Get involved… how the EAPC Early Researcher Award helped my career

Dr Martin Fegg, Psychologist and Psychotherapist, the Interdisciplinary Center for Palliative Medicine at the University of Munich, Germany, explains how winning the Early Researcher Award has impacted on his career. Please read on and find out how you too can enter for an award…

Dr Martin Fegg

Dr Martin Fegg

As a young scientist, you are sometimes confronted with doubts whether all the projects and ideas you’re doing research on are really substantiated and acknowledged. Therefore it was a great moment for me in 2009 when I received the call that my work was among this year’s awardees of the EAPC Early Researcher Award.

Evaluating meaning in life
I am a psychologist working at the Interdisciplinary Center for Palliative Medicine at the University of Munich. Over the past five years my research team and I had developed an ‘idiographic’ instrument for the assessment of meaning in life. The key idea of this approach is that the patients themselves list their individually meaning-relevant areas. A similar approach had already been developed in quality of life research; we transferred this method to meaning in life assessment. In the ‘Schedule for the Evaluation of Meaning in Life’ (SMiLE), the patients first list areas that are relevant to their meaning in life. Thereafter, these areas are rated with respect to their current satisfaction and relative importance. Besides qualitative responses, this mixed method approach also produces quantitative indices of importance, satisfaction and weighted satisfaction (range, 0-100). 

The SMiLE has recently been validated in various languages (English, German, French, Spanish) and is currently being evaluated in India, Japan and Brazil. The tool has been successfully implemented in various scientific projects as well as in daily clinical practice.

Personal motivation
Besides the evaluation of meaning in life, for me, the award was the motivation to develop psychotherapeutic interventions, how quality of life and meaning in life can be enhanced and how psychological distress can be reduced. Besides the development of interventions for the patient, we also tried to develop support for relatives who are often under intense mental distress. In order to offer professional support, we developed the ‘Existential Behavioural Therapy’ (EBT) for relatives during their transition from caring to grieving and evaluated this intervention in a randomised-controlled trial. This intervention is based on new developments in behavioural therapy, for example, mindfulness therapy, which was combined with the existential focus of this group therapy (in total, six sessions). In this trial, we found positive long-term effects on quality of life and decreased psychological distress up to 12 months after the end of the intervention.

Besides my scientific work, I have run a psychotherapeutic practice for six years now ( where I can implement my scientific expertise into daily psychotherapeutic work. I have a strong focus on psycho-oncology as well as patients who are receiving palliative care, and their relatives. For me, it’s a very creative combination of scientific research and its practical application in psychotherapeutic support.

To find out more…

  • Click here for details of the 2013 Early Researcher Award
  • Submit your application online by 5pm, 30 November 2012
  • Click here to read reports from this year’s ERA winners.

 The EAPC is looking forward to your nomination!

Coming up in the European Journal of Palliative Care
You can read contributions from other former award winners of the EAPC Early Research Award in a future issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care. If you already have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you will be able to download and print this issue plus all articles in the EJPC archive. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the EJPC – click here to find out more and subscribe online.

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