Gay Dungey



Current position: Lecturer in Radiation Therapy at the University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand

Years qualified as an RT: You don’t want to know!

Research areas of interest: Psycho-Oncology and Psychosocial Education, involving primarily qualitative research methods.

Research qualifications: Master of Education, awarded in December 2006.

What is your greatest research achievement?

Being the principal investigator of a nationwide study which evaluated stress, burnout and job satisfaction in New Zealand radiation oncology departments is my largest study to date. It was great to watch it grow from research grants, all the way through to its fruition and final publication in the European Journal of Cancer Care.

Why and how did you get involved in research?

I guess I have an inquiring mind which helps and when I was clinical I got involved in various projects that were going on in departments but there was nothing formal. When I started lecturing I started a Master’s degree so I guess that was when I became fully engaged in research and what it can achieve. I mostly loved doing my research masters which looked at the effect treating cancer patients had on radiation therapy students’ identity development.

How do you balance research/work/family life?

This can be difficult and you really need to negotiate time effectively with your workplace/family and ensure everyone understands what is happening. Open honest communication helps. Research is part of my role as a lecturer so I do get time at work to work on research projects.

How did you find a mentor/supervisor?

My supervisors for my degree were recommended and I met with them several times before we committed to anything. Once I was researching within our department at work I went through the University of Otago and they recommended someone to be my mentor. She was a great sounding board, proof reader and helped me formulate several projects. She is no longer my mentor but has become a friend.

What was your supervisor’s best advice?

Choose topics or get involved in areas of research that you are passionate about. If you are interested in a topic you are more likely to stay involved rather than being coerced onto a project.

What do you enjoy most about being involved in research?

Seeing it all come together and it’s great when you discover something unexpected. I really love analysing the results of the studies that I am involved with.

What has been your biggest challenge or barrier to being involved in research?

I think my biggest challenge has been presenting results that were confronting to the audience and having to really defend what we found in a diplomatic and non-confrontational manner. I am not sure I achieved this initially, because I didn’t anticipate the reaction from the delegates and so I learnt a lot from that initial presentation. It is, however, important to present and publish studies though and so if anything I became more determined!

What one piece of advice would you give other researchers?

When collaborating with others ensure you choose people who you know you can work with. Make sure you have open communication channels and meet regularly as a team so everyone is on the same page.

Any other information you wish to share with the network?

Enjoy what you do – if you are hitting a brick wall, have a break, go out with your research team and be realistic in what you can achieve in the time you have to do the research and above all communicate!!