Investing in a healthy future for Australia


Bupa Health Foundation has recognised some of Australia’s finest early career researchers through the Emerging Health Researcher Awards.

Four of Australia’s brightest early career researchers have been named Finalists in the 2020 Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Awards. They have been recognised for their work which has a tangible impact on the health of the Australian community and will each receive a $5,000 grant to help further their career. Read more about each of their research below.

Dr Jin Han of the Black Dog Institute was named the 2020 Emerging Health Researcher winner and will receive a $25,000 grant .

Five nominees also received Commendations and a $1,000 grant each: Dr Calos Garcia Esperon from John Hunter Hospital, Dr Jake Linadon from Deakin University, Dr Kiah Evans from Telethon Institute, Dr Lana McClements from University of Technology and Dr Joyce Siette from Macquarie University.

Dr Alexandra Jones – The George Institute for Global Health

Regulating food environments to improve community health.

Dr Alexandra Jones combines an innovative mix of law and science to strategically influence food policy in Australia and overseas. With two in three adults, and one in four children classified as overweight or obese, Dr Jones’ focus on improving Australians’ diets is more important than ever.

“Obesity has tripled over the past 30 years as our food environment has changed. We’re now surrounded by unhealthy processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and harmful fats, making it really hard to make good food choices,” Dr Jones said.

“I think that law is a powerful tool to improve public health. Changes to the way food is labelled, priced, marketed and sold – all of these things together could help to improve Australians’ diets. I want to show that regulators and lawyers, not only doctors and dietitians, can reduce health risks and save lives.”

Professor Bruce Neal said Dr Jones’ expertise lies in her ability to translate her academic work to influence tangible change.

“During her PhD she found time to serve on the government’s Technical Advisory Group for the Health Star Rating labelling system, she submitted endless reports, she got groups of people together to pitch ideas to the review committee. What she did really changed what has happened with the Health Star Rating system over the past few years,” Professor Neale said.

Dr Alice Grady – The University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Local Health District’s Population Health Unit.

Developing scalable programs delivered in childcare settings to prevent childhood obesity.

Dr Alice Grady works with childcare services to co-design healthy eating and physical activity initiatives to reduce the potential for childhood obesity. Her research uses digital technologies and existing infrastructure to ensure the programs are scalable and can reach as many children as possible.

“Childhood obesity is one of Australia’s biggest problems. Poor dietary and physical activity habits developed in childhood track into adulthood and can lead to a number of chronic diseases, resulting in poor social, psychological and economic outcomes,” Dr Grady said.

“My research looks to create healthy environments for children. By creating healthy habits in childhood, it helps children to lead healthy lives and can prolong their life expectancy.”

Associate Professor Serene Yoong who nominated Dr Grady for the award said Dr the care she shows for the quality of her research and for the people she works with helps her to deliver programs that have meaningful impact.

“Dr Grady is meticulous and thoughtful about the impact of the programs and solutions she develops. She works closely with the childcare services, children and parents who will be impacted by her work to ensure her research isn’t just academic but has real world benefits,” Professor Yoong said.

Dr Amanda Gwee – Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Leading trials to inform the correct use of antibiotics in babies.

Dr Amanda Gwee’s research will have a lasting impact on the health of Australian children with new antibiotic dosing guidelines developed through her research already being used in hospitals across Australia and overseas.

“There’s not a lot of information about how we should use antibiotics in children compared to adults. It’s an area we really need to improve on to strengthen our workforce. I’m proud of the fact my research has already changed practice and that I’ve been able to bring other people on who are interested in this research topic,” Dr Gwee said.

“It’s hard to be an early career researcher… it’s a highly competitive field with lots of talented people. This has made me even more committed to building on my research in the future.

Professor Nigel Curtis who nominated Dr Gwee for the Award said “The work that Dr Gwee is doing will really make a difference to the health of the community and provide better outcomes for children with infections.”

Dr Eduardo Albornoz– The University of Queensland

Identifying new ways to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

With more than 200,000 Australians currently living with a neurological condition, Dr Eduardo Albornoz’s research looks at how these diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, are triggered and aims to find new ways to treat them.

“Sadly, there is no treatment to stop the progression of neurological diseases, only treatments to ease the symptoms. The therapies we’re proposing will be able to stop inflammatory disease progression and with human trial validation, improve the quality of life for many Australians,” Dr Albornoz said.

Professor Trent Woodruff, who nominated Dr Albornoz for the award, said his hard work and dedication sets him apart from others in his field.

“Eduardo is really driven by the research he conducts. He works hard in the laboratory and is focused in his vision to progress these new treatments to human trials. It’s really important we encourage early career researchers like Eduardo to help support their medical discoveries.”