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Member Spotlight - July 2014
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Yitka Graham

Yitka Graham


PhD Student and Academic Tutor
University of Sunderland
Sunderland, England
As a PhD student, Yitka is involved in a three year research project between the University of Sunderland and the Bariatric Surgery Department at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, exploring patient experiences of obesity surgery. By bringing the patient voice to the forefront, she hopes the results of her research will be able to inform practice, improve informed decision-making and patient care, resulting in an improved patient journey through bariatric surgery.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR ROLE?

I believe there is a need for more understanding of bariatric surgery from the patient perspective, as this is potentially life-changing surgery which significantly impacts on patients’ lives. To date, my biggest challenge was obtaining ethical approval from the National Research Ethics Service in order to carry out the study which was a long process, but very worthwhile.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU ARE CURRENTLY FACING?

There is an identified societal stigma with the choice of bariatric surgery as a weight-loss intervention, and this can negatively affect the patients, who may have also been stigmatized for being obese. My aim is to help to educate the lay public that life after bariatric surgery is not an easy journey, and patients should be supported and not judged for choosing surgery as a weight-loss option. My next challenge is to work collaboratively with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sunderland to plan a strategy for dissemination of research findings to ensure maximum impact for patient benefit. I am looking forward to this challenge.

WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE FUTURE OF PATIENT EXPERIENCE?

As rates of obesity and obesity-related comorbidities such as Type 2 diabetes increase, more people are choosing bariatric surgery as a weight-loss and comorbidity improvement intervention. This means understanding patient experiences are needed to improve care, inform those undergoing surgery, educate society on supporting patients and assist healthcare professionals to understand the emotional and social needs of their patients.

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN WHEN NOT WORKING?

At the moment, my research is an all-consuming passion, and I am actively involved as a professional mentor at the University of Sunderland, assisting students with career planning and employability skills.

WHY DID YOU JOIN THE BERYL INSTITUTE?

I am committed to embedding the patient voice in healthcare and the Beryl Institute offers inspiration and practical guidance and examples of best practice to help me achieve my research aims.

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