Bridging the gap between research and clinical practice

MSc Candidate, Sarah Weller, is helping people with cancer reconnect with their bodies. Sarah is an Exercise Physiologist completing her MSc degree in the Rehabilitation Sciences program under the supervision of Dr. Kristin Campbell.

I love helping others learn what physical medicine their body needs to thrive, as mine has always felt best when it is moving regularly. For the past 13 years I have worked with thousands of individuals with cancer, focusing on prescribing exercise to improve physical outcomes, manage treatment side effects and to reconnect people with their body. My personal drive for evidence-informed practice has meant that staying up-to-date with the research literature has always been ingrained in my clinical work. Luckily I have always loved reading research and I really enjoy working with people to solve physical problems.

The exercise oncology literature has exploded over the past 10 years, yet a disconnect still exists between the implementation of research knowledge into clinical practice and supportive care. This is one of the main reasons I chose to start graduate studies in 2017. My goal is to bridge the gap between research and practice through implementation, knowledge translation and by bringing my clinical experience into the lab to drive the research questions that are being asked by patients and the clinical community. Ultimately, I want to enhance the lives of cancer survivors and I believe that research can positively impact the most people and can create meaningful large-scale change.

I am currently a MSc student in Rehabilitation Sciences at UBC with a focus on exercise oncology, under the supervision of Dr. Kristin Campbell. I love that through my studies I get to be part of the research in this area and combine it with real world application through my work in private practice. Over the past 16 months I have been fortunate to be involved in many projects including piloting the implementation of community-based prostate exercise programs, expanding the HealthLink BC 8-1-1 telephone line to include Physical Activity Services for Cancer and creating the Exercise Support page on the BC Cancer website. All of these projects were sustained after funding ended and continue to support cancer survivors to engage in exercise. My thesis work for my MSc focuses on changing the exercise behaviours of men with prostate cancer through an exercise counseling clinic. This work will help us to understand if exercise counselling and exercise professionals can be embedded more broadly into healthcare.

One of my other focuses of this year has been using social media to disseminate and translate research to a diverse international audience. I coordinate the CEPL #365papers on Twitter, which posts an exercise oncology paper daily on @cepl_ubc (check it out!). Additionally, I recently co-chaired the first international exercise oncology twitter conference, #ExOncTC, which engaged over 600 researchers, physicians, clinicians, trainees, exercise professionals and patients globally in over 19 hours of science. It was an amazing experience and really reinforced to me that there are now many ways to enhance engagement, discuss ideas and disseminate research internationally. It is my hope that through all of these different research endeavours we can start to create change and enhance the exercise services that are available to cancer survivors. By more closely integrating research and clinical practice, I believe we can get there and I look forward to what the future holds!