A team of talented medical students are working on research projects that they anticipate will influence and improve health services for people with arthritis.

The team is supervised by Professor Rebecca Grainger and Doctor Tehmina Gladman (PhD). The projects focus on two areas relevant to people with arthritis:

  • A mobile app to facilitate student learning in musculoskeletal and arthritis education while completing their medical degrees.
  • Gather ideas and perspectives on what public hospital rheumatology services should do and how these should be organised.

Mobile app to help learn clinical skills (for students)

Medical degrees have full curricula with learning required across the life continuum in all disease systems and healthcare settings. As such, Musculoskeletal and arthritis education may not get enough in-depth learning necessary for all students to gain the skills and confidence to assess and manage people with arthritis.

Dr Gladman and Prof. Grainger’s students, Ollie McCullough (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa) and Henry Li, have spent a summer building the foundations of a future mobile app.

McCullough completed a systematic search of the mobile app stores to locate and rate mobile apps that support learning musculoskeletal clinical skills. He also developed guiding principles for creating a student-centred musculoskeletal examination skills app based on the literature and student focus group’s data analysis.

Li developed a wireframe model of a potential musculoskeletal clinical skills mobile app in parallel with this work. He tested and refined the model using feedback from student interviews. The students’ work informed each other’s projects, improving both as they developed their research. The medical students involved were excited and enthusiastic about improving their skills in this area. Dr Gladman hopes to gain funding to develop the app and evaluate its impact on student learning.

Professor Rebecca Grainger and Rachel Ngan Kee with the poster that was awarded a Highly Commended prize in the University of Otago Wellington Summer Student showcase on 27th January 2022.

Rheumatology services

Focusing more directly on patient care, Rachel Ngan Kee has been supervised by Prof. Grainger to explore what people with arthritis and related conditions value about their current DHB rheumatology services and identify priorities for future services. Professor Nicola Dalbeth and Doctor Valerie Milne (PhD) are also on the research team for this project.

There are no national guidelines about what public hospital rheumatology services should do or how these should be organised. Prof. Grainger led work to gain consensus from rheumatologists in Aotearoa New Zealand about rheumatology service provision components based on international best practice guidelines. However, the patient perspective is critical if rheumatology services are to meet patient needs. Ngan Kee led a focus group of volunteers recruited by Arthritis New Zealand to canvas and explore their views about rheumatology services and the best practice services reviewed by rheumatologists.

This work is being prepared for publication and will inform a future survey open to users of DHB rheumatology services, undertaken in collaboration with Arthritis New Zealand.

Together these types of innovative projects should inform and improve future healthcare. Prof. Grainger and Dr Gladman have turned their research interest in using apps to support medical student education to enhance student opportunities to develop skills in assessing arthritis. They are delighted to support future doctors in gaining research experience in arthritis.

Rachel Ngan Kee and Ollie McCullough’s work has been supported by research funding provided by Arthritis New Zealand.


*Professor Rebecca Grainger is a rheumatologist working in the public hospital system in the Wellington region.
*Doctor Tehmina Gladman is a senior lecturer and education advisor at the University of Otago Wellington.


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