Ms Aoife McGarvey
(BAppSc Physiotherapy, Physiotherapist, Department of Physiotherapy)

Research AreasDiagnostics / Screening, Therapy and Treatment
Research TopicsMelanoma / Skin Cancer, Head and Neck Cancer, Pain
Research TypesClinical Trials, Survey / Observational Research

Ms Aoife McGarvey has been conducting clinical research in the Physiotherapy Department at Calvary Mater Newcastle since 2009. Her research focus is physiotherapy for patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer. Physiotherapy aims to improve shoulder pain and function and to minimise facial lymphoedema, which often occurs in patients receiving cancer treatment.

Aoife McGarvey is currently undertaking a PhD in this area of research, through the University of Newcastle.


  • "Impact of Neck Dissection on Scapular Muscle Function: A case controlled EMG study". Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2013; 94: 113-119.
  • "Scapular muscle exercises following neck dissection surgery for head and neck cancer: A comparative electromyographic study." Physical Therapy, 2013; available online.
  • "Physiotherapy for accessory nerve shoulder dysfunction following neck dissection surgery: A literature review." Head and Neck, 2011; 33(2): 274-280.

Getting to know you

When did you start doing research?

I first started research in 2009 after receiving the CMN James Lawrie Grant. The randomised study undertaken for this funding was investigating the effect of physiotherapy on shoulder pain and function after neck dissection surgery for cancer.

What research projects are you currently working on?

Currently analysing the results of the multicentre randomised controlled trial assessing effect of physiotherapy following neck dissection, in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, Liverpool Hospital and Westmead Hospital.

What research achievement are you most proud of?

Being invited to present at the Tri Society Head and Neck Cancer Conference in Singapore in 2011.

What inspires you?

Treating patients with head and neck cancer, who are so brave in how they cope with their disease. Being a crucial part in helping patients improve shoulder pain and achieve their functional goals, is immensely rewarding.

What did you do before coming to work at Calvary Mater Newcastle?

I worked as a clinical physiotherapist for several years both in Australia and overseas in military, private and hospital settings.

Who are your main collaborators at Calvary Mater Newcastle?

My physiotherapy colleagues and manager, Judy Holland. All of the members of the Hunter region Head and Neck Multidisciplinary team, including one of my supervisors,  A/Prof Gary Hoffman.

What did you do before you became a researcher?

Worked as a clinical physiotherapist.

What made you decide to do research?

The belief that physiotherapy can make a difference to patient function and quality of life in the head and neck cancer population. The distinct lack of evidence regarding the effect of physiotherapy in head and neck cancer patients after neck dissection surgery fuelled my passion to conduct research.

What do you do to relax?

Exercise of any kind, but mainly surfing and yoga.

What is the craziest thing you have ever had to do "in the name of research"?

When applying for the James Lawrie grant in 2008, I ironically ended up in hospital with back pain from sitting at the laptop for so many hours. A bit of an embarrassing story being a physiotherapist!



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