Making a Global Difference in the Fight Against Cancer

Written by Andrew Donkor, UTS Doctor of Philosophy (Public Health) student

My interests are cancer and radiotherapy, palliative care and end-of-life care, policy, healthcare organization and community interventions for cancer control.

My research project involves efforts to improve access to cancer care, including radiotherapy services in low and middle-income countries which is challenging. Many radiotherapy initiatives in low and middle-income countries have failed to fully deliver on their promise because of multi-faceted barriers at the systems, organizational and patient levels, leading to significant wastage of scarce resources. Greater guidance on how to assess and build low and middle-income countries’ readiness for establishing sustainable radiotherapy services is needed to improve cancer care outcomes. Therefore, the ‘Access to Radiotherapy for Cancer treatment (ARC) Project’ aimed to provide practical guidance to LMICs on establishing safe and sustainable radiotherapy services.

Many radiotherapy initiatives in low and middle-income countries have failed to fully deliver on their promise because of multi-faceted barriers at the systems, organizational and patient levels, leading to significant wastage of scarce resources.

The Faculty of Health at UTS is highly organized and well-resourced to support me on this research journey to produce evidence that will be beneficial to Ghana and other low- and middle-income countries. The quality of studies conducted and published by the Faculty is transforming healthcare delivery locally and internationally.

I needed a supervisor who is an authority in the field of cancer care and making international contributions. I performed an internet search and identified the outstanding influence on Prof. Jane Phillips and Dr. Tim Luckett in cancer and palliative care research. I made contact through an email and shared my research idea with them. Finally, we had a skype interview, which gave us a new opportunity to discuss in detail the research idea, studying at UTS, sponsorship, living in Sydney and the international outlook of the PhD program.

The advice I would give to future research students is to first identify the area you want to research and what motivates you to contribute to that field. You will need that motivation throughout your PhD journey. Also, contact a potential supervisor and discuss your research idea with him or her. The ever-helpful Faculty of Health administration team will guide you through the doctoral process but you can also visit the Future Students website for more information. You can equally contact a current PhD student during the initial stages of your application. In summary, starting a higher degree in research is a matter of effective time management and seeking guidance to strengthen your application.

The advice I would give to future research students is to first identify the area you want to research and what motivates you to contribute to that field. You will need that motivation throughout your PhD journey.

The Faculty of Health at UTS offers world-class facilities appropriate for research. The frequently organized Researcher Development and 12 Weeks to Publication Programs have directly improved my project management and academic skills. Equally, my supervisors have provided tremendous support and academic directions.

During the last three years of undertaking an independent project, I have learnt valuable lessons, which include time and project management strategies, teamwork and collaboration in health services research, prioritization techniques, effective writing and oral communication skills, thinking critically, creatively and innovatively, and self-motivation skills to achieve project goals.

If I could change anything about my PhD that will be investing time in discussing expectations with my supervisors early and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Keeping a good balance between personal life and work is important to prevent burnout when completing the thesis.


Find out more about studying Public Health

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