Around the universities and research institutes

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Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja17.1601C2
Published online: 16 January 2017

A trio of world-leading neuroscientists has joined the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre to “progress research-led treatments for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases affecting human memory and thinking”. Professor Glenda Halliday, Professor John Hodges and Professor Olivier Piguet bring a significant team of researchers, PhD students and professional staff. Professor Halliday is a specialist in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases, a senior principal research fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council, a past president of the Australian Neuroscience Society and part of the Academy of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. Professor Hodges leads a multidisciplinary research group focused on aspects of frontotemporal dementia. He has authored 500 papers on aspects of memory, language and dementia, in addition to six books. Professor Hodges is a former lecturer in behaviour neurology at the University of Cambridge. Professor Piguet is an international expert on cognitive and clinical changes in pathological brain ageing who has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles on this topic. His research has recently focused on the biological correlates of deficits in social cognition and memory in frontotemporal dementia and related conditions. “A major reason for joining the University of Sydney is that we are at a critical stage of translating many of our research projects into neurological research clinics with the aims of testing new diagnostic methods and preclinical treatment evaluations,” Professor Halliday said.

The Work Injury Screening & Early Intervention (WISE) study consortium, made up of NSW Health, EML, icare and the University of Sydney’s Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI), has been named winner of the Framework and Systems section of the 2016 icare TMF awards. The WISE study, led by Professor Michael Nicholas, evaluated the implementation of an early risk screening and psychosocial management intervention instituted for employees with acute soft tissue injuries within a large hospital network in Australia. The screening used the 10-item Orebro Musculoskeletal Pain Screening Questionnaire (OMPSQ-10) which was administered over the phone by the insurance case manager within the first week of an injured worker taking time off work due to their musculoskeletal injury. Those scoring above the cut-off of C50/100 were offered the opportunity to address their concerns with a nominated psychologist (in addition to usual care by their treating doctor and physical therapist). Any work-related issues identified by the psychologist or workplace return to work coordinator were to be addressed simultaneously at the workplace. While this study has only just been completed, the employer (the NSW State Health Department) has recognised its value (to date the savings have amounted to 22% for the high-risk intervention group over the similar control group, and mean lost work days of 30 vs 56, respectively, over the year following injury) and it is now being implemented as standard practice for all public hospitals in NSW. Planning is underway to change the guidelines covering the early management of injured workers generally across NSW. The final results of the WISE study will be available early in 2017.

Professor Perry Bartlett, from the University of Queensland, has been named the 2017 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year, for his work on the human brain, including dementia and depression. Professor Bartlett was the founding director of UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute, which he led for 11 years until 2015. He now holds UQ’s Foundation Chair in Molecular Neuroscience. In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious CSL Florey Medal for his breakthrough discoveries. Professor Bartlett is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a past NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow and ARC Federation Fellow, a past President of the Australasian Neuroscience Society, and a former head of Development and Neurobiology at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Professor Bartlett and his team are now working on slowing the progress of dementia by activating stem cells to produce new nerves.

Dr Bradley Edwards, from the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, has been awarded a Heart Foundation 2016 Future Leader Fellowship for his project, “Personalising the treatment of sleep apnoea”. Dr Edwards will investigate the effect of upper airway surgery and mandibular advancement devices on the physiological processes underlying obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). He will also investigate if patients who fail to respond to these treatments can be effectively “rescued” with the addition of oxygen therapy. He is hoping that his research will enable an individualised and effective mechanism-based therapy approach for the many patients whose OSA currently remains untreated, and who remain at great risk of serious cardiovascular complications. Importantly, the tools generated through his work will also be immediately translatable to clinical practice. Dr Edwards’ Fellowship will commence on 1 January 2017.

Monash Children’s Hospital trainee Dr Ling San Lau has been awarded a John Monash Scholarship to undertake a Master of Public Health at Columbia University in international child health. A paediatric basic trainee, Dr Lau worked as a senior resident medical officer at Monash Children’s Hospital for 6 months this year in infectious diseases, respiratory medicine, nephrology/rheumatology and endocrinology. Dr Lau will use the $130 000 scholarship to study at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York. Dr Lau has a particular interest in paediatric infectious diseases, including multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and the broader global issue of antimicrobial resistance.

Professor Geoff McColl, Head of the Melbourne Medical School and Professor of Medical Education and Training, has been announced as the new Chair of the Medical School Accreditation Committee and Director at the Australian Medical Council – an independent national standards body for medical education and training. In addition to his role as Head of the Melbourne Medical School, Professor McColl continues to practise as a visiting rheumatologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and serves on a number of committees guiding the development of the medical workforce and health of the community.

  • Compiled by Cate



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