Prue Molyneux

Prue Molyneux

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Postgraduate Certificate in Health Science in Rehabilitation
Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)
Bachelor of Health Science (Podiatry)

Osteoarthritis is a global health burden and leading cause of chronic pain, joint stiffness, functional limitation and disability among older adults, says Prue Molyneux who is currently completing a PhD on foot osteoarthritis.

“Our knowledge of foot osteoarthritis substantially lags behind that of other joint sites, such as the knee and hip, for which the research evidence is more advanced. The purpose of my research is to develop an ultrasound imaging (USI) atlas to grade the degree of osteoarthritic change in the first metatarsophalangeal joint; the joint of the big toe which is the most commonly affected joint.

“The development of an USI atlas will enable earlier detection, standardisation of diagnosis and provide a more sensitive method to classify and grade the disease process. The research will advance clinical reasoning and decision making for the management of musculoskeletal foot and ankle problems.”

She expects her research will have a significant impact on osteoarthritis patients.

“Disability associated with osteoarthritis results in a substantial economic burden. This research has the potential to directly impact the financial burden by reducing financial costs such as loss of productivity, time delays and the number of appointments currently required for patients. Because arthritis is more prevalent among young Māori, Māori are currently living with the burden of this disease for longer than non-Māori. The development of an USI atlas and earlier detection will therefore also make a positive contribution to Māori health.”

Opening doors
Her studies at AUT have provided her with invaluable opportunities, says Prue who started her AUT journey with a Bachelor of Health Science (Podiatry) and expects to complete her PhD in 2023.

“I’ve enjoyed presenting my research at national and international conferences, authoring peer-reviewed journal articles and co-authoring a peer reviewed book chapter, visiting universities overseas and networking with international experts.

“I’m proud of obtaining funding from Podiatry New Zealand for my honours degree research and receiving the award for the best new investigator at the 2019 Australian Podiatry Conference in Adelaide. However, the biggest game changer for me was obtaining the 2021 Career Development Award from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.”

Completing her PhD will change her career trajectory, she says.

“My PhD is already paving the way for postdoctoral research, which is extremely exciting. My ambition is to lead this paradigm shift in clinical practice in New Zealand through robust research and developing a training programme for podiatrists to ensure translation and implementation of the USI into podiatric practice. My ultimate goal is to be recognised for contributing new and advanced knowledge to podiatry and for leading robust globally collaborative research that will benefit patients.”

Supported to thrive
She is grateful for the support of her supervisors, says Prue whose research is supervised by Associate Professor Matthew Carroll and Associate Professor Richard Ellis from AUT, and Professor Catherine Bowen from the University of Southampton.

“Without a doubt, Associate Professor Matthew Carroll has been the catalyst that sparked my passion for research. Matthew has been my biggest supporter and mentor. I wouldn’t be where I’m today without his guidance from the very early stages of my postgraduate journey.

“I’m also grateful to Associate Professor Richard Ellis for initially sparking my passion for ultrasound imaging during my Bachelor of Health Science (Honours) project.”

Prue is based at the AUT Health and Rehabilitation Research Institute and a member of the Active Living and Rehabilitation: Aotearoa New Zealand research group.

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