Read Nozomi Oyama’s story, a postgraduate research student studying remotely at the University of Essex whilst working as an Occupational Therapist in Japan. Nozomi has cared for a range of patients since 2009, and her special interest is neuropsychological rehabilitation for people with brain injury.

My story

One of the turning points in my work as an Occupational Therapist occurred in 2015. I had come to the UK for the first time, and was unable to manage even daily conversations in English at that time.

I took the training programme at the Oliver Zangwill Centre (OZC) in Cambridge which specialises in neuropsychological rehabilitation. Although the programme was only for three months, the experience provided invaluable knowledge and has had a significant and enduring impact on my clinical approach.

In addition, the OZC is the place I met Prof. Andrew Bateman, who is my current supervisor at the University of Essex. He was a head of the centre at that time, and would sometimes give me lovely tours of the town. His talks about rehabilitation and research inspired me to go on to higher education for my career. I had never thought about postgraduate study because Masters and PhD degrees do not generally confer significant advantages in Japanese society. However, I became eager to study neuropsychology in the UK after returning to Japan.

In 2018, I started my Masters degree in Principles of Clinical Neuropsychology at Bangor University. I really enjoyed studying neuropsychology, experiencing different cultures, and spending time with wonderful friends from around the UK and the world. These experiences sparked my interest regarding cultural differences in rehabilitation.

Choosing Essex for my PhD

I started my PhD Occupational Therapy at the University of Essex in 2021. Although I had almost given up going on to postgraduate research due to the pandemic and personal reasons, I was given a fantastic opportunity to start this journey thanks to the university and Professor Bateman.

Professor Bateman’s research is multidisciplinary and international, which is consistent with my interest. In addition, I knew he is such a supportive person who had always given me great advice based on his extensive knowledge and experience whenever I needed him. Therefore, I had been eager to do my PhD under his supervision.

For me, the appeal of the University of Essex is the flexible courses which offer unique opportunities to research a variety of interests according to individual students’ particular passions. Besides, the university has an international and diverse atmosphere as there are a large number of international students and lectures.

With these reasons in mind, I believed the University of Essex would best enable me to have an irreplaceable experience to glow as a global professional. At present, I am a daytime clinician at a hospital in Miyazaki, Japan and a part-time online student in the UK, studying in the evenings. Luckily, the 8-9 hour time differences allows me to continue to pursue my goals.

My proposed research

My research focuses on developing a Japanese version of the Mayo-Portland Adaptability Inventory (MPAI-4) and comparing the tool with other language versions. MPAI-4 is a comprehensive outcome measurement of rehabilitation for people with brain injury across multiple domains, consisting of 30 items scored on a 5-point ordinal scale. It was developed by Malec and Lezak (2003) and has been translated into several languages. I first encountered this tool at the OZC six years ago, but there are no Asian versions yet.

The reason why I became interested in this measurement is that it enables the comprehensive and objective assessment of outcomes including social activities, emotions, and behaviour, as well as physical and cognitive functions. I believe this project could also spearhead analysis of cross-cultural differences in rehabilitation. My progress may sometimes be slow, but I am enjoying my virtual student life.

To everyone…

Despite the distance learning, I feel I am a part of Essex thanks to the kind people who support me and the great educational systems at the university. I hope I can one day visit the university to study and meet everyone in person, even if only for a short period. If anyone is interested in Japanese rehabilitation, my research on MPAI-4 using Rasch analysis, or anything else I have mentioned, please feel free to contact me.