October 7, 2020

Inspired Researchers: PhD Candidates Natali Cvetanovska and Julie Wang

This week, we mark Research Week 2020, and celebrate our inspired researchers.

Today, we profile our PhD research candidates, Natali Cvetanovska and Julie Wang. Natali has worked in Education and Research as a Manager for the last five and a half years and Julie is a haematologist at Northern Health.

Thanks to Northern Health Foundation, they have been both awarded PhD scholarships that will support the Foundation’s vision of helping improve the health outcomes of our northern community.

Natali’s research will focus on helping patients at Northern Health to improve their understanding of health information and improve their health literacy.

The title of Julie’s PhD study is, ‘Prospective serial evaluation of new bio-markers of Thrombosis in patients with newly diagnosed venous thromboembolism.’

Natali, who lives locally, says, “Our population has lower levels of education and lower English proficiency rates compared to Victorian averages, which leads to increased challenges with understanding health information. This can lead to poorer health outcomes. Improving health literacy in our population may lead to improved health outcomes.”

Says Julie of her research, “One of the challenges of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) management is preventing VTE recurrence after the initial event, which has been reported to be approximately five per cent per year after first VTE, and up to 30 per cent after five years. Locally, our audit of 1,200 VTE patients found a VTE recurrence rate of 3.2/100 patient years.”

Julie says what inspired her research is, “A desire to find an easy, cheap and accessible way to detect individuals at high risk of VTE recurrence. Being part of a group of active and enthusiastic researchers at Northern Health has really motivated and inspired me to embark on this task.”

Natali says, “Engaging with my research colleagues, learning about their work and getting to contribute to some of their research, really got me interested in doing my own.”

Natali is hoping her research can “contribute to better health outcomes for the community that I live and work in.”

According to Julie, previous studies have mostly examined a single time point following anticoagulation cessation. In her study, investigational assays will be utilised including thrombin and fibrin generation assays, with the possibility of other novel biomarkers including PAI-1, TFPI and proteonomics.

She says, “To the best of our knowledge, we are the only institution in Victoria which currently has the capacity to evaluate all of these assays.”

Julie hopes that the “expansion of our research capabilities, in addition to our growing comprehensive clinical service, will allow us, at Northern Health, achieve our vision of being a centre of excellence for thrombosis.”

Dr Rebecca Jessup, Allied Health Research Lead and Natali’s PhD Supervisor, had this to say, “Natali is an asset to Northern Health and her research will make a real difference. I can’t wait to see her grow as a researcher over the next three years. We know that the northern community is growing at a rapid rate, and the outcomes of Natali’s research will play an important part in building a healthier community in Melbourne’s north.”

Dr Prahlad Ho, Julie’s PhD Supervisor, says, “Julie has had a long history with Northern Health, doing her thrombosis fellowship here, and a valuable member to our NECTAR research team. Her PhD will help us understand Venous Thrombosis better, as well as develop new risk assessment models to prevent recurrence, and will no doubt allow her to continue the pursuit of one of her passions – research.”

The PhD research scholarships are powered by Northern Health Foundation, which also funds Small Research Grants . These grants and scholarships  develop and strengthen research undertaken at Northern Health and benefit patients within the northern community.