Despite the years of study, clinical work and determination, she is driven by the fact her research is helping improve the quality of life for women across Australia.
The subject of Siobhan’s PhD is rectus diastasis, a condition affecting millions of women around the world where their stomach muscles the weaken and separate during and after pregnancy.
The effect on someone’s life can be quite debilitating as it can cause pelvic, hip or lower back pain, poor posture, difficulty lifting things, and an overhanging belly.
“My qualitative study was really eye-opening, hearing real women's experiences of their symptoms of how it's affected their relationships and their work,” says Siobhan, a plastic surgery research registrar at Flinders Medical Centre.
“I've spoken to women who are nurses, physios, PE teachers, and professional dancers and all of them have said that this physically, emotionally and psychologically effects their lives every day.”
Data showing the prevalence of rectus diastasis in Australia is hard to find.
Siobhan’s PhD research aims to define the prevalence of the rectus diastasis as well as form a comprehensive and definitive body of evidence for the impact of the condition on a person’s quality of life, as well as determine the benefits of a procedure to fix it.
Abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure that brings the separated muscles back together, and removes surplus fat and skin.
The procedure was controversially removed from the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) in 2016, leaving people seeking abdominoplasty unable to access Medicare benefits.
In 2022, it was relisted on the MBS, restoring the ability for women suffering the condition to improve their quality of life.
Siobhan says she reaps much satisfaction from knowing her research is benefitting scores of women who suffer the effects of rectus diastasis.
“My personality type is one that enjoys helping other people,” she says.
“I hear stories where some PhD students feel they are a tiny cog in the wheel of a big machine. But I feel like my research has direct impacts on women’s lives and particularly as a woman myself, it makes me feel good and gives me a sense of purpose.”
Siobhan moved to Adelaide when she began her job working as a plastic surgery research registrar at Flinders Medical Centre. Here she met Associate Professor Nicola Dean, who convinced her to pursue a PhD and later became her supervisor.
“I feel very lucky that my topic is something that is relevant. It's a bit controversial and it's challenging,” she says.
“My topic is so interesting to me, it really keeps me going, and I think knowing that I’m training to be a surgeon, (something that takes 15 years) so it's clinically relevant.”
Siobhan is the winner of Flinders University’s Three Minute Thesis 2022 a competition where PhD students present their thesis succinctly in no more than three minutes to boost their communication skills.
Check out Siobhan’s winning presentation below.
You consent to the use of our cookies if you proceed.