Cancer Group’s Victoria Hardy reflects on the positives of hosting international exchange students…
In February the PCU Cancer Group welcomed two visiting students funded by the SAMRC and Newton Fund via the AWACAN project, working in South Africa and Uganda to improve outcomes for women diagnosed with cervical or breast cancer. PhD student, Amanda Edwards from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and MPhil student Jennifer Achan from the University of Makerere, Uganda, attended the University of Cambridge’s MPhil in Primary Care Research’s Qualitative and Mixed Methods module, and immersed themselves in primary care cancer research at an international institution. Their presence at Strangeways afforded the Cancer Group members an invaluable cross-cultural moment for learning from peers from other countries with different expertise and backgrounds; an ethos that is proactively fostered by Dr Fiona Walter.
For two weeks the group benefited from insights into the different healthcare systems and research priorities (and how they have been shaped by each country’s respective political and economic history), and identified research areas that could be further capitalised on in the UK to improve cancer outcomes. We also learned about each other’s professional and academic background and (often rather convoluted) journeys into cancer research, shared research/PhD projects, and planned ways we could support each other remotely to not only survive, but thrive during our doctoral studies.
Their time with us was rounded off by attending the masterfully curated MPhil module. Through endless creative exercises, methodologist Dr Jenni Burt guided us through the key principles of qualitative and mixed-methods research. Initially intimidated by what seemed like an overwhelming number of “ologies”, she enabled us to piece together how they all fit to inform the various ways we uncover knowledge. I definitely left with a sense that I had the tools to more confidently (and competently!) design and conduct qualitative research for my PhD.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Amanda and Jennifer for their fresh perspective, scholarly contributions and support, and for bringing an energy to the unit to rival the energizer bunny! And a massive shout-out to Dr Fiona Walter for creating a strong collegial culture among the Cancer Group that make these exchanges as rewarding as they are fun, and for treating us to a wonderful dinner and evening at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.