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College of Nursing & Midwifery

Mental Health and Supportive Care Research Group

About the Research Group

The Mental Health and Supportive Care Research Group endeavours to better health and well-being outcomes through the development and implementation of evidence-based psychosocial interventions. Our researchers here, in the College of Nursing and Midwifery, and our adjunct national and international colleagues have worked with government, non-government and community-based health agencies to contribute to health and well-being-enhancing initiatives. In particular, we have expertise in clinical trials, community-based approaches, implementation science, and service evaluations. As our name suggests, our program of work is comprised of two core themes: mental health care and cancer supportive care. We also engage in undergraduate honours and postgraduate research supervision and research mentorship.

Heads of Research Group

Professor Daniel Bressington, Professor of Mental Health

Professor Daniel Bressington, Professor of Mental Health

Professor Daniel Bressington is Professor of Mental Health at CDU. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Mental Health Nursing at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Visiting Professor at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University. He is a Mental Health Nurse with over 20 years’ experience and has around 100 publications in international peer-reviewed journals. Dan is Associate Editor for Frontiers Public Mental Health (specialty section of Frontiers in Psychiatry), Academic Editor (clinical trials) for PLoS One and sits on several journal editorial boards. He has an extensive track record in completing funded research projects focused on multimorbidity in people with severe mental illness, developing/testing psychosocial interventions to improve mental health and mental health literacy/stigma.


Professor Benjamin Tan, Professor of Nursing

Prof. Ben

Professor Benjamin Tan is Professor of Nursing at CDU. Benjamin’s interdisciplinary programs of research focus on empirical development and the evaluation of evidence-based supportive care interventions to help alleviate long-term symptom distress in people affected by cancer. He and his interdisciplinary research team have developed and sustained intensive linkages with research collaborators in Australia, HKSAR, Singapore, the UK, and China Mainland, which have so far resulted in over 80 publications and more than 25 funded projects with a total award exceeding AUD$2.3 million. Benjamin’s research has significantly impacted practice guidelines and the formation of new supportive care interventions. His research has been adopted in several international and national practice guidelines, including those developed by the European Society for Medical Oncology, the American College of Chest Physicians, Cancer Care Ontario, and the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Benjamin is an Associate Editor for BMC Palliat Care, an Academic Editor for Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, an Academic Editor for PLoS One, and an Editorial Board Member for Eur J Oncol Nurs.

Mental Health Care Research Theme

The Mental Health Care Research Theme (MHCRT) leads and participates in studies that address the mental health of people experiencing severe mental illness, social adversities and those with comorbid physical/mental health care needs. Our main research focus is on developing and testing easily accessible psychosocial treatments for young people, marginalised groups and those experiencing psychosis, psychological trauma and multi-morbidities. Our aim is to conduct research that has real-world positive impacts on the mental health and well-being of communities across local, national and international settings by directly influencing practice, clinical guidelines and health services policy.

Research Theme Lead

Dr Bróna Nic Giolla Easpaig, Senior Research Fellow in Mental Health 

Bróna is a Senior Research Fellow at CDU, based in Darwin. Her background is in community psychology, and as such, her work is characterised by meaningful engagement with communities, professionals and service organisations to address extant health challenges. She has expertise in community-based participatory methods and qualitative approaches to health services research. Her core research interests include youth mental health; enhancing wellbeing in rural communities; health service provision to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities; and psychosocial support in oncology care. She has developed a strong track record of research partnerships, scholarly publications and funding attainment. To facilitate ongoing collaborations, she holds adjunct academic positions with the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University, the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Tasmania and the School of Psychology at Charles Sturt University. Bróna is a member of the Australian Psychological Society and serves on the national committee of the Women & Psychology Interest Group. She is also an Associate Editor with the Australian Community Psychologist journal.

Research Theme Members

Professor Mitchell Byrne, Professor of Psychology

Mitch is the Psychology Head of Discipline in the College of Health and Human Sciences at CDU. Mitch is also the co-convenor of the Australasian Resilience Implementation for Sustainable Communities (RISC) Centre at CDU. Mitch received his PhD from the University of Wollongong researching approaches to improve medication adherence with people experiencing severe and enduring mental health problems. In addition to treatment adherence his research has traversed areas as diverse as autism spectrum disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, the role of omega 3 PUFA’s in mental health and consumer behaviours contributing to antibiotic resistance. Mitch has experience leading high quality randomised controlled trials and has published widely. He is an endorsed and practicing Clinical and Forensic Psychologist with over 35 years clinical experience.

Dr Lily Zhai, Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Dr Lily Zhai is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the College of Nursing and Midwifery. She completed her nursing PhD at Monash University Australia in 2018. Lily’s research is focused on mental health, post-traumatic growth experience in women with breast cancer, chronic disease management, clinical nursing, and aged care. She has published over 20 papers in in national and international peer-reviewed journals and participated in eight research projects as a primary or key investigator.

Penny Sweeting, Lecturer of Nursing

Penny is a PhD candidate and nursing lecturer with the College of Nursing and Midwifery at Charles Darwin University. Her research interests include suicide prevention, human factors methodology and quality and safety in healthcare. Penelope is an experienced clinician and attained a Master of Advanced Nursing, specialising in management and critical care from the University of Technology Sydney. Penelope has presented at an international conference and has won several awards for her PhD work

Professor Michelle Cleary, Adjunct Professor

Michelle is Professor (Nursing), School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Sciences, Central Queensland University, Sydney, NSW, Australia and an Adjunct Professor at CDU. Michelle’s collaborative research program is focused on: 1) promoting mental health, well-being and resilience; 2) assessment and management of symptoms for enhanced care; and, 3) translating research programs to strengthen health service delivery, education and evidence-based practice to meet the needs of consumers, and service providers. Michelle is highly and widely published, with more than 430 publications in international journals. She has also received numerous research grants/scholarships and is an Editorial Board member of the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing; Associate Editor and Column Editor of Issues in Mental Health Nursing; Author-in-Residence of Nurse Author & Editor, and Associate Editor of Nursing and Health Sciences. Michelle is currently supervising PhD students, and has supervised/co-supervised students through to completion. Michelle has strong research partnerships and is currently actively collaborating on several projects with researchers both locally and abroad.

Professor Richard Gray, Adjunct Professor

Richard is Professor of Clinical Nursing Practice and theme lead - a healthy, safe and equitable life course for everyone - at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and an Adjunct Professor at CDU. Prof. Gray trained in Epidemiology and Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and did his Ph.D. at King’s College London. His major research focus is the development and testing of novel psychosocial interventions for people with mental health problems. He has published 232 papers in peer-reviewed journals, conducted 15 clinical trials involving over 3,000 participants and his career grant income approximates $32m AUD.

Professor Thanos Karatzias, Adjunct Professor

Thanos is the Head of Research in the School of Health & Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University, UK and Clinical & Health Psychologist at the Rivers Centre for Traumatic Stress, Edinburgh, UK and Adjunct Professor at CDU. He is the former Chair of the British Psychological Society Scotland Working Party for Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse (BPSSS) and he was a member of the Committee of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Crisis, Disaster & Trauma Section. He has spent his entire clinical and academic career working in the field of psychological trauma, particularly on interpersonal psychological trauma. In collaboration with national and international research partners he has developed a special interest in the effects of psychological trauma on physical and mental health and its treatment; on general, prison and veteran populations as well as on people with learning disabilities. The last few years he works in the area of Complex PTSD, a new condition in the recently published ICD-11. Prof Karatzias has published widely in these areas.

Professor Jo Seiler, Adjunct Professor

Jo is an Adjunct Professor at CDU and is currently employed as the General Manager of Darwin Private Hospital, ensuring that the Hospital grows in terms of service delivery, the provision of high-quality care, and that the organisation remains financially viable and sustainable.  The Hospital has a new 18 bed inpatient mental health unit. Jo has over 20 years’ experience in the healthcare industry in roles such as clinician, academic, clinical leader and hospital manager. She has successful track record in the leadership and management of in both the public and private sector across three states. She is currently a sitting member of Northern Territory Government Boards, including the Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and the Health and Community Services Complaints Review Committee. Both of which are Ministerial appointments. She is the holder of six tertiary qualifications; including undergraduate and post graduate qualifications in nursing, research and education, a Masters in Management and a Doctorate in Business Administration.

Dr Grace W.K. Ho, Adjunct Associate Professor

Grace is an Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Nursing and Deputy Theme Leader of the Mental Health Care Research Theme at the School. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at CDU and Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Grace is committed to understanding the needs and improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable children, youths, and families through a holistic, biopsychosocial lens. Some of her targeted research efforts aim to promote positive parenting and safe childhoods in at-risk families with young children; address stigma associated with mental illness and other forms of social adversities; and strengthen mental health and resilience in trauma-exposed populations.

Dr David Mitchell, Adjunct Associate Professor

David is a consultant psychiatrist working at the Top End Mental Health Service and Adjunct Associate Professor at CDU. He is an affiliate of the Black Dog Institute in Sydney and has held teaching and research appointments at the University of Melbourne and the Baker IDI Research Institute, Melbourne. His interests are in both education and research. He has worked with primary health care to enhance the mental health skills of General Practitioner, Nurses, Psychologists and Allied Health Professionals. He is involved in academic teaching of psychiatry registrars. In particular, scholarly processes and critical appraisal.  He is a member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand’s Colleges National Committee for Continuing Professional Development. His research interests lie in health system evaluation and the interface of psychiatry and public health. This is augmented by a range of clinical experiences from primary to tertiary level care, remote and rural health as well as military and with veteran psychiatry.

Dr Ellie Brown, Adjunct Research Fellow

Ellie is an early career Research Fellow at Orygen and the Centre of Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at CDU. She is working in the areas of early psychosis and physical health. Ellie has worked with people with mental ill-health across the age span in a clinical and research capacity for over 12 years, in the UK, Qatar, and Australia and currently holds a small clinical caseload as a Counselling Psychologist at the Parkville Hub. Ellie is engaged in a program of work aiming at identifying the physical and sexual health needs of young people affected by mental ill health and is leading a project aimed at developing a sexual health intervention. She also works closely with clinicians from Orygen psychosocial group program with embedding service evaluation into new clinical initiatives and supports the headspace Early Psychosis teams to deliver evidence-based care and redesigned the fidelity tool to measure this. Since 2018, she has received funding from the Department of Health, PHNs and University of Melbourne

Dr Karen Hazell Raine, Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Karen is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer with the College of Nursing and Midwifery at CDU and Adjunct Lecturer with the Sydney Nursing School, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney. She has extensive experience and engagement across all aspects of health care with advanced current practice in specialist perinatal-infant, child, youth and family mental health services, and application of attachment theory. Her Doctoral research focused on very early detection of vulnerable mother-infant relational quality in the context of antenatal depression screening in Australia. Her research highlights the need for further examination of the presentation and assessment of perinatal mental health status among culturally diverse (immigrant, refugee and Aboriginal) populations, and scoping of parenting support and intervention needs within this population. Her research interests include interventions in the perinatal period aiming to optimise infant/child mental health and wellbeing; prevention of child abuse and neglect; attachment relationships and mental health across the life cycle; maternal and child health services and workforce development. Karen was the inaugural recipient of the Elaine Tolley Medal for mental health research, Westmead Medical Research Foundation.

Dr Daphne Cheung, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow

Daphne is an Assistant Professor in Nursing at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at CDU. She has been committed to nursing research for two decades and is experienced in randomized trials and implementation research. She has published over 30 articles in international peer-reviewed journals. Besides, she is serving as an editorial board member for BMC Geriatrics and Nursing Open. Her work primarily focuses on dementia care and caregiver support. As the Principal Investigator, she has been granted research funding AUD 1,020,000 for four main projects until 2023. In addition, through collaborating with other researchers, her team has secured approximately AUD 2,000,000 for eleven projects. She is dedicated to developing interventions to support dyads and integrating technology to promote the health of older people.

Dr Ken Ho, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow

Ken is an Assistant Professor of the Nethersole School of Nursing of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at CDU. He graduated from the Nethersole School of Nursing at the Faculty of Medicine of CUHK and obtained his Registered Nurse License in Hong Kong. He received his Master of Science in Clinical Gerontology degree from CUHK. He completed his PhD studies in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2017 and was awarded the Faculty Distinguished Thesis Award. His research areas include migrant care workers, older adult loneliness and care of older adults. His clinical experience includes geriatric nursing and emergency nursing. He is dedicated to serving the nursing community. He has been serving as an editorial board member or a reviewer for various journals, and as a member of local and international professional bodies.

Dr Yan Li, Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Yan is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer with the College of Nursing and Midwifery at CDU and Research Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She obtained her PhD degree from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and completed her postdoctoral training at Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery, and Palliative care from 2019-2020. Dr Li is a registered nurse with over 8 years of experience, and she is an active nurse researcher. Her research interest is spinal cord injury rehabilitation, psychosocial interventions, and mental health promotion. Her work was supported by Prof Ida Martinson Fund and King’s College London Global Research Grant. She has recently been awarded the Hong Kong Government Health and Medical Research Fund Research Fellowship to continue her research work and contribution towards local service innovation and research development in the area of mental health within spinal cord injury community rehabilitation. Dr Li has published around 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and she has served as reviewer for the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Disability and Rehabilitation, International Journal of Interprofessional Care, BMC geriatrics, Spinal Cord and Journal of Spine surgery

Selected Research Projects and Publications

Selected Research Projects

Thai Health Improvement Profile intervention to prevent weight gain in people with first- episode psychosis (HIP-T First). 

This clinical trial is funded by the International Research Network Thailand Research Fund, Royal Thai Government. The RCT evaluates the efficacy of a psychoeducational and motivational interviewing-based intervention that is driven by findings from a comprehensive physical health check tool (The Health Improvement Profile). The study compares indicators of obesity and quality of life between the HIP-T group and treatment-as-usual over one year.

Behavioural Activation for Depressive Symptoms in young people with emerging or early psychosis: a pilot study.

This feasibility RCT is funded by CDU’s Competitive COVID-19 Supplementary Funding Pool Scheme distributed by the Australian Federal Government. The study aims to establish the feasibility of clinician delivered Behavioural Activation as an adjunct to usual care to reduce depression in young people with emerging or early psychosis. This study will inform the design of a full, appropriately powered randomized controlled trial.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD in Australian Defence Force Veterans: A cross-sectional survey

This project was funded by a CDU rainmaker grant. It uses the International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ) to determine the nature and extent of CPTSD and PTSD in local ADF veterans. Specifically, the study aims to assess the reliability of the ITQ, determine the nature and extent of PTSD and CPTSD in trauma treatment-seeking ADF veterans and establish relationships between CPTSD distress severity, functioning and psychological resilience.

Co-design of health and wellbeing services for LGBTIQ + individuals on Tasmania’s East coast: Advancing evidence, principles and practice.

This project is funded by the Department of Communities, Tasmania LGBTI Grants Program 2020. The overall aim of the research is to identify and build the evidence base supporting the provision of priority health care needs (mental and physical) of LGBTIQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer]+ populations residing on the east coast of Tasmania.

Evaluation project of NewAccess [cognitive behavioural therapy] program within Headspace

This is a mixed-methods, independent program evaluation funded by the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network & Beyond Blue. The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of a low-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy for young people trialled within youth mental health centres.

Selected Research Publications
  • Bos, D., Gray, R., Meepring, S., White, J., Foland, K., Bressington, D. (2021). The Health Improvement Profile (HIP) for people with Severe Mental Illness: Feasibility of a secondary analysis to make international comparisons. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 2021. Doi: 10.1111/jpm.12748
  • Chien, W.T., Bressington, D., Lubman, D., Karatzias, T. (2021). A randomized controlled trial of a caregiver-facilitated problem-solving-based self-learning program for family carers of people with early psychosis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020, 17(24), 9343; Doi: 10.3390/ijerph17249343.
  • Chien, WT, Thompson, DR, Leung SF, Bressington, D. (2020). Quality of life, symptom severity and level of functioning in people with severe mental illness ready for hospital discharge. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 2020. Doi: 10.1111/jpm.12703.
  • Bressington, D., Cheung, TC., Lam, SC., Suen, LKP., Fong, TK., G, HO, HS., Xiang, YT. (2020). Association between depression, health beliefs and face mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11:571179. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.571179
  • Bressington, D., Li, Y., Hulbert, S., Mak, YW (2020). Physical fitness and activity levels among Chinese people with schizophrenia: A cross-sectional study with matched case-control comparison. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020, 17, 3564; Doi: 10.3390/ijerph17103564
  • Temesgen, WA., Chien, WT., Valimaki, M., Bressington, D. (2020). Predictors of subjective recovery from recent-onset psychosis in a developing country: A mixed methods study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, Doi: 10.1007/s00127-020-01853-5.
  • Li, Y., Coster, S., Norman, I.J., Chien, W.T., Qin, H., Bressington, D. (2020). Feasibility, acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for people with recent-onset psychosis: A systematic review. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 2020. Doi: 10.1111/eip.12929.
  • Bowman, S., Nic Giolla Easpaig, B. & Fox, R. (2020). Virtually caring: A qualitative study of internet-based mental health services for LGBT young adults in rural Australia. Rural and Remote Health, 20, 5448. Doi:10.22605/RRH5448
  • Fox, R, Nic Giolla Easpaig, B., Roberts, R., Greig, J., Burmeister, O., Dufty, J. & Thomas, S. (2020) Evaluating a low intensity cognitive behavioural program for young people in regional Australia. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 28, 195 202. Doi:10.1111/ajr.12619
  • Ho, GWK, Bressington, D., Karatzias, T., Chien, WT., Inoue, S., Yang, AP., Chan, AYC., Hyland,P. (2019). Patterns of Exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences and their Associations with Mental Health: A Survey of 1,346 University Students in East Asia. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 2019. doi: 10.1007/s00127-019-01768-w
  • LI, Y., Chien, WT., Bressington, D (2019). Effects of a coping-oriented supportive programme for people with spinal cord injury during inpatient rehabilitation: A quasi-experimental study. Spinal Cord, doi: 10.1038/s41393-019-0320-2.
  • Ho, GWK., Karatzias, T., Cloitre, M., Chan, ACY., Bressington, D., Chien, WT., Hyland, P., Shevlin, M (2019). Translation and Validation of the Chinese ICD-11 International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ) for the Assessment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD (CPTSD). European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 10:1, 1608718, DOI: 10.1080/20008198.2019.1608718
  • Lee, K, C., Tang, W, K., Bressington, D. (2019). The Experience of Mindful Yoga for Older Adults with Depression. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 26: 87–100. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12517
  • Bressington, D., Mui, J., Yu, C., Leung SF., Cheung, K., Wu CST, Bollard, M., Chien, WT (2019). Feasibility of a group-based Laughter Yoga intervention as an adjunctive treatment for residual symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in people with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 248, 42-51. doi: 10.1111/inm.12568.
  • Ho, GWK., Chan, ACY., Chien W T., Bressington, D., Karatzias, T (2018). Examining Patterns of Adversity in Chinese Young Adults Using the Adverse Childhood Experiences – International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ). Child Abuse & Neglect, 88, 179–188
  • Chan, SYY., Ho GWK., Bressington, D. (2018). Experiences of self-stigmatization and parenting in Chinese mothers with severe mental illness. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 28, 527–537. doi: 10.1111/inm.12558
  • Ho, GWK., Bressington, D., Leung, S.F., Lam, C.K.K., Leung, A.Y.M. , Molasiotis, A., Ligot, J., Ranoco, and Valimaki, M. (2018). Depression Literacy and Health Seeking Attitudes in the Western Pacific Region: A Mixed-Methods Study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 53:10, 1039-1049. doi: 10.1007/s00127-018-1538-6
  • Bressington, D., Badanapurkar, A., Inoue, S., Ma, H Y., Chien, W T., Nelson, D., Gray, R (2018) Physical health care for people with severe mental illness: The attitudes, practices, and training needs of nurses in three Asian countries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15, 343. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15020343.
  • Bressington, D., Chien, WT., Mui, J., Lam, KKC., Mahfoud, Z., White, J., Gray, R (2018). The Chinese Health Improvement Profile (CHIP) for people with severe mental illness: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27, 841–85. doi: 10.1111/inm.12373.
  • Badanapurkar, A., Bressington, D., Nelson, D., Jones, M., Thomas, D., Mehndi, M., Gray, R (2018). Perception of nurse prescribing among nurses and psychiatrists in a developing country: A cross-sectional survey. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27, 866–87. doi: 10.1111/inm.12375. Impact factor- 2.43 (Q1).
  • Meepring, S., Chien, WT., Gray, R., Bressington, D. (2018). The effects of the Thai Health Improvement Profile intervention (HIP-T) on the physical health and health behaviours of people with schizophrenia: A quasi experimental study. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27, 126–137. doi: 10.1111/inm.12301. Impact factor- 2.43 (Q1) (Corresponding author).
  • Chien, WT, Bressington, D., Yip, A., Karatzias, T (2017). An international multi-site, randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based psycho-education group program for people with schizophrenia. Psychological Medicine (2017), 47, 2081–2096. doi: 10.1017/S0033291717000526
  • Bressington, D., Mui, J., Tse, M. L., Gray, R., Cheung, E. F., & Chien, W. T. (2016). Cardiometabolic health, prescribed antipsychotics and health-related quality of life in people with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders: a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychiatry, 16(1), 411.
  • Gray, R., Bressington, D., Ivanecka, A., Hardy, S., Jones, M., Schulz, M., vonBormann, S., White, J., Anderson, K., Chien, WT (2016). Is adherence therapy an effective adjunct treatment for patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 2016, 16:90. DOI 10.1186/s12888-016-0801-1
  • Thongsai, S., Gray, R., Bressington, D. (2016). The physical health of people with schizophrenia in Asia: baseline findings from a physical health check programme. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 2016, 23, 255-266. DOI: 10.1111/jpm.12300.

Cancer Supportive Care Research Theme

The Cancer Supportive Care Research Theme (CSCRT) leads innovative research to improve supportive care outcomes for people with cancer. The research programmes of CSRT are centred on empirical development and evaluation of nurse-led and evidence -based non-pharmacological interventions that can be transferred quickly into practice to help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life in people affected by cancer.

Research Theme Lead

Dr Alison Wang, Research-Focused Fellow in Nursing 

Dr Alison Wang is Lead of the CSCRT. She received her PhD in Nursing from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and has academic and professional qualifications in both nursing and psychology. Alison’s research areas are centred on palliative care and symptom management in patients with cancer and chronic diseases. Alison has authored over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals and has coordinated more than 15 research projects as a key investigator. She has also served as an Academic Editor (Medicine and Health Sciences) for PLoS One, and international peer review panel member for several high-impact journals in her fields of research, including Palliative Medicine, BMC palliative care, Quality of Life Research, and European Journal of Oncology Nursing.

Research Theme Members

Dr Daniel Liu, Outstanding Future Researcher

Dr Daniel Liu is an Outstanding Future Researcher at CDU. Daniel holds a PhD in Nursing from the Australian Catholic University and a Doctor of Medicine from Tongji University. Following the completion of his PhD study, Daniel received his postdoctoral research training at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Nursing. Daniel’s research background is centred on the healthcare of patients with cancer and chronic diseases. Daniel has a distinguished research record as evidenced by internationally recognised publications and success in attracting competitive external research funding. Daniel has been serving as an editorial board member or international peer review panel member for ten internationally renowned journals in the fields of nursing, cancer, and integrative medicine, such as PLoS One (Academic Editor), Current Medical Science (Editorial Board Member), BMC Palliative Care, and Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Professor Marilynne N Kirshbaum, Chair of Human Research Ethics Committee

Professor Marilynne N Kirshbaum obtained a BSc Nursing and Anthropology from New York University and an MSc and PhD from the University of Manchester, UK. Her area of expertise is in cancer and palliative care nursing where she has published and presented extensively. She remains committed to advancing nursing science through exploring the complexities of fatigue and well-being from a theoretical, behavioural, multi-cultural, social and therapeutic energy perspective.

Associate Professor Haakan Strand, Associate Professor in Nursing

Associate Professor Haakan Strand is the Course Coordinator of the Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) Program. He has a research interest in the implementation of the Nurse Practitioner role along with other Advanced Practice roles and how these can impact on planning of health services. Along with the Nurse Practitioner role there is an interest in the area of chronic disease management. At this stage Haakan is principal advisor for two HDR students, studying for PhD.

Professor Simon Stewart, Adjunct Professor

Professor Simon Stewart is a Professor at Torrens University Australia and an Adjunct Professor at CDU. Prof Stewart is an NHMRC of Australia Senior Principal Research Fellow, a cardiac nurse scientist and health services researcher. He has led a broad range of disease surveillance/burden of disease studies and interventional trials focused on understanding and responding to an evolving epidemic of chronic heart disease around the world. His research particularly focuses on health inequalities and vulnerable communities. His research portfolio includes Africa’s largest and most comprehensive study of heart disease to date – the Heart of Soweto Study. It also includes a series of seminal randomized trials and translational studies demonstrating the cost-benefits of multidisciplinary, nurse-led management of heart failure and other chronic forms of heart disease. These trials have directly led to new health services/programs worldwide.

Associate Professor Eileen Cheng, Adjunct Associate Professor

Dr Eileen Cheng is an Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an Adjunct Associate Professor at CDU. Eileen’s methodological expertise is in qualitative and mixed-methods research, qualitative systematic review, as well as clinical intervention development and testing. Her research areas focus on supportive care in cancer specializing in symptom management, psycho-oncology, breast cancer survivorship, and nutritional oncology. Her research has been published in international peer-reviewed journals including Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle, Psycho-Oncology, BMC Cancer, and Supportive Care in Cancer.

Associate Professor Jennieffer Barr, Adjunct Associate Professor

Associate Professor Jennieffer Barr is an Adjunct Associate Professor at CDU with extensive experience in research and research training. In the past decade, she has also been involved in research leadership and management including positions of Director of Research and Innovation and Deputy Dean of Research. Her focus in research is adaptation. This has included living with chronic illness and ongoing improvement of healthcare delivery to aid adaptation, and where possible recovery. She has gained approximately 1 million dollars in external grant income including a category one grant for a randomized clinical trial examining the efficiency of a nurse-led clinic for chronic illness management.

Dr Isabella Zhao, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow

Dr Isabella Zhao is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at CDU. Isabella has research experience in quantitative research methods. She has managed NHMRC funded clinical trials and conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of big dataset. Clinically, Isabella has experience in primary health care. With her expertise and experience in research and clinical field, Isabella is committed to conducting research to improve health services through research evidence. She is particularly interested in health service improvement, chronic disease management and healthy ageing at the primary care level.

Dr Sabina Eilseeva, General Practitioner, Clinical Senior Lecturer

Dr Sabina Eilseeva is a General Practitioner in Australia and currently holds an adjunct position at CDU as a Clinical Senior Lecturer. Dr Eliseeva started her medical career in 1999 in a variety of disciplines. For the past ten years, her primary interest is in general practice. Her goal is to promote healthy community through primary care management. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr Eliseeva is always involved in various research projects, as she believes to apply the best research evidence into her daily treatment. She has participated in a number of different research projects, such as palliative care, care model research at primary care level. She is committed to providing care to her patients according to the best available clinical guidelines.

Dr Mary Polotan, General Practitioner, Clinical Senior Lecturer

Dr Polotan started her medical career in 1991 and has a strong interest in geriatric medicine and healthy ageing. She has worked as a registrar and consultant in geriatric medicine for over 10 years in Philippines. She has been using her medical knowledge to improve the quality of life for the aged population. After she arrived in Australia, Dr Polotan has been working as a general practitioner for the past 10 years. With her passion and experience in geriatric medicine, she offers best medical services to the local community with over 70% of her regular patients are aged over 65 years. Dr Polotan also provides home visits for her elderly patients whose physical conditions impede them from coming to her family practice for medical treatment. Dr Polotan is one of the very few doctors in Australia who provides such service to the community. Since her practice as a family physician, Dr Polotan aims to improve the elderly’s quality of life and assist them to remain living independently at home for as long as possible.

Dr Nasreena Waheed, Adjunct Senior Lecturer

Dr Nasreena Waheed holds a Bachelor of Nursing from Monash University, a Master of Nursing Science from the University of Adelaide and a Doctor of Public Health from Flinders University, Australia. She is the recipient of many competitive Merit Scholarships including the Australian Government’s prestigious Endeavour Postgraduate Award. She is a Member of the Golden Key International Honour Society who represent the top 15% of College and University students across the world. Nasreena’s latest publications focus on cancer care coordination and arts in cancer care.

Ms Li-Qun Yao, PhD Candidate

Li-Qun is a PhD candidate under the supervision of Professor Benjamin Tan, Dr Alison Wang, and Dr Daniel Liu. Her research focuses on symptom management sciences and complementary therapies. She attained a Master of Medicine degree from Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China, and a Master of Science (Rehabilitation Science) degree from Duquesne University, the US. Since 2011, she has published over 30 research articles in national and international peer-reviewed journals and has participated in several research projects as a key investigator.

Ms Emily Wang, PhD Candidate

Emily Wang, an Australian registered nurse with over 20 years’ work experience in clinical care and health services management, specialised in acute care and chronic disease management. She obtained her Bachelor and Master of Nursing degrees from the University of South Australia and is currently pursuing her PhD at CDU for cancer pain management. She is an evidence-based practitioner for better nursing care, had a few papers published in peer-reviewed journals. She is also a clinical committee member of Adelaide Primary Health Network.

Ms Jessy Thambiraj, PhD Candidate

Jessy graduated from Christian Medical College, India in 1988. Obtained M.Sc in Child Health Nursing from the University of Madras, India in 1998 and Post Grad Diploma in Management and Finance in 2008 from RMIT, Melbourne. Jessy has been working as a Paediatric Nurse Consultant in Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2010, Paediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist in Day Oncology Unit in Royal Children’s Hospital since 2007 and is currently doing her PhD in Charles Darwin University in Australia. In addition to the clinical responsibilities Jessy works with the Cancer Council and the Oncology teams to update Policies, Protocols and Education materials.

Selected Research Projects and Publications

Selected Research Projects

A primary care clinician-led symptom management program for breast cancer survivors: Intervention development and validation

This project is supported by the COVID-19 Supplementary Funding Pool Scheme allocated by the Federal Government. This project aims to develop and evaluate a primary care clinician-led supportive care program to facilitate the self-management of symptom distress in breast cancer survivors at three primary care medical centres in Queensland. The supportive care program is the first to systematically incorporate evidence-based strategies to enable ongoing symptom management in breast cancer survivors. The program is highly compatible with Medicare, which can potentially inform Australia’s healthcare policy and facilitate rapid dissemination of the program to practice with long-term sustainability while reducing unnecessary burden on the health system and individuals.

Effects of acupressure on fatigue-sleep disturbance-depression symptom cluster in breast cancer patients: A three-arm sham-controlled randomized trial [Phase III Randomized Controlled Trial]

This project is supported by the competitive CDIPS Fellowship. The project design follows one of the most rigorous guides for developing and evaluating evidence-based interventional studies and aims to introduce a clinical and cost-effective self-practiced acupressure intervention that can be incorporated in existing cancer care service for long term symptom alleviation.

Development and preliminary evaluation of an evidence-based somatic acupressure protocol for the self-management of symptom cluster of fatigue, insomnia and depression in breast cancer patients [Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial]

This is an international collaborative research project that aims to develop and test an evidence-based acupressure protocol for managing the fatigue-sleep disturbance-depression symptom cluster in breast cancer patients. This project will provide preliminary evidence to support a promising nonpharmacological approach that can be transferred quickly into practice to help alleviate cancer symptoms, reduce individual financial burden, and potentially increase completion rates of routine cancer treatment.

Resistance inspiratory muscle training (IMT) for breathlessness in patients with thoracic malignancies: A randomized controlled trial [Phase III Randomized Controlled Trial]

This study aims to assess the effects of IMT on breathlessness in patients with thoracic malignancies. Evidence identified from this study could facilitate the evidence translation from research to clinical practice by introducing lung cancer patients with an effective and convenient self-management approach to managing their breathlessness which is usually less responsive to conventional pharmacological interventions.

Acupuncture for joint symptoms in breast cancer patients: A pragmatic randomized controlled trial [Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial]

This project aims to examine the effectiveness of acupuncture for the management of joint symptoms in breast cancer patients who are currently undergoing hormone treatments following the completion of taxane-based chemotherapy. The study will investigate and interpret the use, delivery and outcomes of acupuncture in the management of a debilitating symptom of cancer therapies in order to inform clinical decision-making and policy-making and contribute to the evidence base for the treatment of hormone treatment-related joint symptoms.

Effects of a traditional Chinese exercise program-tai chi on symptom cluster in breast cancer patients: a preliminary randomized controlled trial [Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial]

This project is supported by the highly competitive Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Award. The overall aim of this project is to test the feasibility and acceptability of an evidence-based tai chi intervention to manage the breast cancer symptom cluster and to preliminarily explore the effects of tai chi on patients’ symptom cluster and QoL through a preliminary randomized controlled trial.

An Evidence-based Breathing Exercise Intervention for Chronic Pain Management in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial [Phase II Randomized Controlled Trial]

This project is supported by the highly competitive Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Award. The overall aim of this project is to examine the feasibility and acceptability of an evidence-based breathing exercise intervention protocol for female breast cancer survivors and to preliminarily explore the effectiveness of the breathing exercise intervention for cancer pain management.

Selected Research Publications
  • Wang, T., Zhai, J., Liu, X. L., Yao, L.Q., & Tan, J. Y. B. (2021). Massage therapy for fatigue management in breast cancer survivors: A systematic review and descriptive analysis of randomized controlled trials. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Article ID 9967574, https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/9967574
  • Yao, L. Q., Tan, J. Y. B., Turner, C., & Wang, T. (2021). Feasibility and potential effects of tai chi for the fatigue-sleep disturbance-depression symptom cluster in breast cancer patients: Protocol of a preliminary randomized controlled trial. BMJ Open, 11: e048115.
  • Wang T., Molassiotis, A., Chung, B. P. M., Zheng, S. L., Huang, H. Q., & Tan, J. Y. B. (2021). A qualitative exploration of the unmet information needs of Chinese advanced cancer patients and their informal caregivers. BMC Palliative Care, 20: 83.
  • Yao, L. Q., Tan, J. Y., Turner, C., & Wang, T. (2021). Tai chi for breast cancer patients with fatigue-sleep disturbance-depression symptom cluster. 32nd International Nursing Research Congress, Honor Society of Nursing, The Sigma Theta Tau International (July 22–26, 2021). Singapore City, Singapore.
  • Liu, X. L., Cheng, H.L., Lam, C. (2021). Predicting undergraduate nursing students’ willingness to care for older adults: A multicenter cross-sectional study in Asia. Nursing Open, 10.1002/nop2.916.
  • Zhou, H.J., Deng, L.J., Wang, T., Chen, J.X., Jiang, S.Z., Yang, L., Liu, F., Weng, M.H., Hu, W.J., & Tan, J.Y. (2021). Clinical practice guidelines for the nutritional risk screening and assessment of cancer patients: A systematic quality appraisal using the AGREE II instrument. Supportive Care in Cancer, 29: 2885–2893.
  • Tan, J. Y. (2021). Development of an evidence-based auricular therapy protocol for managing nausea and vomiting in breast cancer survivors undergoing chemotherapy. 23rd Cancer Nurse Society of Australia Annual Congress (June 17–19, 2021). Brisbane, Australia.
  • Hains, T., Rowell, D., & Strand, H. (2021). Effectiveness of the Non‐Medical Surgical Assistant measured by patient outcome assessment. International Journal of Nursing Practice, 27(1), e12822.
  • Tan, J. Y., Wang, T., Yao, L. Q., Liu, X. L., Cheng, H., Duddle, M., & Waheed, N. (2021). Somatic acupoint stimulation for anxiety and depression in cancer patients: Current evidence and future research direction. 23rd Cancer Nurse Society of Australia Annual Congress (June 17–19, 2021). Brisbane, Australia.
  • Yao, L.Q., Tan, J.Y., Turner, C., & Wang, T. (2021). Development and validation of a Tai Chi intervention protocol for managing the fatigue-sleep disturbance-depression symptom cluster in female breast cancer patients. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 56, 102634.
  • Li, X., Li, Z.M., Tan, J.Y., Wang, T., Chen, J.X., Chen, X., Yang, L., & Suen, K.P.L. (2021). Moxibustion for post-stroke urinary incontinence in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 42, 101294.
  • Wang T., Molassiotis, A., Tan, J.Y., Chung, B. P. M., & Huang, H.Q. (2020). Prevalence and correlates of unmet palliative care needs in dyads of Chinese patients with advanced cancer and their informal caregivers: A cross-sectional survey. Supportive Care in Cancer. 29(3), 1683-1698.
  • Lin, S., Xiao, L.D., Chamberlain, D., Newman, P., Xie, S., & Tan, J.Y. (2020). The effect of transition care interventions incorporating health coaching strategies for stroke survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Patient Education and Counseling, 103(10), 2039-2060.
  • Tan, J.Y., Liu, J., Suen, L.K.P., Molassiotis, A., & Wang T. (2020). Development and validation of an evidence-based auricular acupressure intervention for managing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 52, 102502.
  • Liu, X.L., Cheng, H.L., Moss, S., Wang, C.C., Turner, C., & Tan, J.Y. (2020). Somatic acupoint stimulation for cancer-related sleep disturbance: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2020, Article ID 2591320.
  • Yao, L.Q., Tan, J.Y., Turner, C., Wang, T., & Liu, X.L. (2020). Effects of traditional Chinese exercise on cancer-related sleep disturbance: current evidence and directions for future research and practice [Abstract & Poster Presentation]. STTI 5th Biennial European Conference [Virtual Conference] (May 28-29, 2020). Coimbra, PORTUGAL.
  • Yao, L.Q., Tan, J.Y., Turner, C., Wang, T., & Liu, X.L. (2020). Traditional Chinese exercise for cancer-related sleep disturbance: a systematic review and descriptive analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 40, 101197.
  • Wang, T., Molassiotis, A., Chung, B. P. M., & Tan, J. Y. (2019). Psychometric assessment of the Chinese version of the Problems and Needs in Palliative Care questionnaire-short version in advanced cancer patients. BMC Palliative Care, 18 (1):68.
  • Arrey, S. K., Kirshbaum, M. N., & Finn, V. (2019). In search of care strategies for distressed people with communication difficulties and a learning disability in palliative care settings: the lived experiences of registered learning disability nurses and palliative care professionals. Journal of Research in Nursing, 24(6), 386-400.
  • Ennis, G., Kirshbaum, M., & Waheed, N. (2019). The energy-enhancing potential of participatory performance-based arts activities in the care of people with a diagnosis of cancer: an integrative review. Arts and Health, 11(2), 87-103.
  • Wang, C. C., Zhu, R., & Tan, J. Y. (2019). Nurses and holistic modalities: the history of Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Holistic Nursing Practice, 33(2):90-94.
  • Wang, C. C., Tan, J.Y., & Williams, A. (2019). Safety and side effects of acupuncture therapy in Australia: A systematic review. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 27: 81-89.
  • Tan, J. Y., Molassiotis, A., Lloyd-Williams, M., & Yorke, J. (2018). Burden, emotional distress and quality of life among informal caregivers of lung cancer patients: An exploratory study. European Journal of Cancer Care, 27(1), e12691
  • Ennis, G., Kirshbaum, M., & Waheed, N. (2018). The beneficial attributes of visual art-making in cancer care: An integrative review. European Journal of Cancer Care, 27(1), e12663.
  • Lashbrook, M., Bernardes, C. M., Kirshbaum, M. N., & Valery, P. C. (2018). Physical functioning and psychological morbidity among regional and rural cancer survivors: A report from a regional cancer centre. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 26(3), 211-219.
  • Yang, L., Tan, J. Y., Ma, H. L., Zhao, H. J., Lai, J. H., Chen, J. X., & Suen, L.K.P. (2018) Warm-needle moxibustion for spasticity after stroke: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 82, 129-138.
  • Wang, T., Molassiotis, A., Chung, B. P. M., & Tan, J. Y. (2018). Unmet care needs of advanced cancer patients and their informal caregivers: a systematic review. BMC Palliative Care, 17(1), 96.
  • Wang, T., Molassiotis, A., Chung, B. P. M., & Tan, J. Y. (2018). Current research status of palliative care in mainland China. Journal of Palliative Care, 33(4), 215-241.
  • Lashbrook, M. P., Valery, P. C., Knott, V., Kirshbaum, M. N., & Bernardes, C. M. (2018). Coping strategies used by breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer survivors: A literature review. Cancer Nursing, 41(5), E23–E39.
  • Kirshbaum, M. N., Ennis, G., Waheed, N., & Carter, F. (2017). Art in cancer care: Exploring the role of visual art-making programs within an Energy Restoration Framework. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 29, 71-78.
  • Kirshbaum, M., Dent, J., Stephenson, J., Topping, A., Allinson, V., McCoy, M., & Brayford, S. (2017). Open access follow-up care for early breast cancer: A randomized controlled quality of life analysis. European Journal of Cancer Care, 26(4), 1-9.
  • Kirshbaum, M., Stead, M. L., & Bartys, S. (2016). An exploratory study of reiki experiences in women who have cancer. International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 22(4), 166-172.

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