Meet your researcher

Meet Dr Kristy Robson

By Dr Fiona Hawke
Dr Fiona Hawke is a lecturer in podiatry at the University of Newcastle, with a PhD in medicine from the University of Sydney. She is currently working two days per week to raise a family. Trained as a podiatrist at the University of Western Sydney, Fiona graduated 13 years ago.
By Dr Kristy Robson
Dr Kristy Robson is a senior lecturer at Charles Sturt University. Kristy teaches across the clinical subjects and is the academic coordinator of workplace learning for podiatry at CSU. She also teaches in the areas of paediatrics, biomechanics, orthotics and healthy ageing. Kristy has extensive experience in healthy ageing research and enhancing mobility, particularly in older populations to maintain their quality of life. She is particularly interested in qualitative methodologies and community based participatory research approaches that value participants to have an active voice and contribute to practical solutions to problems that impact their communities within a co-creation framework.


What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working with a team of researchers from Charles Sturt Uni and Bond Uni and we are undertaking 28 different rapid reviews on a range of occupational risk factors and the development of injuries for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am also currently working on a manuscript focusing on how to design effective healthy ageing programs from the perspective of older people.


How could your research change clinical practice (now or in the future)?

I mainly research in the area of healthy ageing and injury risk and I am passionate about ensuring that research is not only translatable into clinical practice but also enables the voices of  participants to be heard. I am a strong advocate for facilitating mixed method research approaches, where appropriate, so that clinicians can understand the impact of ageing or injuries, such as falls, from the older person’s perspective. This can often make research outcomes more meaningful and clinically relevant interventions more person-centred.


What first got you interested in research?

When I was in private practice, I had a number of very fit, active and contributing older members of the community have a fall. At one point I had three of these long-term clients all have a fall within one month. Two of them had to leave their homes and move into residential aged care and one passed away all because of their falls. This really sparked me into wanting to understand what the potential risk factors were for falls and as a clinician what could I be doing differently to try and minimise the harm of such falls. I went on to make this area the focus on my PhD.


How have things changed since then?

When I first started my PhD, I didn’t really have any experience in qualitative methods. The opportunity to talk to older people and their family members about their fall experiences was really enlightening. Qualitative methods are becoming a more common approach in research design that is seen as adding significant value to research. I have continued to actively research using qualitative methods particularly focusing on the lived experience of participants as this can be a very powerful narrative that can change the way we think about approaching healthcare.



Did/do you have a research mentor?

I have had a number of amazing experience researchers that have assisted me across my career and I continue to do research with them now on different projects. Starting out in research can be very daunting and overwhelming, so it is important to have good people around you to support you but also challenge your thinking along your journey. Having a good team around you whether it is a specific mentor, or a research group of likeminded people is always a useful strategy to bounce ideas off.


What are the best parts of being a researcher?

I think the best part of being a researcher is the ability to think critically about a problem and contribute to solutions to make the problem better. I also love the ability to work with lots of diverse people and as a qualitative researcher the ability to bring participants’ experiences to life is the best part of my job.


What are the most challenging parts of being a researcher?

Like any researcher the most challenging aspects are time and money. There never seems to be enough time to do the projects you want, and grant funding is a scarce commodity. 


What advice would you give a clinical podiatrist wanting to get involved in research?

The best advice is to start with a conversation. If you have a topic of interest then do some reading on who is publishing in the area and reach out to them and have a chat. If you are interested in just developing your research skills, then reaching out to a local university to see what opportunities might exist to co-supervise an honours student is a really great way to introduce yourself to the world of research in a supportive environment.


What keeps you going outside of podiatry?

I am a creative person, so I love to make things. I also love to travel so I’m looking forward to the day when that’s back on the agenda again!


If you weren’t a podiatrist/researcher, what would you be?

I was recently introduced to the world of cybersecurity and I have found it fascinating (and a little bit scary). I think if I had to pivot in a new direction, I would become a cybersecurity analyst because I love solving problems. 


Where do you think your research interests will lead you next?

I try to keep an open mind to possibilities so not sure what the next direction will be.