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University of Bradford welcomes next generation of dementia research leaders


The University of Bradford's new Doctoral Training Centre has welcomed its first PhD students aiming to become the next generation of dementia research leaders.

The centre will further enhance the University’s international reputation for person-centred dementia care and services research by funding seven PhD students to develop new ways to support people with dementia and their families and improve the quality of dementia care at times of transition.

The University’s centre is one of eight new specialist doctoral training centres around the country that are being co-ordinated and funded by Alzheimer’s Society.

Doctoral studies at Bradford will focus on improving care, health and wellbeing at points of transition for people affected by dementia. Difficulty at this point of transition, whether in level or place of care, has been cited as a factor in the recent A&E crisis.

The centre aims to build research capacity in dementia, creating the future research leaders that dementia needs. The first among them will be Suzanne Hill, Denise de Waal, Courtney Shaw and Akhlak Rauf.

Suzanne, a pharmacist who graduated from Bradford, said: “I have personal experience of seeing family members face the challenges associated with having, and caring for those with dementia. Improving the care and support for people affected by dementia is something I am extremely passionate about. Bradford is internationally recognised for research in this field and offers the chance to work with, and learn from, other students and academics across disciplines. The collaboration between the School of Pharmacy and the School of Dementia Studies offered the perfect combination.”

Denise, from the Netherlands, who has a background in anthropology and qualitative research, said: “My interest for dementia care stemmed from my mother. She works on a ward for people with dementia at the local nursing home. I spent consecutive summers working in the ward gaining a deep insight into dementia care and the way it affects people living with it and their relatives, friends and broader community. I began to wonder how we can improve the way we care for people with dementia and gain a better understanding of the influence it has on broader society. Bradford has an international reputation for person-centred dementia care and services research.”

Bradford’s reputation was also a key factor in Courtney, a health consultant from Vancouver, Canada, choosing the University. “An illness and hospital admission can be a difficult and stressful time, and I hope my research can make this challenging time less taxing by developing tools and systems to facilitate effective communication between families, medical staff, and people living with dementia. I am thrilled to be doing this research at the University of Bradford, which has such a respected history as a leader in patient safety research.”

Akhlak, originally from Batley and now working for Bradford MDC, said: “My interest in dementia is not simply due to my desire to tackle health and social care inequalities or my work within the local authority but a personal reflection on how my parents looked after my grandmother where she clearly had dementia but no one labelled it for them. Not having a word for dementia in South Asian languages meant my parents were prevented from accessing the right information and support. I hope to build upon my experiences and interest in looking at ways of engagement with BME communities and more specifically understanding the transitions relating to the distress amongst South Asian families where there is someone living with dementia.”

Murna Downs, Professor in Dementia Studies and co-director of the centre, said: “We are delighted and hugely excited to be furthering our prominent role in the future of person-centred dementia care and services research here at Bradford. It is timely to put the focus on transitions, as living with change is an inevitable feature of living with dementia. The doctoral researchers in our centre will provide new knowledge to help people to effectively plan for and manage transitions in dementia care. “

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