Q&A with Dr Emily Yang

9 December 2022

A Q&A with Dr Yang on her career, new challenges ahead and some of the topics her team will work on in 2023 and beyond. Dr Emily Yang is a Research Support Program Fellow, Health Ageing at NICM Health Research Institute. She joined the institute in 2019 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for clinical research and translation. Her research explores the effectiveness and safety of complementary medicines, including Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and tai chi, in the treatment of chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mild cognitive impairment.

What drew you to complementary and integrative medicine research?

Becoming a scientist was my childhood dream. When I was an undergraduate student in Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, I attended an impressive workshop on evidence-based medicine. The speaker was Professor Jianping Liu, who is the evidence-based Chinese medicine research leader in China. He became a role model for me since then, and I was lucky to join his research centre as a volunteer and then his master student. I continued my learning and research journey in Australia and hope my research can inform policy decision-making and help people live a better life.

What do you love about research?

Freedom. I have flexibility to choose my work time and place. I have freedom to do research of interest with my team. I have great opportunities to work the amazing national and international collaborators and researchers in different disciplines.

What brought you to NICM HRI?

NICM HRI is Australia’s leader in integrative and complementary medicine research and policy and is internationally recognised institution in evidence building in this field. NICM HRI’s focus on clinical trials and Chinese medicine offers me the opportunity to work with leading researchers in Chinese medicine and other integrative medicine therapies, to promote evidence-based integrative healthcare.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on tai chi for heart health and mental health. My team and I summarised the development of tai chi clinical evidence in the past 10 years and evaluated 210 systematic reviews to determine the effects and safety of tai chi. My current focus is a pilot clinical trial to test the feasibility, effects, and cost-effectiveness of a co-designed cardiac rehabilitation program for Chinese migrants in Australia, including health education, shared medical appointment, and virtual tai chi class. I am also working with my community, national and international collaborators on co-creating a Tai Chi-based Stress Reduction Program for students in higher education settings.

What is your next project?

My next project will include randomised control trials and mixed method studies to understand the mechanism, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of tai chi-based program for cardiac rehabilitation, stress, anxiety, and depression.

What has been the most rewarding research project in your career so far?

My PhD project was an international, multi-centre randomised controlled trial on tai chi for people with cardiovascular disease. Its results have been presented in several national and internal conferences. I was awarded the “2018 Young Investigator Award” in in international congress held in the US. Importantly, the tai chi program used in this project has been adopted and used as an ongoing activity for local seniors to improve health and wellbeing by non-for-profit community organisations. So far, over 100 people has been trained in Australia since 2015, with five furthering their education within the program, becoming trainers.

What has been the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Making strategic, backward, short- and long-term planning. We only have 24-hours per day and 365 days per year. The planning will help me to keep focused, never give up, and stay on the track to where I want to go. I also feel more comfortable when I need to say “no”.

What is your favourite aspect of your role?  

It’s a learning and growing journey. Research life is about exploration, experience, and learning. I am also passionate about sharing my health knowledge and research to community people. My role offers me the opportunity to use the most current knowledge and skills in my field.