Bupa Health Foundation recognises future leaders in health and medical research

Six up-and-coming health researchers have received national recognition for their dedication to research which directly benefits the health of Australians.

The impressive group are the finalists for the highly competitive Emerging Health Researcher Award, offered annually by the Bupa Health Foundation to showcase and invest in Australia’s research talent. A prize of $5,000 will be awarded to each of the finalists, with the recipient to receive a further $20,000 to advance their research career.

Now in its sixth year, this prestigious award highlights the importance of supporting research that will have a real impact on how health care is delivered in Australia.

The finalists are being recognised for the following projects:

  • Reducing antibiotics prescribing in general practice

  • Using technology and social media to identify, treat and prevent mental illness and promote wellbeing in youth

  • Reducing rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Indigenous communities

  • Enhancing quality of pathology testing in general practice

  • Precise instrumentation to measure hand tremor, balance, posture, rigidity, and gait in individuals with movement disorders.

  • Gene-nutrient-environment interactions

Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader, Annette Schmiede said the 2017 award had a strong focus on research translation.

Each of this year’s finalists are not only doing relevant health research but are also actively engaging in research translation, which is basically making sure it gets to the consumers of research – the public, policy makers and the health care sector.
Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation

“More than 120 nominees were proposed by the research community, drawing attention to and celebrating the research achievements of early career scientists, academics and clinicians,” Ms Schmiede said.

Ms Schmiede was impressed with the high calibre achievements of those nominated. “Our 2017 Emerging Researcher Award finalists have already made significant impact on improving healthcare for individuals and populations.

“Continuing to recognise and celebrate this important group of early career researchers is essential to ensuring a vibrant research sector.”

The Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award recipient will be announced on 16 March 2018, at a breakfast event in Sydney.

Watch the videos below with all the finalists:

Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award finalists

Dr Amanda McCullough, Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice, Bond University

Area of research: ‘Reducing antibiotics prescribing in general practice’

Nominator: Dr Chris Del Mar, Professor of Public Health, Bond University

Dr Amanda McCullough’s research is focused on reducing antibiotics prescribing. This work aims to help lessen the impact of antibiotic resistance, which could kill 10 million people every year by 2050. Her research has shown that Australian GPs prescribe nearly 6 million antibiotics annually, which is 4-9 times higher than Australian Guidelines. Dr McCullough is now working on a translational research programme to close this gap. She has been reviewing the evidence on why GPs and members of the public use antibiotics to identify how that could be reduced, and including psychologists in the process as well. She will translate her research into local general practice to show that GPs can safely reduce the amount of antibiotics prescribed.

Dr Bridianne O’Dea, Black Dog Institute

Area of research: Using technology and social media to identify, treat and prevent mental illness and promote wellbeing in youth

Nominator: Professor Helen Christensen, Chief Scientist, Director, Black Dog Institute

Dr Bridianne O’Dea has been researching the impact the internet, social media and mobile phones have on the younger generation. Her research has shown how they can be useful tools in helping to identify, treat and prevent mental illness and promote wellbeing in young people. She has developed an online service called Smooth Sailing, which young people can visit in the classroom. The website screens their mental health and allocates them to a level of care. And if they’re in need of help, it automatically alerts the school counsellor and then follows up with them every two weeks through SMS and email check ins.

Dr Emma Beckett, The University of Newcastle, School of Medicine and Public Health

Area of research: Gene-nutrient-environment interactions

Nominator: Associate Professor Mark Lucock, Associate Professor and Program Convenor (Food Science and Human Nutrition)

Dr Emma Beckett is a scientist who is researching how our genes, nutrients and the environment interact to help find out how everyone live longer and healthier lives. Her research considers factors in our environment, including how much sun we get, what bacteria we have in our guts, drinking alcohol and smoking, and how this influences the way our genes and nutrients interact. Dr Beckett says that nutrition affects everyone and that’s why she is doing research in the field. Her work is important because within the field of nutrition, there is a lot of misinformation, hype and media that can mislead consumers.

Dr Jaquelyne Hughes, Menzies School of Health Research and Royal Darwin Hospital

Area of research: Reducing rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Indigenous communities

Nominator: Professor Alan Cass, Director of Menzies School of Health Research

Australia’s first and only Indigenous nephrologist (kidney specialist), Dr Jaquelyne Hughes is conducting research into chronic and end stage kidney disease, potentially preventable conditions that affects a high number of Indigenous Australians. Dr Hughes is a national leader in kidney disease research and works with policy makers, clinicians, and the community to help drive awareness of the issue. As part of her research, she helped lead the Indigenous patients voice symposium at the annual Nephrologists scientific meeting. The recommendations helped shape the symposium report with the recommendations for policy taken into consideration.

Dr Rae-Anne Hardie, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University

Area of research: Enhancing quality of pathology testing in general practice

Nominator: Professor Andrew Georgiou, Head of Diagnostic Informatics, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University

Over half of Australians live with at least one chronic condition, and collectively they are the leading cause of illness and death. Dr Rae-Anne Hardie has been researching the use of pathology and laboratory testing in general practice. It’s one of the first projects in Australia to be able to use general practice to look at this testing in the context of preventing and detecting chronic diseases early on. Dr Hardie has access to data from 2 million Australian patients and has identified key pathology tests as indicators to monitor conditions, including diabetes, prostate cancer, arthritis, thyroid disease, mental illnesses, genetic conditions, and cardiac diseases. By analysing the general practice data for any indicators of chronic illness, it will benchmark pathology testing and help to measure the impact of testing on patient care.

Dr Thushara Perera, Bionics Institute

Area of research: Precise instrumentation to measure hand tremor, balance, posture, rigidity, and gait in movement disorder patients

Nominator: Professor Hugh McDermott, Neurobionics Research Program Leader, Chief Technology Officer, Bionics Institute

Dr Thushara Perera is developing new technologies to assess movement in those living with disabling neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and multiple sclerosis. He is working closely with neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiotherapists and engineers to develop clinical tools to help optimise and guide treatment for patients. With over 75,000 Australians living with Parkinson’s disease, Dr Perera’s research has tremendous potential to improve clinical practice and health outcomes nationwide.

Previous Emerging Health Researcher Award winners:

2012 Dr Priya Sumithran, University of Melbourne

2013 Dr Andy Hsu, Peter McCallum Cancer Centre

2014 Dr Greg Ebert, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research

2015 Dr Gabrielle McCallum, Menzies School of Health Research.

2016 Associate Professor. Gail Garvey, Menzies School of Health Research

More information on the Bupa Health Foundation and Emerging Researcher Awards

The Bupa Health Foundation is one of Australia’s leading corporate foundations dedicated to health. We are committed to improving the health of the Australian community and ensuring the sustainability of affordable healthcare through collaborative partnerships.

The Bupa Health Foundation was established in 2005 and has invested more than $30million to support over 120 projects in real health and care improvements.

The Emerging Health Researcher Awards is celebrating its sixth anniversary after being established in 2012.

For more information please visit www.bupa.com.au/foundation.


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