Tea in TiP: Interview with visiting researcher Rikke Torenholt

Welcome to our informal interview series with visitors to the research group. It is called Tea in TiP because interviewees are invited to share a cup of tea (on this occasion we had Swedish Söder tea) and talk about what they hope to work on while visiting ITU and TiP.

Rikke Torenholt is visiting from Copenhagen University, where she is a PhD student in the section for Health Services Research and part of the Medical STS Group. She is staying in TiP between September and November 2019.


Lara Reime: Even though you have been here for two months already: Welcome to TiP! What are you planning or what have you been working on while you were here? 
Rikke Torenholt: I am working on a paper which is about the use of algorithms in clinical practice where patients are sorted according to their produced data. So data produced by patients is sorted by an algorithm. This is also what part of my PhD is about.

Lara: How did you ended up working on this topic?
Rikke: My PhD is about the clinical use of patient reported data, so from the beginning it was about data and algorithms. And then since there is a big group working on health data in my section, and I was kind of flirting with that group and reading stuff with that group my thesis just became more and more about patient data and patient data work.

Lara: How did you come to visit ITU? Why did you wanted to be here?
Rikke: I think the first time… I am not sure when I heard about your group the first time, but the first time I was here was during the DASTS (Danish Association for Science & Technology Studies) conference, where I just saw talks from different people of the group and it seemed like a very nice and interesting place. And also, since the whole technical part of studying algorithms and data in the way that you do in this group is not that familiar to me I could really need this inspiration.

Lara: Turning to the future now, what would you like to work with in the future?
Rikke: I am figuring that out, I guess. It’s still very much up in the air. A good colleague told me, that being a PhD Student is all about figuring out what kind of researcher you want to be and what audiences you mostly want to target.

Lara: How was your research structured? Have you done fieldwork?
Rikke: Yes, I have done ethnographic fieldwork. I have done fieldwork at a hospital, following healthcare professionals, following patients and also trying to follow the patient data. 

Lara: And what was your most surprising moment during fieldwork?
Rikke: That is a good question. There are many surprising moments and I think there are moments that are about your own experiences as a researcher and then there are moments related to the study object… It is a nice question; it is something to prepare for my defense I guess [laughs]. What would it be?

Lara: Or maybe the most memorable moment? 
Rikke: I guess there are several aha-moments. I think some of the things I will remember the most are actually from some of the observations I did prior to the ‘real’ fieldwork. In preparation to do the ‘real’ fieldwork I visited the hospital and the ward and the place where all the women have their chemotherapy. So, the women I study are actually women that have survived cancer, so they are “on the right side” of the disease. But in order to kind of know their situation I wanted to also know about the treatment they have been through. So I think one of the biggest aha’s in terms of getting to know these women and their situation was just watching and following them through chemotherapy and also realizing how much stuff they go through after chemotherapy and after radiation therapy and how much more treatment they will have for many years following the chemotherapy. So, those moments made me think about bigger questions like: when are we survivors and when are we ill? That kind of popped up at that moment and it has followed me throughout the study. 

Lara: So you not just looking at patients in general, you are looking at really specific patients?
Rikke: Yes. My case is about women who have survived breast cancer. And in this case patient generated data is used as a way to do follow up care. So women respond to these online questionnaires and produce data about their experiences both mentally and physically and then their treatment is adjusted according those data. 

Lara: What do you think is the coolest thing about your research?
Rikke: The coolest thing about my research? I think I haven’t put this down in words yet, but I think when I am most excited about my research is when it adds to bigger questions. About how we should use technologies in the future and when do we benefit from using technology and more data in healthcare and in the welfare in general. When my research touches upon our understanding of welfare and how to take care of people in our society. So that is not specifically about my research, but it is this feeling when you think that it actually has to do with those important questions. When it maybe contributes to something bigger. 

Lara: Ja that is amazing! Okay, so usually we have visitors that are outside from Copenhagen or Denmark even…
Rikke: Yes, and I am just from the other side of the water.

Lara: Exactly. So usually we would ask what they favorite Danish food is or a good experience here in Denmark but maybe for you that does not make so much sense. But maybe you can talk about your favorite place in Copenhagen, so future visitors can check that out.
Rikke: I think right now I am very nostalgic, because I am leaving Nørrebro after 8 years. So, at this point we have a list of places to go to before we move. Not that we are never coming back again but there are a lot of good places. It used to be a place in Nørrebro that closed down, so maybe that says it all. And other than that, my favorite food… I think at ITU it is definitely going to the canteen at KU.

Lara: Even though we don’t have the best canteen, what is your favorite thing about being in TiP?
Rikke: You really get the sense that you are very well organized and very creative at the same time. And that it is a good environment for people to share their work and get feedback in very constructive ways and also I think there is a special humor in the TiP group, I am not sure exactly what it is. But there is definitely a sarcastic, joking thing going on, that is very nice. And I guess coming from another Danish university I am used to everyone eating lunch together and stuff like that. But if I was from the outside, I would definitely notice things like that. Also, that it is seems to be a very flat organizational structure, and that everybody talks to each other and PhD students have a lot to say.

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