Professor Rana Hinman: The importance of integrity in mentorship

Professor Rana Hinman
Professor Rana Hinman

Professor Rana Hinman is a research physiotherapist and National Health and Medical Research Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine. Her research focuses on clinical trials of non-drug, non-surgical treatment strategies for osteoarthritis, in particular exercise, rehabilitation and biomechanical interventions. In 2021, Rana was awarded the MDHS Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

How did you come to work in this area?

“I started my career working for a few years as a clinician physiotherapist, however I quickly noticed that some of the treatment techniques we were using with our patients were not supported by evidence. The realisation that I could be using ineffective treatments was something I really struggled with, so I eventually made the decision to move into physiotherapy research.

“I wanted to do research that would improve patient care through creating a more robust evidence base for physiotherapy practice, so for my PhD I completed my first clinical trial of an intervention for knee osteoarthritis. Later in my career, it has been very rewarding to see my research making an impact through industry partnerships. For instance, a diet and exercise program our team recently developed and trialled has since been rolled out to Medibank members.

“Mentorship has been a central part of my work as a professor. I share what I’ve learned assessing grants on NHMRC grant review panels, providing advice to my colleagues on how best to structure their applications and explain career disruptions. While securing funding is obviously important for individual career development, it also enables our team and the faculty more broadly to grow and pursue further opportunities. Mentorship and helping my colleagues to succeed is therefore something I value deeply and hold very personally.”

Which of the faculty’s values speaks the most to you and why?

“Integrity. I think integrity underpins most (if not all) of the faculty values. You can’t be accountable or respectful to others without first having a sense of integrity.”

How are you embedding this value into your own work?

“Strengthening the evidence base surrounding physiotherapy practice is what initially motivated me to pursue a career in research, so I always strive to ensure my research is relevant and impactful for patients. Conducting impactful research can be time-consuming and often requires a lot of funding, however it will provide the answers we need to meaningfully improve patient care.

“The research environment is more competitive than ever, and I think sometimes the desire for career progression can come at the expense of integrity. As a researcher, opportunities to collaborate on different projects or activities often arise, and participating may improve your track record for further funding or your chances of being awarded a fellowship. However, if you don’t believe the project is the most important study for improving outcomes for patients, then sometimes it can be best to take a step back, reconsider, and invest your time elsewhere.

“Hundreds of research papers are published each day, so it’s important that we work to design robust high-quality studies that will provide us with valuable information. This is something I regularly communicate to my mentees – that, while research projects may present opportunities for career progression, don’t lose sight of the most important research questions and don’t compromise on quality when designing your research.

“I think in a more general sense, integrity is a cultural thing that you need to embed within your team through being honest and transparent, following through on promises, making difficult decisions when they need to be made, but also recognising and celebrating the achievements of others. It’s a value you need to demonstrate through your own behaviour as much as you try to nurture it in others.

“Thinking back to when we nominated ourselves as a team for the MDHS Staff Excellence Awards a few years ago, we felt it was important to include everyone on the application who contributed to the project in whatever capacity – including the research assistants, post-doctoral researchers and more senior staff.

“From a mentorship perspective, celebrating the achievements of others in this way can support their career development. For example, implementing a series of awards and prizes celebrating the work of our early-career researchers helped me to understand the importance that recognition and appreciation can have at a very crucial career stage.”