Dr Ryan Courtney

Research Fellow, NDARC
June 2018
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will...be heading back to my home town in Newcastle and catching up with friends and family.  

I'd originally planned to work...as a clinical psychologist until a fellow student at university thought it would be a good idea to work with her in health behaviour research. As an apprehensive student with no experience I met the head of the Health Behaviour Unit. He rattled off the top five things I needed to know. Following months of mundane administrative work, and constant pushes to do a PhD from my boss I finally crumbled and did a PhD, and since then I never left! It’s been a blast.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are...creative thinking and problem solving. Running clinical trials requires rapid and adaptive thinking at the drop of a hat. Recruitment can be challenging, but it always keeps the team vigilant and looking for new strategies and options. 

If I had more time, I'd...write more grants. So many ideas but little time. Then again with success rates so low who wouldn’t go travelling instead.

For my next holiday...I’ll be off to Adelaide and will go for a “trundle down Rundle” Mall.

Career wise, I’m most proud of...having the opportunity to assist Australia’s most marginalised from escaping their vice (tobacco smoking). Running clinicals trials you get a sense of how much it means to the community to get the chance to participate in new and exciting research. Running focus groups as well reminds you of how determined, kind, and resourceful smokers are despite on-going economic and other co-morbid health conditions. It’s hard not to be passionate when the stakes are so high, for so many! For some the clock is well and truly ticking.   

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is...to reduce the social gradient in health risk behaviours. The sector's biggest challenge going forward is to creatively come up with new solutions and interventions to improve health outcomes.