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George is originally from Greece. He joined Oxford Brookes University in September 2016 and his thesis title is 'Nutrition and pelvic cancer patients: a mixed-method study to explore dietary habits, nutritional awareness and patient experiences'.
My first experience with Oxford Brookes University was through a job application for a research assistant position at the Functional Food Centre (now Oxford Brookes Centre for Nutrition and Health), which was successful. I worked on that role from January 2014 until September 2016.
Since I started working at Oxford Brookes University, I have been part of the Nutrition research group which is composed of research students, academics and staff members of the Functional Food Centre. While working in this group, I quickly appreciated the quality of research that takes place and the support students get from their supervisors. Therefore, I knew that a research degree at Oxford Brookes would be an exciting experience and I would receive great support.
The area of research was a major motivation for me to apply. The project is a collaboration between two departments within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Therefore, I get the opportunity to get involved in and work with two research groups; one I already know (Nutrition group); and one that I am excited to get to know (Supportive Care group).
Before my PhD studies, I worked as a research assistant at the Functional Food Centre. My main role was to conduct human studies investigating the role of different food products in metabolic markers, such as blood glucose and insulin.
I was already familiar with the research environment of the Faculty. However, I have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with research students from other groups, which is great.
There are more than 2.5 million people in the UK living with a cancer diagnosis of which 50% will survive their disease for ten years or more. With the increasing number of cancer survivors, it is important to consider the short and long-term self-management needs related to a number of lifestyle factors, including dietary requirements.
Pelvic cancer includes cancers of the prostate, ovaries, rectum and bladder cancer, all of which are common in the UK. Pelvic radiotherapy is often an integral part of the multidisciplinary approaches used to treat pelvic tumours. However, adverse effects following radiotherapy, such as bowel dysfunction, incontinence and fatigue, can persist for months and years beyond the end of treatment and can have a significant impact on a patient’s diet and subsequent nutritional status. Treatment side-effects and fears of cancer recurrence or developing a secondary cancer or comorbidity are likely to influence patients’ sense of well-being. Whether they have or have not made dietary changes following their diagnosis, pelvic cancer patients often have concerns about their diet and are interested in receiving information about healthy eating. There is also growing evidence that demonstrates the impact of a healthy diet on improved physical quality of life and lower body weight of pelvic cancer survivors. However, diet and nutrition is a neglected aspect of survivorship care. A recent report from the National Institute for Health Research suggests that many patients with cancer do not receive dietary advice from their healthcare professionals and that for those who do, the advice received is often considered confusing.
In this project, I aim to focus on pelvic cancer patients treated with radical radiotherapy. Using a mixed-methods approach (surveys and interviews) I will measure food habits, identify appetite issues, explore symptom experiences and evaluate nutrition support received during and after treatment for pelvic cancer patients. I will also assess patients’ awareness of and attitudes towards current dietary recommendations. It is expected that results from the project will inform the development of future patient-focused nutrition interventions and care services.
A research degree is a great opportunity for training and learning. I enjoy working in an academic environment and learning about new research approaches, such as qualitative research. I am also involved in a variety of Committees as a student representative, which gives me the opportunity to inform the University about student issues and familiarise myself with the way a University works to enhance student experience. I am lucky to say that, up to now, I have not faced any major challenges in my research journey.
I am only a first year PhD student and up to now, I am very happy with the training offered. The Faculty and the University inductions helped me understand my responsibilities as a research student. I have also attended training sessions regarding teaching, qualitative and quantitative research. I feel that training events at Oxford Brookes University suit a research student’s needs and contribute to their personal and professional development.
I am aiming for a career in public health nutrition. I see myself as a future researcher who works towards the improvement of people’s health and well-being. I have always believed that during my PhD studies I will develop a ground-breaking research idea. I am confident this will happen soon.