the Department of Physiology and Medicine and after that I completed my medical degree. They do it differently in Holland where a medical degree is made up of four years theory and two years practical (internships), and during or after that you can choose to do a PhD. After ten years of study, I finally had my MD and PhD!

After that, I went to Brisbane for two and a half years and worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.

When I first started studying, I already knew that I wanted to do research and if you want to do really applied research, it's very beneficial to have a background in medicine. I actually hoped I might get distracted while studying  and perhaps go down the medical practitioner path, but I really enjoyed the research so here I am today.

What attracted you to this type of research?

I really enjoyed biology, medical physics and physiology - clearly I liked maths or anything you can calculate things in! I also really liked the systems approach and mathematical modelling, which is very useful for statistics and that is also what my PhD was related to.

What do you like best about your role?

The best thing is that it can be applied and be useful; it's not just 'doing' the research. The impact is also fairly direct, as in there is an end result. I also really enjoy the communication with the end users, like the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). Basic biological research also ultimately leads to treatment, but often it's like 100 steps away from the work you do. My research is much more closely linked to outcomes and feels much more useful.

First job?

I typed out medical transcripts for the Nuclear Medicine Department. It paid well as they wanted medical students who could type and understand the terminology. In Dutch, medical terms are not common knowledge as they often are in English.

Worst job?

I really didn't have any bad jobs! I used to clean for an elderly man but to be quite honest, I really quite liked it. He liked to have students clean so he could chat to them and he was a lovely person to chat with!

What research/projects are you currently working on and what does it involve?

My main project for the Fellowship with ISCRR is on injury outcomes for WorkSafe and TAC. There are two components to this project - retrospective and prospective.

The retrospective part uses the existing claims on the Compensation Research Database at ISCRR and aims to look at determinants of good outcomes, as well as less favourable outcomes. It will include outcomes like lost time, health services used, duration of time off work, work disability recurrences and high and/or a long period of uptake of services. I am working on this with Dr Alex Collie and Professor Rod McClure.

The prospective part will inform and ask new clients for their consent to link their claims data to Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data of their usage patterns predating their accident/injury claim. This data will tell us three things: which drugs and which services the patient was using and a general idea of their level of health. With a general use of medicine, you can get a fair idea of any pre-existing conditions. This extra information about services and medications being usedbeforethe injury, as well as the outcomes, can lead to ideas about how to best manage these patients, including the appropriate health servicesafterthe injury. Hopefully, this will result in clients reach optimal outcomes.

What was the most fulfilling piece of research you completed?

In my current role, it was a project that studied predictors of return to work, from which I developed a tool that the TAC is now using to help identify people who are at risk of delayed return to work. It's very fulfilling to see that something you essentially created, is used and useful and great that they sought an answer from research and now have implemented the findings.

How is your research benefitting WorkSafe and the TAC?

By looking at patterns of pharmaceutical use, comorbidity and other determinants, the idea is to actively identify people at risk of certain outcomes and then ask, what can we do about it?  Information predating the injury can be useful but difficult to come by, so that will be a very interesting study.

Another important thing that helps WorkSafe and TAC is that I will look at how medications can impact the incidence of injury and not just outcomes - that could lead to some injury preventative recommendations.

What is your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

Play with my kids.

What is the best piece of advice you've been given, and what would you give?

In regards to a PhD, finish what you've started.

In research, rather than being about leaving no stone unturned, it's about being really thorough. If you see something odd, you need to stop and sort it out before you move on.