October 31, 2023

Research Week 2023: It’s a wrap!

Northern Health Research Week has concluded for another year. This week-long event united clinicians, researchers and academics, allowing them to shine a spotlight on their remarkable work.

One word resonated throughout the event – ‘translation’. Nowhere was this more vividly brought to life than in the dynamic poster blitz sessions. In this distinctive format, our research came alive within the hospital’s walls, engaging peers, colleagues, and most importantly, our community. It was heartening to see curious members of the public gravitating towards these lively gatherings, eager to listen to captivating presentations and take home valuable insights.

Thursday’s Medical Grand Rounds launched the first of a series of presentations. We heard from clinician-researcher Dr Sanjeevan Muruganandan, who highlighted his groundbreaking research on managing malignant pleural effusion. His work is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in digital health and remote monitoring. This was followed by Anthony Gust, Executive Director, Digital Health, who highlighted the exceptional digital health team he has built to support clinicians ‘to infinity and beyond’.

Our Chief Medical Officer, Ms Wanda Stelmach, officially opened Research Week on Friday. We were reminded of Northern Health’s humble beginnings, which were echoed by A/Prof Prahlad Ho, who reminisced about dodging kangaroos to walk to the hospital building. A/Prof Ho outlined the future research vision at Northern Health, which included key university partnerships with La Trobe, RMIT and The University of Melbourne, the new Research Development Unit and the support of a growing research culture with the establishment of flagship research groups.

He also announced an invigorated Northern Health Research Grant Scheme, which includes a $50,000 Northern Health Foundation Grant. Professor Magdalina Plebanski (RMIT) introduced us to the concept of “inflamm-aging” while Professor Vipul Bansal (RMIT) offered insights into successfully translating nanotechnology research from the lab to the clinic. The session closed with some inspirational thoughts from Professor Geoffrey Donnan, who said, “Think big – a small project takes as much time and effort as a big project.”

Our keynote showcase featured the groundbreaking COVID-19 research led by our very own Professor Don Campbell, whose big ideas, as he informed us, come to him while ironing – hence his ever-immaculate attire.

Associate Professor Lisa Hui enlightened us about the development of the NCHER Reproductive Health Biobank, in partnership with The University of Melbourne, and its role in nurturing the future generation of clinician-researchers. Dr Erica Hately promised to “feed your intellectual soul”- and she didn’t disappoint. Systematic reviews have never looked so exciting.

A highlight of the event was the Allied Health Rising Stars session, where promising clinician-researchers Dr. Hazel Heng, Belinda Baines, Emily Farrugia and Stephen Quick shared their insights on key research initiatives at Northern Health, such as the ‘Stepping into Research’ program with La Trobe University that ignited their passion for research. Personally, I was extremely proud to see these young clinicians share their journey and vision for the future.

The ‘best of the best’ oral presentations competed for the inaugural Peter Brooks Research Award. Congratulations to all our presenters, with a special shout-out to our winners – Natasha de Alwis (3rd place), James Walker (2nd place), and the first-ever Peter Brooks Award winner, Ishara Atukorala, for her presentation on, ‘First trimester placental exposure to novel CMV antiviral drugs: an in vitro toxicity study.’

The Professor Peter Brooks Oration was delivered by Professor Catherine Itsiopoulos (RMIT). She spoke of his passion for medicine and for access to healthcare, particularly his pioneering thinking around virtual care which he championed over two decades ago. It’s no coincidence that virtual care has become a cornerstone of clinical research at Northern Health. Professor Brooks has undeniably left a lasting legacy- our future is indeed bright.

All in all, an exciting week, best summed up by Professor Donnan who said, “I wish I was where you are now”.

Written by
Dr Adam Semciw

Associate Professor – Allied Health


Featured image shows Ishara Atukorala  receiving the inaugural Professor Peter Brooks award.