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Allied Health Research Unit

The Allied Health Research Unit was established in 2012 to build the research capacity across and within each of Cabrini’s allied health professions.

The Allied Health Research Unit was established in 2012 to build the research capacity across and within each of Cabrini’s allied health professions.

During 2013-14, Cabrini’s Allied Health Research Unit operated for its first full 12 months. It is led by Associate Professor Helena Frawley under a joint appointment with La Trobe University. This has been an important development in allied health research at Cabrini, as we enter a formal agreement with our new University partner to support research and education in allied health throughout the organisation.

Leadership of the unit has been supported by other research-active staff:

  • Tash Brusco, Chief Physiotherapist and Manager of Education, Allied Health & Ambulatory Services, who is currently completing her PhD
  • Dr Rosemary Higgins, Health Psychologist

While the allocation for allied health research is a small, part-time fraction, it is anticipated that the unit’s activity and output will grow over time to become a productive and leading centre for allied health research in private healthcare.

Research activity within the Centre has progressed over the past 12 months and for the first time, this has been captured in an allied health research activity database. The research findings highlight the depth and breadth of research activities among allied health clinicians and will support plans to identify strengths and any deficits in staff research expertise, in order to meet our strategic research goals and support improvements in patient outcomes. Several research projects are in consultation and design phase, with interest in multidisciplinary collaboration and focus on delivering research outputs that align with our goals.

A second focus of allied health research activity is translating research into practice. Implementation of findings from research is the critical step to directly improve clinical practice and outcomes for patients. Activities to support this include review of current clinical practice guidelines to ensure the highest levels of evidence inform allied health clinical practice. Associate Professor Frawley is working with department managers to achieve this goal. In itself, this activity is supporting allied health research capacity and capability.

Staff representing most allied health disciplines and across all Cabrini campuses have been active in research projects, with outputs ranging across CHREC-approved research projects, publications, grants, conference presentations, translational research and quality improvement activities.

Research projects

Allied health research support is directed to projects led by the dietetics department and a multidisciplinary allied health rehabilitation project. The projects are as follows:

  1. To identify the risk and prevalence of malnutrition in colorectal cancer patients from diagnosis to 30 days post surgical intervention. Lead: Marlene Gojanovik (dietetics)
  2. Investigating Malnutrition in Victorian Cancer Services – Point Prevalence Study 2014. Lead: Elizabeth Kent (dietetics)
  3. International Nutrition Survey 2013. Lead: Elizabeth Kent (dietetics)
  4. A multidisciplinary rehabilitation program for patients following surgery for pelvic cancer. Lead: Helena Frawley (allied health). Disciplines involved: physiotherapy, health psychology and dietetics. This project has a nested pelvic floor muscle measurement study, which is in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and is part of a student’s PhD study.

As Cabrini-based allied health research is nascent in its development, no CHREC-listed research projects have translated to publications yet but this is expected to eventuate in the next 12 months. Despite this, research-active allied health staff feature on two publications in 2013-14 with Cabrini Health listed as an author affiliation, thereby contributing to the profile of allied health clinical research at Cabrini.


During 2013-14, two research-active staff have been successful in attracting external funding which will support their research activity:

  1. Dr Helena Frawley, NHMRC Health Professional Research Fellowship 2014-17
  2. Dr Rosemary Higgins, who received several project grants from the Victorian Cardiac Clinical Network and BeyondBlue to support her research programs.
Conference presentations

Over the year, allied health staff were active in conference presentations with research topics covering an extensive range of healthcare areas relevant to Cabrini. Presentations from staff include those invited as experts in their field and those selected during blinded peer-reviewed processes, across State, national and international events.

Department staff


Head of department

Dr Helena Frawley PhD FACP (Fellow of the Australian College of Physiotherapists)
Senior Research Consultant, Allied Health; Associate Professor Physiotherapy, La Trobe University, Melbourne.