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Dr Jo Adams

Dr Jo AdamsDr Jo Adams is a senior lecturer and professional lead for occupational therapy at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Southampton. She also holds an honorary research fellow post at the BOTNAR Centre at the University of Oxford. For the past six years she has served as the allied health professional representative on the education strategy committee and the publications working group of Arthritis Research UK.

What does your work involve?

As a full-time university academic I have an educational, clinical research and administrative role. I work with a lively team of lecturers and practice placement clinicians educating and supporting the next generation of allied health professional and nursing undergraduate students. My funded research projects contribute to an enthusiastic international clinical, academic and patient team exploring the effectiveness of self-management strategies for people with musculoskeletal conditions.

How long has Arthritis Research UK been funding you?

In 2009 I received my first Arthritis Research UK funding award alongside my nursing colleague, Dr Sarah Ryan, at Keele University. Since then, working collaboratively across Southampton, Bristol, Keele, Salford, Oxford and Sydney Universities, our research teams have been awarded three further educational and clinical research grants and one biomechanics equipment grant.

What’s the most important thing you've found out in the past 12 months? Why?

That’s a tricky one, as there are many important discoveries on a regular basis. However, I would say that it's most important to measure and record what matters most to our patients when we design clinical effectiveness trials. Getting measurement right in clinical trials always requires careful thought. We may sometimes measure outcomes of treatment that are the easiest to measure well, rather than what matters most to our patients.

What do you hope or expect to achieve as a result of your Arthritis Research UK funding?

We have three current funded research projects with different expectations for each. We're funded to design and develop a clinical trial (the OTTER trial) to discover which is the most effective rehabilitation package for people with thumb base osteoarthritis. Our first educational grant will enable us to define the educational needs and skills required for allied health professionals and nurses to deliver the very best services to people with musculoskeletal conditions.  Our second educational grant will enable us to report on tailored strategies to best support people with lower literacy levels to maximise their ability to self-manage their arthritis.

What do you do in a typical day?

Every day starts with a run or a walk with my dog and then into the university to deliver morning lectures, followed by tutorial support and practical skills tutorials for students. In the afternoon I'll attend to my research projects. This may involve liaising with my clinical academic colleagues across the UK and our Arthritis Research UK research assistants on current research grants or it may involve visiting hospitals to meet and collaborate with the NHS clinicians who are recruiting patients for our research studies. If all goes to plan, after I return home in the evening, I'll fit in another short cycle/run/walk and then back to the computer to review students’ applications to university, marking assignments, writing up our team’s research for publications or further grant funding and reviewing academic papers or research grant applications for external bodies.

What's your greatest research achievement?

Research achievements are always down to collaborative team efforts, but I can say that I'm pleased that some of our early clinical research examining how best to support people with rheumatoid arthritis affecting their hands has had an impact on and changed clinical practice for patients.

Why did you choose to do this work?

On the research front, I question things and am curious. I enjoy learning and always find myself asking why musculoskeletal treatment or rehabilitation could work and if so does it make a difference? I couldn't think of a more rewarding role than supporting students gain skills and confidence to contribute effectively to people using the NHS and social services. It’s a real privilege to work across both NHS education and research.

Do you ever think about how your work can help people with arthritis?

Yes, all the time. There seems little point in doing research if ultimately it won’t benefit people with arthritis.

What would you do if you weren’t a researcher?

I’d be up a mountain, on a river, in the forest or on coastal cliffs – anywhere out of doors with no mobile phone signal.

About Jo

I love independent travel and enjoy getting off the beaten track away from typical tourist destinations. I’ve always enjoyed sport and run and cycle off road (getting slower each year). When I need to take the weight off my joints I'm out horse riding or skiing. Recently, I've taken up playing the alto saxophone. My music teacher tells me I should practice facing into my wardrobe, which I think indicates quite clearly the level of my musical talent and ability.

This article first appeared in Arthritis Today Winter 2012, issue 155.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.