PhD student spotlight - Dr Crystal Zhao

Dr Crystal Zhao

Dr Crystal Zhao is a practising GP in Victoria, and a PhD candidate at the Department of Medical Education. Her research interest is in the domain of primary care ethics, with particular focus on the everyday, practical ethics of clinical practice. Crystal is also interested in ethics education in the post-vocational training phase, and is an advocate for an ethics CPD (continuing professional development) modality which takes into account the complexities of real-life clinical practice.

Crystal’s research study examines how GPs experience and manage situations where patients request for tests/treatments that the GPs have been taught are medically unnecessary (e.g. antibiotics for viral infections, X-rays for back strain). She is interested in this because it is a situation that GPs frequently encounter and which can be ethically challenging. This is partly due to the need to weigh the bioethical principles of beneficence against respect for patient autonomy. In addition, because patients nowadays are more willing to challenge GPs and to identify themselves as customers/clients paying for a service, GPs also need to weigh up considerations such as the risk of confrontation with patients, the amount of time needed to manage the situation, the risk of litigation and their gate-keeping role obligations. All these make for a very complex and interesting phenomena which Crystal is keen to investigate! Her study involves in-depth interviews with GPs to try to build a picture of what goes on in their minds when faced with this situation.

Supervisors: Professor Clare Delaney, Professor Marilys Guillemin.