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Translating research into practice

19 October 2021
Researcher Spotlight: Dr Steph Kershaw
Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Steph Kershaw is passionate about translating research into real world outcomes and benefits. She’s currently evaluating a program which provides support to the families and friends of people who use alcohol and/or other drugs.
Dr Steph Kershaw

Dr Steph Kershaw

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your role at the Matilda Centre and your area of research?

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney. My research focuses on translating evidence-based information and research to reduce the impact of the use of alcohol and other drugs on individuals, families, and communities. I am particularly passionate about improving health outcomes among vulnerable and disadvantaged group.

How did you become interested in the field of translational research?

I always loved science, so I went straight from school to university to train as a Medical Scientist, learning about how the human body works, how diseases affect us and how we can treat them. I ended up doing a PhD looking at the link between genetics and drug dependence, which was interesting, but I still felt like I hadn’t quite found my true calling. After I finished my PhD, thanks to one of my supervisors, I was lucky enough to get a 4-month internship at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

The internship involved working with an expert committee investigating the impact of illicit drugs on public health and the translation of evidence-based research into international policy outcomes. This really opened my eyes to the importance of not just undertaking research but making sure to translate those findings into the real world and the amazing benefits that translational research can have on improving health outcomes.

So after working for the WHO for a while, I moved to Sydney and started working on Cracks in the Ice, a national initiative funded by the Australian Government Department of Health to develop and disseminate evidence-based resources about methamphetamine for the Australian community. Through this initiative I’ve found my perfect combination of being able to undertake research and see the research translated into action and have positive impacts on the community.

Can you tell us about the most recent project that you are working on?

My team and I were recently fortunate enough to secure funding from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to evaluate an online program called the Family and Friends Support Program (FFSP). This program is a free, world first, evidence-informed online intervention for affected friends and family members to help them support a loved one who may be using alcohol and/or other drugs. It’s important to realize that alcohol and other drug use not only affects people using the drug, but it also impacts their family, friends, and community. Supporting someone who is experiencing problems with their drinking or drug use can be extremely stressful. Whilst families and friends can, and do, play a critical role in the recovery of people using alcohol and other drugs, there is little support for them in this situation. FFSP aims to fill this gap by providing resources for families and friends about how they can best help their loved one, while also taking care of themselves. This program launched in November 2020 and is accessible across Australia, with 5,975 website users it so far. Now that the program has been live for nearly a year, my research team and I want to evaluate the program to see whether it is meeting the needs of families and friends, what improvements we can make, and where we could take the program in the future.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing people interacting with evidence-based resources and providing feedback about how the resources have assisted them in their life, personally or professionally, is by far the most rewarding part. I love it when I meet people (or get emails) telling me how helpful Cracks in the Ice has been to them, and I also get some of the best ideas from these conversations about what new resources or work we could do. Most recently, Cracks in the Ice launched a range of culturally appropriate resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and it has been amazing to see the uptake and interest in those resources.

What is something most people wouldn't know about you?

I grew up without a TV at home, and so going to my grandparents' houses was extra special as not only did I get spoilt with delicious treats, I also got to watch lots of Disney movies. Growing up without TV also meant I spent a lot of my childhood reading books or making my sister read to me. One of my most loved (and often re-read) books is Lord of the Rings, which also contains my favorite quote "not all that glimmers is gold, and not all those who wander are lost."

What are you passionate about?

Cooking, coffee, pets, and fiction books! My favorite kind of day is one where I can lounge around reading a good book while drinking a skim latte and having a snuggly pet on my lap. Especially if it’s cold and raining outside

Dr Steph Kershaw

Matilda Centre Research Fellow
View academic profile

Cracks in the Ice

Cracks in the Ice logo
Trusted, evidence-based information about crystal methamphetamine for the Australian community
cracksintheice.org.au

Family and Friends Support Program

FFSP logo
Providing an anchor for the storm
ffsp.com.au/aod

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