Around the universities and research institutes

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust || doi: 10.5694/mja17.0602C2
Published online: 6 February 2017

TWO Flinders University graduates have won alumni awards from the university, going “above and beyond their chosen careers to make an impact in the wider community”. Oxford University’s Professor Debra Jackson has become a research leader in international nursing. She was the first Professor of Nursing to be appointed at Oxford in 25 years and has gone on to establish the Oxford Institute of Nursing and Allied Health Research as the Professor of Nursing at Oxford Brookes University and Oxford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Her research achievements include publication of more than 300 articles which have attracted more than 8000 citations, along with attracting more than $6 million in external funding from government and industry sources. Lecturer and academic member of the Medical Device Research Institute at Flinders, David Hobbs, is a rehabilitation engineer in the field of disability. Working with Novita’s Children’s Services and community groups, he has developed a range of assistive technologies for children with cerebral palsy – including a novel computer game intervention called Orby. Another of his achievements while working at Novita for almost 10 years was leading the Australian commercialisation of a software program from Canada that enables children with disabilities to play music simply by moving. He also has experience working in rehabilitation engineering research and industry institutions in England, Canada and the United States.

Scientia Professor David Cooper, the director of the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, is the winner of the Royal Society of NSW’s James Cook Medal. Professor Cooper’s research centres on understanding and treating HIV/AIDS. He introduced one of the first tests for HIV infection to Australia and has made a number of contributions and discoveries in areas such as antiretroviral therapy, complications of HIV treatment, and HIV pathogenesis. His current focus is on dose optimisation in immunotherapy and vaccination. The James Cook Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions to both science and human welfare in and for the Southern Hemisphere. Dr Muireann Irish, a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at UNSW, and a Senior Research Officer at Neuroscience Research Australia, won the Edgeworth David Medal for 2016. Considered to be at the forefront of cognitive neuroscience, Dr Irish’s research focuses on memory disruption in dementia. Her research contributions include establishing the impairment of planning in dementia patients and differentiation among dementia syndromes at initial presentation. Dr Irsh was the winner of a prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO Fellowship in 2015 and was also named a joint winner of 2016’s NSW Premier’s Award for Early Career Researcher of the Year. The Edgeworth David Medal is awarded each year for distinguished research by a young scientist under the age of 35 years for work done mainly in Australia or for contributing to the advancement of Australian science.

University of Sydney alumnus Dr Martin Seneviratne has been named the 2017 Roden Cutler NSW John Monash Scholar. The award will see Dr Seneviratne head to Stanford University to continue his ground-breaking work into clinical informatics. Clinical informatics is often referred to as the intersection between computer science and clinical medicine. Dr Seneviratne said while working as junior doctor he saw countless examples every day of how software could increase efficiency, enhance the capacities of clinicians, and improve the patient experience. “The future of medicine will be in using data to design a learning health system”, he explained, “one that understands the patient as an individual and can offer personalised care. Australia has all the ingredients to lead the world in digital medicine: an amazing public health system, an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a strong history of clinical research.” Dr Seneviratne has a Bachelor of Advanced Science with First Class Honours, an MBBS with First Class Honours and was awarded the University of Sydney Medal. Currently at the RPAH, he has worked in France, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. He sits on the national board of the Health Informatics Society of Australia, and advises the Australian Digital Health Agency. He also represented Australia at the World Economic Forum.

Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine alumnus has recently been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to undertake study at the University of Oxford in his interest area of public health policy. His honours thesis investigated the factors that influence the development of public policy aimed at ensuring a financially sustainable health care system. He is currently working for the Australian Health Policy Collaboration as a Senior Analyst. He has previously represented the International Federation of Medical Students at the World Health Assembly and for his medical elective he completed an internship at the global management and consulting firm McKinsey & Co. As a part of the Scholarship, Connor will undertake a Master of Philosophy in Politics (Political Theory) at the Department of Politics and International Relations. Following completion of his MPhil, he plans to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil – the Oxford term for a PhD) in public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government.

Two Monash Health doctors have received Early Career Practitioner Fellowships from the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health to enable their research into cardiovascular disease and improving outcomes in complicated pregnancies. Monash Heart Cardiology Fellow Dr Adam Brown and Monash Health Senior Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology Dr Kirsten Palmer received the competitive fellowships, allowing them protected research time. Dr Brown’s research investigates the physical mechanisms that underlie coronary plaque growth, which frequently causes heart attacks. If successful, Dr Brown’s research will bring cardiologists a step towards personalised medicine, where the risk of a heart attack can be calculated for each patient in the clinic—rather than from population data, where the results may not apply to any one individual. Dr Palmer hopes to improve pregnancy outcomes for both women and their babies affected by pre-eclampsia which affects about 5% of pregnancies.

  • Cate Swannell



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