Researcher focused on reducing the threat of antibiotic resistance wins Bupa Health Foundation Award

Dr Amanda McCullough, Bond University Research Fellow, was announced as the recipient of the Emerging Health Researcher Award for 2017, at an awards breakfast in Sydney on Friday 16 March, 2018.

The $25,000 prize will go towards furthering Dr McCullough’s research career, and help drive her crucial work that aims to stop the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria by reducing antibiotic prescription among general practitioners (GPs).

Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader said that the potential impact of Dr McCullough’s work was huge.

“Dr McCullough’s contribution in this area of research could be far reaching, and help us address a global health challenge. Ultimately, finding strategies to overcome antibiotic resistance can save lives – in Australia and around the world.”

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria can resist being killed by antibiotics – medications that are used to help the body fight off bacterial infection.

“By 2050, around 10 million people each year could be dying because of antibiotic resistance,” said Dr McCullough.

The more antibiotics are used unnecessarily, the faster the world will be overcome by bacteria that no longer responds to our medicines.

Her research has shown that Australian GPs prescribe nearly 6 million antibiotics annually, which Dr McCullough has demonstrated is 4 to 9 times higher than what is recommended by Australian guidelines.

As part of her research, Dr McCullough has been reviewing the evidence on why GPs and members of the public use antibiotics, and how this could be reduced for common conditions such as coughs, colds, flus and ear infections.

To help change prescribing behaviour, she is also involving a psychologist in her work. “It’s different to what’s often done in these things. So, I guess that is where my work is quite different in that I’ve set the benchmark, and now I’m trying to close the gap.”

Dr Chris Del Mar, Professor of Public Health at Bond University, nominated Dr McCullough for a Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award in recognition of her driving ambition, hard focus and potential.

Professor Del Mar said the importance of Dr McCullough’s research lies in the seriousness of antibiotic resistance, and the potential harm it could cause people all around the world.

“If we can’t be sure that antibiotic cover is effective then all of our lifesaving treatments- hip replacements, chemotherapy for cancer, stents in the heart - will be too dangerous to do. Medicine will be retreating back to the 1930s,” said Professor Del Mar.

The prize money from this prestigious award will allow Dr McCullough to expand her work to change antibiotic prescribing practices nationally.

“To my mind, there is actually no point of doing research if you can’t get it into practise so that it improves health. So, that’s really my driving force, I guess,” adds Dr McCullough.

The Bupa Health Foundation is proud to recognise the work of early career researchers who are not only doing important research, but are also focused on translating the results to ensure improvement in the wellbeing of the community
Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation

In addition to Dr McCullough, five additional outstanding health researchers have been acknowledged as finalists and have been awarded $5,000 to continue their research that is driving changes in health policy and practice in Australia.

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

Details on research projects below:

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.


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