Medallist’s PhD seeks diet data for healthier ageing

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Rebecca McClure

After eight years and two medal-winning degrees at USC, a receptionist-turned-researcher has started a PhD to continue her quest to improve muscle health and physical function in older people.

Rebecca McClure, 54, of Sippy Downs, received her Honours First Class degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at a recent USC graduation ceremony, along with a University Medal for academic excellence.

It was Rebecca’s second University Medal – she also earned the award in 2016 when she graduated with a USC Bachelor of Science majoring in microbiology and chemistry. (Her grade point averages were 6.88 and 6.96 respectively, out of a perfect 7.)

Her academic career launched in 2011 when she enrolled in USC’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) program after leaving an administrative job at a medical centre.

“It was exciting to start a new chapter in my life, however I hadn’t studied since high school in Brisbane and was apprehensive about my ability to adapt to study and university life,” she said.

“TPP was an excellent pathway as it gave me the opportunity to understand how university works and effectively gave me a six-month head start into my first degree.

“My achievements since then are the result of doing something I love and good time management. USC staff have been extremely supportive and encouraging and this has helped push me to succeed.”

Rebecca said she was passionate about continuing her studies.

Her previous collaboration with Lecturer Dr Anthony Villani found that the anti-inflammatory and high antioxidant components of a Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of frailty and sarcopenia in older adults.

“My PhD is about dietary patterns that may assist with improving physical performance and lessening muscle loss and the risk of falls and fractures in older people living in the community,” she said.

The aim was to develop interventions to minimise physical decline.

“Having previously worked in health care, I have seen first-hand how physical frailty and disability can affect the lives of older people,” she said.

“Maintaining independence in the latter stages of life will assist with boosting quality of life and reducing the economic impact on healthcare services.”

Rebecca’s PhD is supervised by Associate Professor Dr Ross Clark and Dr Villani.

 
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