Research skills key to unlocking medical mystery for CQU physical activity academic

10 November 2022

Her passion for surf lifesaving put CQUniversity physical activity researcher Danya Hodgetts on a unique career path' but the Rockhampton mum never expected her skills for research would help save her own life.

Dr Hodgetts' who graduated with her CQUniversity PhD in sports science' has spent more than two decades as a sports consultant' educator and researcher focused on growing sport participation and inclusion.

But after the birth of her twins in 2011' declining health meant putting a research focus on her own experience.

"I don't often talk about it because I don't want to identify with it' but I do want to raise awareness because I think it's important'" Dr Hodgetts told CQUniversity's IMPACT research podcast.

"My health got to the point in 2016 that I spent a couple of weeks in hospital with headaches all day every day' and chronic fatigue that I've never known before' and every doctor I saw couldn't understand why.

"I wasn't satisfied and I didn't want to take no for an answer' and luckily I was an adjunct at CQU at the time so still had access to the library' and I started reading academic articles on illnesses that sounded familiar to my experience."

With support from a friend who was also a general practitioner' Dr Hodgetts became convinced her symptoms were due to a spinal fluid leak.

Finding a specialist and then going through extensive surgical monitoring' the rare condition was finally diagnosed in December 2020' and further surgery finally located the leak earlier this year.

"The diagnosis has been a relief but I honestly don't know how people who don't have access to the research' or ability to interpret academic papers' can advocate for themselves within the health system and know the question they have to ask'" Dr Hodgetts said.

As she works towards recovery' Dr Hodgetts is active in online support groups for people experiencing rare illnesses' and helping interpret research that could assist other patients.

Through her own research' she's also achieved enough pain management to get back on the beach as a surf lifesaver' alongside her teenage daughter.

Returning part-time to research work with CQUniversity Physical Activity Research Group this year also presented the opportunity for Dr Hodgetts to lend her expertise to the Brisbane 2032 Olympics and Paralympics' as one of 12 Queenslanders selected for the international event's Legacy Committee.

Dr Hodgett's PhD was on sport participation legacy' looking at the local impacts of the National Surf Lifesaving Championships held in Perth across three years.

She has shared the challenges and discoveries of that research with CQUniversity's IMPACT research podcast.

Across her PhD studies' Dr Hodgetts also welcomed her first child' and then her twins' who were born premature.

"They actually arrived about a month before I submitted my thesis' so yeah' it was crazy!" she said.

"But to me' parenthood and a thesis' they're both a team effort – I had a great supervisor who was helping' my mum came up to help' my husband had taken some leave – having a good team is just essential to getting through."

You can listen to the full interview with Dr Hodgetts on CQUniversity's IMPACT research podcast' follow CQUniversity Podcasts here.

The series highlights the impact and experience of research higher degree alumni' and marks CQUniversity's recent milestone of 1000 RHD graduates.

To explore research degrees with CQUniversity' visit and find scholarship opportunities' current projects' or register for an information webinar.