Seven minutes in Stroke - Heidi Janssen


1. What inspired you towards neuroscience? After my first child (William, now 9 years) I was looking for work 1 day a week and came into a project manger role with Hunter Stroke Service. Part of this role was to work towards translating the use of an Enriched Environment from a concept developed in animal models of stroke into the clinical setting.

2. Why stroke? Again, I sort of fell into physiotherapy rehabilitation after stroke about 1 year after graduating from physiotherapy. I was the physiotherapist within the team at a new stroke unit at Belmont Hospital in Newcastle. I thoroughly enjoy working with people after stroke. I am passionate about helping people work towards their very meaningful and important goals of regaining independence once more. 

3. What have been the highs so far? Working with some amazing clinical researchers who have pushed me to think so much more than I ever did prior to having research in my world. I have been extremely lucky to have them as my mentors- A/Prof Neil Spratt, Prof Julie Bernhardt and Prof Louise Ada. They and many other stroke researchers have had a big impact on where I am today. Getting through your PhD and staying in the research game is very much dependent on the support and guidance of your mentors. 

4. What have been the lows? 1. Having a research question to be answered and struggling to recruit quick enough before money and time runs out. 2. Late nights writing grants last minute.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life? Little sleep; that's about it really. You have to be there for your family first and foremost. I have two very busy little boys, William 9 and Hamish 5. A lot of work gets done in the early morning and late nights.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them? My PhD supervisors, A/Prof Neil Spratt, Prof Julie Bernhardt and Prof Louise Ada. I didn't really know any of my mentors before I started my research journey. I knew of them of course. I was linked up with Neil, a basic scientist and neurologist, through my project manager role with Hunter Stroke Service, crossed paths with Julie a bit prior to my PhD and knew Louise from a Masters degree I had done. Another recent addition to my mentor team is A/Prof Coralie English who again nurtures my inquisitive mind and keeps me motivated. I am very lucky to have her showing me the ropes in the next phase of my research journey.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them? I have collaborations with researchers and clinicians from all disciplines throughout Australia and I consider them all to be equally as important. I have built them over time through chats at conferences, email correspondence and in some cases, simply saying, 'this is what I want to know or do, I think you're the expert, are you keen to come on board?' I don't consider myself an expert in all aspects of research by any means. I am only interested in answering my research questions, and doing so with well designed research studies. If that means bringing people on who know how to do it, I am all for that. With my collaborations I learn constantly- research methodology, how to build and maintain relationships and simply how to survive in this highly competitive game. Every relationship and collaboration will teach you something. I've made some great friends and had many laughs in the process as well.
Seven minutes in Stroke - Heidi Janssen Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Monday, June 06, 2016 Rating: 5

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