Bupa Health Foundation announces Emerging Health Researcher Award finalists


Five early-career health researchers have been named finalists for Bupa Health Foundation’s annual Emerging Health Researcher Award for 2019.

Now in its eighth year, the Emerging Health Researcher Awards recognise the valuable contributions of health researchers to improving the health and wellbeing of our community.

This year, the five finalists showcase the diversity of Australian health and medical research, working on public health, medical engineering, laboratory science and clinical research spanning fields including genetics, cancer and mental health.

Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader Annette Schmiede congratulated the finalists.

Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader
Forging a career as a health and medical researcher can be challenging. Not only because of limited funding for research, but also the dedication required to solve complex health problems which can take years to unravel. The Bupa Health Foundation is proud to invest in Australian researchers as they navigate this critical career stage and embark on their journey to become tomorrow’s leaders who will be driving improvements to health and health care that will benefit all of society.
Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader

The 2019 Emerging Health Researcher Awards finalists are:

  • Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo, a genetic counsellor and Research Fellow at the University of Queensland who is focused on improving the care and overall health of people who are undergoing genetic testing.

  • Dr Saree Alnaghy - a Research Associate from the University of Wollongong who has developed a robotic device that mimics the movement of tumors to help reduce errors in radiation cancer treatments.

  • Dr Gemma Sharp - a clinical psychologist and NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow at Monash University who is developing online tools to help prevent serious health disorders associated with body image.

  • Dr Jie Bin Lew - a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Cancer Council NSW who has developed a predictive modelling tool to evaluate the most effective ways to prevent bowel cancer in Australia.

  • Dr Myles Young - a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Newcastle who is developing tailored interventions to improve the physical and mental health of men

Each finalist will receive $5,000 and support to help further their career. The award winner will be announced on 27th August and will receive an additional $20,000.

Since this award began in 2012 the Foundation has invested $374,000 to support Australia’s emerging leaders in health research.

Dr Aideen McInerney-Leo, NHMRC Research Fellow, Diamantina Institute, University of Queensland

Nominated by: Professor Peter Soyer, Director, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute

Dr McInerney-Leo is a clinical researcher and genetic counsellor. Her research program is highly transdisciplinary, involving collaborations in which she utilised genome sequencing to identify new genes, as well as research that identifies ethical issues, patient and family concerns and appropriate protocols to guide genetic testing in clinical practice.

To date, this research has:

  • identified new genes for conditions which affect how the skeleton develops
  • documented highly variable clinician practice with regard to genetic test ordering and interpretation, and
  • tested human versus computer methods of consenting patients to genetic testing.

Aideen is now leading a research program addressing the translation of genetic testing for melanoma, a highly prevalent cancer in Australia, into clinical practice.


Dr Saree Alnaghy, Research Associate, Centre for Medical Radiation Physics, The University of Wollongong

Nominated by: Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld, Director of the Center for Medical Radiation Physics, The University of Wollongong

Dr Alnaghy is a researcher in the field of medical radiation physics, focusing on improving quality assurance in cancer treatments with radiation therapy.

Dr Alnaghy has been working on a world-first robotic measurement system that can perform quality-assurance for complex radiotherapy treatments.

This research has the potential to reduce radiation-related errors in the clinic by allowing clinicians to identify issues in patient safety and answer fundamental clinical questions.


Dr Gemma Sharp, NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow in the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Monash University

Nominated by: Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director, Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre and Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Sharp is a psychological and biomedical researcher whose work focuses on physical appearance and body image concerns, and the serious disorders, such as eating disorders, which stem from them.

Dr Sharp is currently collaborating with The Butterfly Foundation and Instagram to create an online intervention tool for body image concerns. Using artificial intelligence to produce a chatbot, this research has the potential to assist millions of people around the world and address a major health issue affecting Australians.


Dr Jie Bin Lew, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW

Nominated by: Dr Eleonora Feletto, Research Fellow, Cancer Council NSW

Looking at population-level impacts and implementation of national health initiatives, Dr Lew’s work is focused on improving the participation rates in life-saving preventative screening programs for bowel cancer.

Despite a 90% success rate with early intervention and treatment, bowel cancers remain the second highest cancer killer in Australia. Dr Lew’s predictive modelling platform has the potential to increase the efficacy of public health campaigns and save many lives.


Dr Myles Young, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Education, University of Newcastle

Nominated by: Professor Philip Morgan, School of Education University of Newcastle

For seven years, Dr Young has led a research program developing and evaluating innovative, targeted interventions to improve men’s physical and mental health.

Dr Young has developed a range of innovative behavioural weight loss programs designed specifically for men and delivered online, supporting men to lose weight without requiring face-to-face counselling. In partnership with major health organisations (e.g. Diabetes WA), these programs are now being adopted by men and workplaces across Australia.

For more on the Bupa Health Foundation and Emerging Health Researcher Awards: bupa.com.au/foundation


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