‘My particular strength is in health economics but I couldn’t do my research without working closely with other researchers and experts in a multidisciplinary team with an interdisciplinary approach. And all of that leads to the most important part for me – making a positive and real impact on the health and wellbeing of families.’
Fiona is an early career lecturer in the School. Her research career started some time ago. It was while working on her dissertation for a Masters in Finance at Queen’s, that Dr Fiona Lynn realised she had developed a thirst for research. ‘That started me thinking about doing it as a career. But I knew it had to be something that would have a real impact, something that matters to the person in the street.’
She has fulfilled that aspiration since then – most notably in a project funded by the Public Health Agency in which she was co- investigator on the first-ever comprehensive survey in Northern Ireland of women’s experiences of maternity services. Her path to this point took her from a degree in Business Finance at Leeds Metropolitan University and University of Granada, Spain, via the Masters at Queen’s, and then – ‘Maternal child health was something of great interest to me, partly because I’d just had a child myself, so I was delighted to get an opportunity to do a PhD in Health Economics at the School of Pharmacy.’ She also took up a research assistant post at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, working part time on her PhD with its related theme – women’s preferences for ultrasound scans in the third trimester of pregnancy.
After graduation she became a post-doctoral research fellow within the Improving Children’s Lives initiative at the School where she is currently a lecturer. The recent maternity care study partnered Queen’s with the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. It involved sending surveys to all women who gave birth in Northern Ireland between October 1 and December 31 2014. ‘There’s a survey like this every four years in England and a similar study in Scotland but this is the first population-based survey of its kind in Northern Ireland. We’ve been giving women an opportunity to tell us about their experiences of maternity services, as well as asking about their partners’ experiences. ‘We’ll get a better understanding of which maternity services are working well and where they could be enhanced. It’s the kind of public and patient involvement that the Health Service is crying out for. It’s a really strong method of being able to influence policy and make changes to practice.’ Fiona acknowledges the career support of Professor Fiona Alderdice – ‘my line manager for the past ten years, keeping me focused’ – and of Professor James McElnay, her PhD supervisor. ‘I take my lead from him in how I supervise my own students. It’s about understanding their capabilities.’
Other collaborations in which she is involved include a randomised controlled trial, funded by the Big Lottery, with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, looking at the cost- effectiveness of music therapy for young people accessing mental health services. She is also working with TinyLife, Northern Ireland’s premature and vulnerable baby charity, to assess the impact of new support services for families. And with the School of Education there is a cluster-randomised controlled trial on Nurture Group provision for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. She is particularly excited about a relationship with the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. ‘I travelled there in autumn 2014 to collaborate on maternal and child health-related projects and to help build research capacity.