October 10, 2022

Research Week 2022: Research in extraordinary times

This week is Research Week, when we celebrate our many inspired researchers at Northern Health. As Professor Peter Brooks, Research Lead, says in our story today, “What is amazing is the dedication of all our staff who continue to deliver those three ‘Pillars’ of a health system – quality care, education of patients and staff and, of course, research, in these extraordinary times.”

This week, we celebrate Research Week in its traditional ‘October’ time slot. Yet another reminder that we are getting back to some sort of normality, yet still very much aware that COVID-19 remains with us. What is amazing is the dedication of all our staff who continue to deliver the three ‘Pillars’ of a health system – quality care, education of patients and staff and, of course, research in these extraordinary times.

Our keynote speaker to open Research Week was Professor Zoe Wainer, Deputy Secretary for Public Health, Victorian Department of Health. She spoke about ‘Value-Based Health Care’, a topic so relevant to our emerging post-COVID-19 situation as its values have helped chart our course through these last few years, and demonstrated the role the public health system has played in delivering quality patient care. This has been shown clearly in many of the responses to the pandemic, such as Hospital in the Home, the Staying Well Program and the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department. Health is not just about hospitals – it is about a healthy and supportive community. That is what COVID-19 has taught us.

Prior to COVID-19, Northern Health embraced the concept of ‘Virtual Health’, with telemedicine and other digital solutions focusing on community care. This helped to assist us when the pandemic began.

We continue to develop relationships with the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in Digital Technology to Transform Chronic Disease Outcomes. We  have also generated a number of Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grants now awaiting announcement. Though not all these grants may be successful, working together in teams on the submission of a grant is a very potent learning experience, and just makes future submissions a little easier. It also strengthens the relationship between hospital researchers and our academic partners.

We were pleased with the number of high-quality papers submitted for Research Week, covering clinical trials and literature reviews, as well as our COVID-19 research. Studies investigating some of the challenges faced by our workforce, as well as presentation of new models of service delivery, demonstrate how the pandemic has created new opportunities for workplace reform.

Given it is only six months since the last Research Week (due to the postponement of Research Week 2021), our list of honours and grants is a little smaller, but of great quality. 

  • Congratulations to Associate Professor Lisa Hui who, together with Professor Natalie Hannan and Professor Stephen Tong, were each awarded a 2023 Dame Kate Campbell Fellowship by the University of Melbourne.
  • Eleanor Johnson was awarded a prestigious Health Services Research Fellowship again by Melbourne University (MACH). These Fellowships provide some salary support for emerging researchers in partner hospitals, and are highly sought after.
  • Associate Professor Joe Rotella secured funding for his project – Emerging Drugs Network of Australia VIC Research Nurse Funding, for a total value of $22,000. This will facilitate the employment of a research nurse at Northern Health for a 24-month period commencing in August 2022.
  • Funding for Allied Health Research was received by Associate Professor Adam Semciw from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) Value-based Healthcare Grant to the value of $149,000. His project is, ‘Co-Design, implementation and evaluation of an innovative digital care pathway for patients presenting to the Emergency Department with Back Pain.’
  • RCPA Quality Assurance Programs Research Grant of $30,000 to develop a quality assurance program for plasma copeptin from the RCPA Foundation to Kay Weng Choy and his team from Northern Pathology Victoria.

These are some of the research highlights over the last six months. They reflect the growing research portfolio Northern Health now embraces. We look forward to this growing more rapidly in the future.

It is particularly pleasing to see that research activity is vibrant in all disciplines, with many of the projects being multidisciplinary, positioning us for a bright future.


Peter Brooks AM