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Speech Pathologist's Funded Mental Health Research Opportunity Realised

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An opportunity came up for speech pathologist Penelope Monroe which supported her in her PhD journey and helped to enrich her career path and her ability to give back to others. Penelope explains what the opportunity was, and why she took it.

I do believe it is a particular advantage for early-career clinicians and clinical researchers to go through this HETI Award application process. I have benefited from the opportunity to have my project proposal assessed on merit, rather than other elements such as my research experience or the number of my actual publications.

I applied for the HETI Award in Mental Health Research to support me in my PhD journey, and also to assist my work as a speech pathologist.

It meant I could take funded time away from my clinical role to pursue research goals. In practical terms, I could spend time developing specialist skills and knowledge and contribute to the evidence base of my particular field of work without losing income.

Making the decision

The application process itself was easy to follow with useful guidelines around the length of the proposal and its suggested structure.  The guidelines allowed me to demonstrate what I wanted to do through this award experience and to identify my deeper reasons behind the application. My goal was to provide access to valuable and life-changing activities for a vulnerable population who are at high risk of social isolation. By that, I am referring to individuals who experience dementia and related communication impairments; and they live in residential aged care.

The application process

I found the team responsible for the applications to be very approachable. The interview process itself was also friendly and I could see that the panel was genuinely interested in my proposal. They really wanted me to succeed and provide them with the information they needed.

I do believe it is a particular advantage for early-career clinicians and clinical researchers to go through this HETI Award application process. I have benefited from the opportunity to have my project proposal assessed on merit, rather than other elements such as my research experience or the number of my actual publications. This is important because lack of experience or number of publications can sometimes seem like a barrier to securing the necessary financial support to put projects into action in order to gain experience!

Potentially this means that projects are not pursued if clinicians can’t secure support to execute them. I know that HETI has many (fantastic) funding and support opportunities available for clinicians to gain specialist skills and pursue research, or quality improvement projects.

My project

The project I did with HETI support allowed me to develop skills in treatment, study design and execution, and data analysis. I learnt the research skills necessary to bring my project to life, based on the proposal I had submitted.

It also gave me the opportunity to further develop my interpersonal skills. I had to work with a range of stakeholders including nursing staff, facility managers, family members and the study participants (who presented with a range of communication abilities). I also had a young research assistant help me to collect data, which meant I had to learn how to teach the skills I already had and was developing along the way.

The skills gained

It’s tricky to say what skill I am most proud of having developed as a result of the project - perhaps the practical experience of having led the research project in its entirety from conception to execution and write-up. It’s important to share that the success of the project was truly a team effort. It succeeded because of the support I had from entities such as HETI and also from my supervisors. Then there was also the willingness of the residential aged care facility staff and residents to embrace and participate in my research. That had a positive impact on my experience.

Reflecting on my experience

It has been a truly enjoyable experience; no doubt helped by the team at HETI who are always very approachable. If I ever need any kind of help, I know that genuine assistance would always be available. This is cumulative in that it makes me feel supported in my research journey and motivated to continue for the sake of my deeper purpose.

If you are considering applying for the Awards program at HETI, my advice is simple: give it a go and let the team really see your passion for your project. They want to support you and help you to achieve your goal.

Further information and how to apply

For further information on HETI Awards, including eligibility criteria visit or to apply visit Mental Health Awards.