TPCH speech pathologist awarded 3MT champion

Anna-Liisa Sutt accepting the 3MT award with thesis supervisors Professor John Fraser (left) and Dr Petrea Cornwell.

Anna-Liisa Sutt accepting the 3MT award with thesis supervisors Professor John Fraser (left) and Dr Petrea Cornwell.

A speech pathologist from The Prince Charles Hospital, whose research has revolutionised the practice, has won the prestigious University of Queensland’s Three Minute Thesis (UQ3MT) competition.

Anna-Liisa Sutt took home both the overall and people’s choice awards for her three minute oration Dying to Talk – a simplified overview of her PhD project, which has given the most vulnerable and critically ill patients back their voice.

The UQ School of Medicine researcher said she faced stiff competition and was surprised and honoured to have won.

“The biggest challenge was choosing the most important information, shortening it into three minutes and translating my body of research into layman terms and using vocabulary targeted at a non-specialist audience,” Ms Sutt said.

“The best part of winning was the amount of attention my research has gotten. My aim is to spread the word. The more people know about it, the more voiceless people are given a voice and the more I’ve accomplished my goal.”

Ms Sutt’s research has changed the journey for patients who are left voiceless due to their reliance on breathing machines.

“I noticed that patients in intensive care at TPCH were alert and desperate to talk but couldn’t because there was no air movement through their voice box,” she said.“It was a widely held belief that a speaking valve could be damaging to patients’ lungs and was therefore rarely used. “When I started with my research, I quickly found that using the speaking valve was actually improving patients’ lungs and not collapsing them as previously believed.”

Ms Sutt’s research has made extraordinary advances at TPCH where three years ago no tracheostomised patients on breathing machines could talk and now 75 per cent can. She said her project has opened up other avenues of research in the area and created more questions and theories to delve into.

“My research has truly changed practice – it has shown the benefits of questioning dogma and the way things are done. There is always the potential to create ways to do things better or differently,” she said.

“I’m already involved in other research projects stemming from this current one. I’m hoping to continue as a part-time clinician and part-time researcher once I submit my thesis in March next year.”

Ms Sutt said she could not have done it without the guidance of her supervisors Professor John Fraser and Dr Petrea Cornwell.

“I’d like to also thank the multidisciplinary Intensive Care Unit team and Speech Pathology department at TPCH, and TPCH Foundation – I couldn’t have done it without all of their support,” she said.

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