Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Externally Funded Projects

We are pleased to advertise the following summer research projects.  These projects have already secured funding from external sources.

If you are interested in any of the projects below, please contact the supervisor / contact person by email or phone in the first instance.  The project supervisor will assess your suitability to undertake the research project and will select a student based upon their own independent eligibility requirements.  Further opportunities will be added as they arise.

New Zealand Artificial Limb Service (closing date 23/10/17)

Supervisor & Contact person: Dr John Parsons

Start: 01/12/17  End: 28/02/18 - dates approximate and can be discussed with the supervisor.

Closing date for applications to be submitted  Monday 23/10/17

Value: $6000

Background: Limb amputation and congenital limb deficiency are pro¬≠found and life-altering experiences for individuals. Compared with those with lower limb amputation, people with upper limb amputation are in a very different situation with respect to body image and social response. Although their mobility is often not affected, it is much more difficult to disguise the amputation with clothing and loss of the dominant hand often means patients have to relearn even the simplest of tasks. Despite the well-established impact of upper extremity amputations on the individual, their family and wider society rehabilitation and prosthetic prescription remains problematic when compared to people following lower extremity amputations.  For upper limb amputees, the combined reduction in function and cosmetic appearance, alongside the inability to easily hide the ampu¬≠tated hand or arm out of sight can result in significant disability.

Studies exploring factors related to prosthetic use for upper limb amputees indicate that for any prosthesis to be accepted and used by an amputee, it must be comfortable, functional, and reasonably cosmetic. It appears that amputees often cease prosthesis use because of limited usefulness, the weight of the prosthesis and stump socket discomfort. Decreased shoulder motion, stump pain, and loss of the nondominant limb also contribute to discontinuation of prosthesis use. In addition there is evidence to suggest that the identified prosthetic needs of patients following upper limb amputation may vary over time with a preference for cosmetic features deferring to an increased desire for increased function.

Finally, clinical experience suggests that a significant number of patients that would benefit from accessing the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service (NZALS), (in particular patients with digital amputations) may not be referred on discharge from hospital.

In acknowledgement of the different requirements and challenges of upper limb amputations the NZALS recently employed an occupational therapist with a focus on maximising the quality of services for upper limb amputees. This summer project, primarily based in Hamilton and in collaboration with Midlands NZALS will provide information on the current issues faced by upper limb amputees through the use of phone based semi-structured interviews and will provide information to inform future development of services for upper limb amputees. 

Aims: The overall aim of the research is to determine the experience of upper limb amputees within New Zealand. Specifically the study will explore:

    1. the patients perception of health service delivery (acute, inpatient rehabilitation, NZALS and primary / community care)

    2. issues relating to prosthetic use and how this may change over time following upper limb amputation

    3. the impact of the amputation on the individuals role, function and occupation (family, social and employment)

    4. determine the proportion of patients with upper limb amputation discharged from Waikato Hospital without a referral to NZALS


    1.   Gain skills in systematic literature review, mixed method research design and data collection

    2.   Gain competency in data management and analysis

    3.   Partake in manuscript preparation

Expected Outcomes:

    1.   The student will be required to undergo a comprehensive search of literature of the topic to ensure their background is up to date.  This will also allow the collation of a reference library for manuscript preparation.

    2.   Obtain consent and complete up to 50 phone interviews with people following upper limb amputation

    3.   The student will prepare the manuscript with the supervisors to develop and enhance their academic writing and critical discussion skills.

Overall we expect the completion of a high quality study that can be published in a high quality, peer reviewed journal.