RBWH Dietitian wins prestigious Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Research Scholarship
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Dietitian Team Leader Teresa Brown.
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Dietitian Team Leader Teresa Brown has been awarded the 2016 Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Research Scholarship in the Allied Health Sciences.
The scholarship is valued at $55,000 over two years and will help Teresa complete the final stages of her PhD.
For her PhD, Teresa is leading a first of its kind study in Australia with the aim to reduce recovery times and shorten hospital visit duration for patients suffering from head and neck cancer.
Through her research, Teresa is examining the benefit of providing nutrition support to patients before they start cancer treatment.
The aim is to provide an early nutrition supplement program to patients that are not already suffering from difficulty eating or drinking in order to maintain muscle, strength and energy levels.
“We’re getting patients to use a feeding tube upon admission, before they receive any treatment. By giving them a nutrition boost early, we’re hoping to reduce the impact of malnutrition and leave them with an improved quality of life,” said Teresa.
Patients with head and neck cancer undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy can lose up to 9 per cent of bodyweight over the course of treatment and recovery stages.
While dietitians provide advice and meal plans, these can be difficult for patients to follow due to low energy levels, poor appetite and treatment side effects such as pain related to swallowing or changes to taste.
Consequently deterioration in nutrition can often result in re-admission of patients to hospital and less effective treatment.
Through her research, Teresa and her team are hoping to maintain weight loss to 5 per cent or less which is not deemed clinically detrimental to the patient, reducing the likelihood of readmission due to malnutrition and dehydration.
The Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Research Scholarship has been offered annually since 1988 to an Australian PhD candidate studying in the field of Allied Health Research.