Research Excellence Awards 20232024-04-29T01:44:12+00:00

Research Excellence Awards 2023

The awards attracted 71 phenomenal submissions and showcased the diverse and far-reaching research projects conducted by individual researchers and teams from across Metro North.

Research is vital in driving change in clinical practice to improve patient outcomes, and it was a difficult task to select 20 finalists across the seven categories.

Congratulations to the winners and highly commended recipients.

2023 Researcher of the Year

Winner, Professor John F Fraser

Driven by a desire to translate research into better clinical outcomes to improve the quality of life after critical illness, Professor Fraser founded the Critical Care Research Group in 2004. Professor Fraser’s group is one of Australia’s largest multi-disciplinary critical care research facilities with 8 purpose-built engineering and bio-fabrication laboratories and the largest preclinical ICU in the southern hemisphere.

In recent years, Professor Fraser has cofounded the COVID-19 Critical Care Consortium, the world’s largest COVID-19 ICU databases with >26,000 enrolled patients and membership across 64 countries; unveiled the world-first ICU of the Future bedspaces at TPCH; and completed the Living Heart study, with 36 successful heart transplants and a record ischemic time of 8 hours 47 minutes and longest distance travelled for a successfully transplanted heart. Professor Fraser published >600 manuscripts, 80 since January 2022 alone.

He has mentored over 60 students and received $90M+ in grants for multi-disciplinary research projects.

Researcher Support Award

Winner, Dr Mahesh Ramanan

Dr Mahesh Ramanan provides outstanding research support within Metro North by not only setting the standard for research excellence but also, via his leadership, mentorship, capacity-building, and supportive personal approach, embedding a culture of excellence in Metro North intensive care research. Despite the pressures of being a frontline clinical staff member, especially during the Covid pandemic, Mahesh’s research output and support underline his commitment to fostering research and researchers at Caboolture, Kilcoy, Woodford (CKW) and more broadly throughout Metro North.

As a current Metro North Research Fellowship holder, Mahesh leads by example by funding, conducting, and publishing high-quality research. In addition to this influential role, he is greatly respected locally for creating and generously sharing research opportunities with peers and young researchers.

Highly Commended – Professor Nicole Marsh

Rising Star Award

Winner, Associate Professor Teresa Brown

Associate Professor Teresa Brown is a respected healthcare leader and early career researcher whose pioneering research in proactive nutrition support during head and neck cancer treatment directly benefits ~100 Metro North patients each year. Assoc Prof Brown conceived and validated this innovative approach, going on to then translate it into practice through a care pathway, a testament to her commitment to transforming healthcare outcomes.

Despite her leadership role as Assistant Director of RBWH Dietetics, Assoc Prof Brown has secured $330,000 in grant funding, published 55 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and led the creation of national guidelines for cancer care nutrition.

Her tireless dedication extends to supervising PhD students and numerous Honours/Masters research students. In 2022, she received a Metro North Clinician Research Fellowship, recognising her outstanding potential to advance healthcare research and outcomes. Assoc Prof Brown’s achievements and commitment to cancer care research make her an exemplary candidate for Metro North Rising Star.

Highly commended – Associate Professor Andrea Henden

Clinical Research Award

Winner, CAR-T cells: a new frontier in cancer care

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR-T cells) are a new type of cancer treatment produced by genetically modifying a patient’s immune cells to kill cancer cells. Commercial CAR T cells are recently approved and publicly funded for highly selected blood cancer patients. However, many patients can benefit from this treatment but do not have access because of its high cost and complexity.

The Cellular Therapy Team at the RBWH CCS, in collaboration with QIMRB, has established the capacity to manufacture CAR T cells within the Cellular Therapy Laboratory. This Australian-first phase I study has now treated 16 patients who have exhausted all treatment options, 14 of whom remain alive. Our in-house manufacturer has a turnaround time that is half that of commercial CAR and comes at a much lower cost. This innovative platform will make CAR T cells more accessible, rapidly available, and, potentially, more efficacious.

Highly commended – The Living Heart Project

Complex Health Challenges Research

Winner, Integrated Children’s Care Collaborative (ICCC)

Chronic non-complex medical conditions (non-CMC) [e.g. ADHD, behavioural difficulties] is prevalent and utilises 15-20% of all child healthcare services. Established in 2017, our integrated children’s care collaborative (ICCC) consists of multidisciplinary clinicians, executives, and academics across allied health, medicine and nursing. The ICCC partners across university, health, and philanthropic organisations in QLD/NSW/VIC and focuses on pioneering cost-effective integrated care solutions to solve the dilemma of fragmented access to services for children with non-CMC. Better integrated care coordination helps to improve child and family quality of life; and prevent the development of mental health difficulties and adult chronic conditions.

The innovative work of the ICCC has attracted >400K competitive grants and recognised in top-ranked journals (JAMA Pediatrics). From 2024, embedding ICCC’s model into clinics across Metro North will occur from a combination of health, research, and philanthropic funding- annually benefiting 462 children and saving $465,000 in preventable hospital admissions.

Discovery and Innovation Research Award

Winner, Treatment of multi-drug resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa by removal of ‘harmful’ antibodies

The Cloaking Antibody Treatment team at TPCH and Frazer Institute are leaders addressing antibiotic resistance, one of the biggest current threats to global health. The team has pioneered a new treatment for multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a life-threatening pathogen frequently implicated in healthcare-associated infections and is only one of three bacteria listed as a Priority 1 pathogen by the World Health Organization due to the lack of effective antibiotics and treatments. P. aeruginosa causes serious pulmonary infection in patients with cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and transplant recipients.

Their research has developed a novel therapy that can treat multi-drug resistant P. aeruginosa infections by removing host factors that protect the bacteria from immune killing, allowing the immune system to naturally clear the infection. The team has pioneered this new paradigm shift and demonstrated the successful use of plasmapheresis and IVIg in patients with ‘cloaking antibodies’.

Highly commended – Redcliffe Hospital Urology Team – Leading discovery and innovation to benefit patients with urologic cancers and conditions

Research Implementation Award

Winner, Lung cancer screening – Australia’s 4th national screening program

The Thoracic Malignancy team at TPCH are leading researchers in lung cancer screening and have pioneered clinical research in this area since 2007. The Team has generated new knowledge and helped build research capacity across Australia and internationally, enabling the implementation of research. Through their unyielding and sustained efforts of investigator-led research, the Team has fundamentally contributed to the determined efforts to bring lung cancer screening to clinical fruition, culminating in the announcement of funding for a national lung cancer screening program by Mark Butler, Health Minister in May 2023.

Lung cancer is curable yet has remained by far the leading cause of cancer death in Australia and worldwide for decades. In Australia 2022, an estimated 14,529 new cases were diagnosed and 8,664 people died. Lung cancer screening using CT (LCS) can reduce lung cancer mortality by 21% compared to usual care and will be a game changer for thousands of patients and their families.

Highly commended- Implementation Support Groups

Consumers in Research Award

Winner, Optimising consumer choice in telehealth: Metro North Telehealth Co-Design Project

The Metro North Telehealth Co-Design Project used experience-based co-design to improve consumer choice and awareness to access telehealth. The 12-month co-design process was consumer led (evidenced by active consumer participation and co-leadership of the project by consumer representatives) and amplified and celebrated lived experience in all phases of the research. This included earlier participatory projects (see Cottrell et al., 2021 & Burns et al., 2022) which engaged consumer representatives, consumers who received telehealth, and Metro North staff to evaluate telehealth service provision during COVID-19, and identify and prioritise areas for service improvement.

Over the co-design project, the team engaged with 88 consumers to co-design comprehensive and consumer-focused solutions that will improve Metro North’s delivery of telehealth services in the community. The high impact solutions are being implemented across Metro North and state-wide by the Telehealth Support Unit to improve consumer-centred education, systems, and support to access telehealth for their healthcare.

Professor Joan Webster Nursing and Midwifery Award

Winner, Professor Nicole Marsh

Professor Nicole Marsh embodies the leadership, strength, and resilience needed to enhance research capacity and quality among Nurses and Midwives at the RBWH over a career spanning two decades. She has long recognised the potential of MNH’s largest workforce, Nurses and Midwives, and their capacity to improve research outcomes by inspiring local and international practice improvements. With a focus on product and practice innovations to improve patient outcomes, Professor Marsh leads her own extensive body of health service research centred on Vascular Access, Workforce Opportunities, and Healthcare Efficiency.

In addition to these commitments, her steadfast focus is to represent and support Nurses and Midwives within MNH, continuing to maintain a grass-roots Evidence Based Practice training program; holding drop-in research mentoring sessions for Nurses and Midwives in clinical and supportive roles; supporting interdisciplinary, service line-led research (Wattlebrae, Surgical Services; Anaesthetics); and maintaining supervision of several Higher Degree Research students (Masters, PhD).

Chief Executive Award

Winner, Professor Owen Ung

Professor Owen Ung is a breast and endocrine surgeon. He is the Director of the Metro North Comprehensive Breast Cancer Institute, and a busy clinician and researcher.

In recent years, Professor Ung has led the Metro North introduction of intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) which has significantly reduced the treatment period for eligible people with breast cancer by delivering radiation during surgery.

He was also a key member of the team, in partnership with Professor Michael Wagels and the Herston Biofabrication Institute and European biotech company Bellaseno, to pioneer 3D scaffold breast reconstruction surgery last year. This trial aims to offer a safer alternative to silicone implants by using a bioresorbable scaffold and the patient’s own cells to eventually develop their own tissue.

Professor Ung is a passionate advocate for patients and improving access to new treatments.

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