Lauren Keaney

Lauren Keaney

Clinical Research Associate, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Team, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare
Doctor of Philosophy

She loves applying her understanding of physiology to make a difference to people’s lives, says sport and recreation alumna Dr Lauren Keaney who is now a clinical research associate at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, focusing on obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that sees patients stop breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping.

“I enjoy working with obstructive sleep apnea patients and seeing first-hand how the medical devices Fisher and Paykel Healthcare makes improve people’s quality of life. At Fisher and Paykel Healthcare we strive to improve patient care and outcomes through inspired and world-leading healthcare solutions, and it’s great to see the difference our work makes.

“In my role, I’m responsible for a range of research-related tasks, from running clinical trials to conducting systematic literature searches and synthesizing evidence. I work within a clinical research team, but we also continually collaborate with different teams and stakeholders – including engineering, marketing, sleep technicians and patients – to support product design and marketing. Fisher and Paykel Healthcare is a fantastic company to work for!”

Research that matters
In her role now Lauren constantly draws on the research skills she developed throughout her PhD in exercise physiology.

“The occurrence of illness, particularly upper respiratory tract symptoms like a sore throat, headache, a runny nose and coughing, is common in elite athletes. Recurrent or severe upper respiratory tract symptom episodes can have detrimental effects on an athlete’s training availability and performance. Therefore, my PhD thesis investigated which factors influence the risk of upper respiratory tract symptoms in elite team-sport athletes.”

Being able to work closely with elite athletes for her PhD research was a highlight for Lauren.

“My research topic allowed me to collect data from elite athletes in real-life training and competition environments. For example, for one of my studies I travelled with the Black Sticks men’s hockey team to Japan and India to collect physiological, immunological and perceptual data from players during a multi-stressor competition period.”

Lauren’s doctoral research was supervised by Dr Deborah Dulson and Professor Andrew Kilding from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation, and Professor Fabrice Merien from AUT’s School of Science.

The right university environment
For Lauren, meeting her PhD supervisors left no doubt that AUT was the right university for her doctoral study.

“I had decided to do my PhD in exercise physiology, however initially I was unsure whether I wanted my research to be more ‘performance’ or ‘health’ focused.  When I met with Dr Deborah Dulson and Professor Andrew Kilding from AUT, they introduced me to the field of exercise immunology, a sub-discipline of exercise physiology. This research area really appealed to me because it offered me the best of both worlds, ‘performance’ and ‘health’.  This meeting was a key reason why I chose AUT.”

AUT’s world-class research facilities, supportive postgraduate environment and numerous collaboration opportunities make it a great environment for postgraduate students, Lauren says.

“The environment and culture at the AUT Sports Performance Research Institute (SPRINZ), based at AUT Millennium, is one of a kind! From my amazing supervisors, fellow postgraduate students, and the SPRINZ postgraduate staff, everyone was extremely supportive and encouraging throughout my PhD.

“I appreciated that AUT has world-class research facilities. For example, I conducted my PhD research in the SPRINZ physiology and biochemistry labs, and the Roche Diagnostic Laboratory at the AUT City Campus. During my research at AUT, I was also connected with many people in the sports industry, and this resulted in me being able to conduct my PhD studies with elite sporting teams.”

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