Captains of Education Part 8: Paulina Stehlik
Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University

In last month’s insideR, we asked you to nominate the local education game-changer we should profile in this edition.  Bond University reached out to shine a light on one of their hard-working academics, in a time when healthcare research has never been more important. Feel free to suggest the leader we speak to next month!

Paulina Stehlik has built a career from science, research and evidence – she’s even President of the Gold Coast Skeptics.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that when she was named one of The Educator’s Higher Education Rising Stars for 2020, her first reaction was “is this real, have I been duped somehow?”

Currently the Senior Research Fellow and Evidence-Based Practice Professorial Unit Coordinator at Bond University’s Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, Dr Stehlik said she was “really excited and privileged” to receive the honour.

“It’s nice to know that people from the outside, that’ve peer-reviewed the work I’m doing, think that it’s valuable.”

Being named in the prestigious list is the latest honour for the 32-year-old, who already has a Bachelor of Pharmacy with First Class Honours; a Graduate Certificate in Pharmacy Practice; a Doctor of Philosophy, Pharmacy Practice; and most recently a Graduate Diploma of Data Science, all from Monash University.

Dr Stehlik grew up as a child of a mathematician and a mechanical engineer, and while both her parents have since moved on to other careers, she’s stayed on the course she set for herself from an early age.

“I have this perpetual curiosity for the world around me. When I was in grade six, I remember they made us write down what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I wrote down ‘crazy scientist’”.

Dr Stehlik’s current role at Bond University is focused on having clinicians engage with and use research as part of their daily work.

“It’s not about me going out and telling clinicians ‘this is how you need to practice.’ We give workshops to the clinicians about how to read research and interpret it for themselves. For me, I’m taking them on the ‘how’ journey, not the ‘what’. They’re the clinicians.”

In 2018, Dr Stehlik led an educational redesign of the evidence-based practice (EBP) teaching, delivered to staff at Gold Coast University Hospital.

As part of this, she developed short, flexible workshops, tailored to apply EBP principles to problems in different clinical areas. The workshops allowed participants to focus on research articles that best matched the challenges they faced in their daily work.

This was accompanied by a participant-owned professional EBP e-portfolio, which made use of resources such as interactive eBooks, summaries and workshop materials, as well as opportunity for clinicians to document their future EBP development.

Looking to the future, Dr Stehlik hopes to continue her current research, examining specialty college training requirements around research and evidence-based practice.

“We found there’s very little constructive alignment, meaning that the learning objectives don’t really match up with the learning activities and the assessments, which is really difficult for learners.

“Anecdotally we think this might disengage the trainees from research when they finish, which is not achieving the goal we want of getting the clinicians research-engaged. We know research engagement is good for clinicians and good for patients.”

In 2019 alone, she trained over 400 clinical, research and support staff.  Her “engaging personality, enthusiasm and innovative teaching” have been a major factor in the success of her teaching program.

Even after 15 years of teaching, Dr Stehlik still gets a thrill out of passing on her knowledge.

“For me, it comes back to that penny-dropping moment when people get it. It’s when people work out how to go about solving problems.”

Just as important to her, is the potential of science to help many of the world’s problems, which is incredibly fitting in light of the current health, indiscriminately pandemic spanning the globe.

“I think our questions are becoming more and more focused, and more narrow, because we have this accumulation of knowledge. The world is changing, we are living longer, new problems are coming up…I really believe science can solve a lot of these problems, and that’s the glory of it really.”

We hope you are right Paulina, and thank you for all that you and other dedicated health-care scientists do to benefit each and every one of us.  The Rising Star 2020 accolade is clearly well-deserved!

The Rising Stars list showcases Australia’s top 20 individuals, making waves in the tertiary education industry in the early stages of their careers.  To be eligible, candidates must be aged 35 or under and be able to demonstrate effective leadership, innovation and achievement in their career to date.

Paulina was one of just two Queensland-based educators to receive this accolade in 2020, with both Queenslanders from Bond University.  InsideR also extends its congratulations to Rising Star, Iris Lim, a Bond University Assistant Professor.

insideR’s Captains of Education Series

Be sure to check out our previous issues of insideR where we spoke to:

Brisbane’s Courier Mail recently explored the benefits of new developments, such at Robina’s VUE Terrace Homes, being based in education hubs – Read more here.

Subscribe to insideR and receive our full series profiling the Gold Coast’s top education influencers, direct to your inbox over the coming months, and please feel free to get in touch to nominate your education leader!