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Ms Xinyi Wang is a Foundation-funded researcher who works at the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research Education Centre. She is actively researching new approaches to detecting dementia.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I completed a Bachelor of Biomedicine degree that introduced me to various clinicians and researchers, broadening my exposure to the field. Subsequently, I pursued a master's degree in information technology, leveraging my expertise in biomedicine and artificial intelligence. This unique blend of disciplines enables me to harness cutting-edge computer technologies in medical research.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

The Tasmanian population is strongly willing to actively participate in research. This abundance of data from the Tasmanian population enables us to efficiently conduct robust and comprehensive large-scale analyses at the population level.

How has the funding of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation helped you achieve your research goals?

Thanks to the Foundation’s grant funding, our research team can delve into the study of late-onset Essential Tremor (LO-ET), a condition characterised by the development of tremors in adults aged 60 and above. This specific type of tremor shows promising potential as an indicator of dementia risk. The funding from Foundation presents us with a valuable opportunity to objectively assess the hand motor function of individuals with LO-ET and compare its characteristics with other types of tremors, such as Parkinson's tremors. Additionally, we aim to investigate the association between LO-ET and the risk of developing dementia.

What research project do you have planned next?

Upon understanding the distinct characteristics of LO-ET, we can develop online hand motor tests that specifically evaluate types of hand movements or functions. By implementing these tests online, we can overcome geographic limitations and ensure accessibility for individuals residing in rural areas. Furthermore, since hand movement tests transcend language and cultural barriers, they can potentially be utilised globally, benefiting individuals worldwide.

Your donations to the Foundation can continue to support ground-breaking research into dementia. Donate today online, or by calling our office on (03) 6166 1319.

Ms Sam Bramich is a PHD Candidate at the University of Tasmania. Sam and her team of researchers have just received Foundation funding to identify the prevalence of rapid eye movement sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) in Tasmania.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I’ve always loved learning and after completing my master’s degree in Sleep Medicine I wanted to learn more about sleep and disease development, so this led me to start a PhD with the Wicking Centre at UTAS. My dad, who was a shift-worker most of his life, was also recently diagnosed with dementia, so this has fuelled my interest in investigating how poor sleep contributes to the onset of dementia and other diseases.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

The enthusiasm of the Tasmanian community! I am constantly amazed at how willing Tasmanians are to give their time so freely to research, and I love having opportunities to talk to the community and show them how grateful we are for their participation.

How has the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding helped you achieve your research goals?

Without the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding, I would not have been able to conduct any of the projects needed for my PhD. The Foundation has allowed me to recruit over 2000 participants into my research project and purchase materials needed to explore which factors are associated with poor sleep and its progression to other diseases.

What research project do you have planned next?

With the help of the Foundation, this year my research team and I will be inviting participants in our sleep study to undergo smell testing and sleep pattern monitoring to investigate differences between people with and without isolated REM sleep behaviour disorder (iRBD). We will also be testing out the use of a home- based sleep study system to diagnose iRBD, which will allow easier (and more comfortable) access to sleep studies for people suspected of having iRBD.

Donations to the Foundation can continue to support researchers like Sam and allow them to undertake ground-breaking work. Please donate today online or call 03 6166 1319.

Dr Niamh Chapman is an emerging force in Tasmanian medical research, with a special interest in heart disease. She shares how she got into the field and how the Foundation’s grant funding has furthered her research.

What made you want to get into medical research?

I have always been passionate about equity in society and eventually, I found my way to public health. Early mentors were instrumental in encouraging me to pursue a career in medical research.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a medical researcher in Tasmania?

Tasmania has some of the worst health statistics in Australia, so there is an urgent need to tackle these health and social issues. Researchers can work with local healthcare providers, the community, and other researchers to identify solutions. The Foundation plays such a key role in this process, and it is so exciting to benefit directly from that.

How has the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation funding helped you achieve your research goals?

I aim to undertake research that has real improvements for our local community. The Foundation funding enabled me to do just that, as I worked closely with a local cardiologist, Dr Andrew Black, to identify ways to improve the delivery of a clinic to manage chest pain.

What unexpected things have you learned along the way as a medical researcher?

I am amazed at how generous and supportive the research community is! I am also surprised how much I get to link with community members, healthcare providers, and policymakers as part of my work.

What research project do you have planned next?

So many! One project I’m looking to start work on will allow me to compare the way chest pain is managed across the country, to identify what is working well and what could be improved.

Donations to the Foundation can continue to support researchers like Dr Chapman and allow them to undertake ground-breaking work. Please donate online today or call (03) 6166 1319.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen is a lecturer and postgraduate coordinator within the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Tasmania. In addition, he also leads a Foundation-funded study into a new program of intervention that aims to decrease the impact of several drugs that are often used in combination when treating older adults in hospitals. It’s a vital study, especially for Tasmania’s ageing population.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen says his journey to becoming a doctor in Australia was a long one and one that covers many countries. Originally hailing from Kerala in India, he has also lived and studied in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand, before finally calling Australia home. Dr Salahudeen is a clinical pharmacist with extensive expertise in the areas of medication safety and quality use of medicine in older adults. He completed his PhD in 2015 from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and holds a range of other degrees from international universities, including his MBA. After achieving his PhD, Dr Salahudeen was then awarded a prestigious fellowship from the University of Otago to commence his postdoctoral research investigating the risks of multiple medication use in older New Zealanders.

Dr Salahudeen enjoys an outstanding reputation for his contributions to multidisciplinary research teams, particularly those working on new models of care aimed to improve the quality use of medicines. Recent highlights include leading an interventional project, funded by the Foundation’s Incubator Grant program, which is believed to be the first hospital-based study to investigate the cumulative (and potentially detrimental) effect of a variety of medications that contain anticholinergic properties (including opioids, antidepressants and benzodiazepines). Exploring the side effects of these medications in combination is aimed to improve a range of outcomes including length of hospital stay, falls and readmission. In another funded project from the RHHRF, his team investigates the nature, risk factors, prevention and management of other adverse drug-related hospital admissions in older adults with dementia. We know Dr Salahudeen’s work is making a real impact, locally and nationally.

Throughout his career, he has worked on several research projects and has co-authored several peer-reviewed publications within the scope of clinical pharmacy. But fundamentally, Dr Salahudeen has a strong interest in real-world studies in older adults, with his other areas of research focusing on dementia, aged care, evidence-based medicine, and mental health. Dr Salahudeen is also an active member of various associations, including the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association (APSA). Within his role, he endeavours to conduct research and inspire his research students to explore new boundaries. His research aims to positively impact the health of the ageing population through reduced medicine-related harm that ultimately improves the person’s quality of life.

Outside of his professional pursuits, Dr Salahudeen is a passionate Movember fundraiser. Each year, he grows a moustache to raise awareness for men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide prevention. He has been doing this regularly for many years and has raised a considerable amount of money for the Movember Foundation.

You can help us to continue supporting local medical researchers by making a donation today.

Dr Mohammed Salahudeen with Shirley McKerrow from the Bridgewater School for Seniors
Dr Mohammed Salahudeen with Shirley McKerrow from the Bridgewater School for Seniors and the talk on 'Medication safety and aging'

The Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation is proud to have first supported the Glaucoma Inheritance Study in Tasmania in 1999 and notes that this has become one of the longest-running investigations that works to ensure Australians know that glaucoma runs in families.  This is vital as, sadly, glaucoma can often be left undetected – in fact around half of those in our community with glaucoma area unaware of this until their condition becomes advanced. 

This is distressing.  Untreated, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and there are many in our local community who have a genetic predisposition toward developing this condition.

Over two decades, this Tasmanian-based study has developed the world’s largest family biobank of glaucoma, featuring over 2,000 patients and a further 3,000 of their relatives.  Building awareness has enabled better education and support to be provided to families, but the need for great research doesn’t stop there.

In 2021 Professors Alex Hewitt and David Mackey received funding to continue their investigations around whether a genetic risk score for glaucoma could be used to better identify people at risk of glaucoma blindness.  If successful, results from this study will deliver valuable evidence to support glaucoma screening and monitoring in Australia, providing scope for the risk of blindness to be detected early – the aim is that patients will require less treatment and, most importantly, fewer people will go blind.

Both lead investigators are alumni of the University of Tasmania, with Prof Hewitt graduating in 2001.  He obtained his PhD from Flinders University in 2009, exploring glaucoma with the motivation to better understand this condition, often labelled the "sneak thief of sight".

Since 2014 Alex and his team have been using world-class technology to better understand and treat inherited eye diseases. In 2016 and 2018 Alex received NHMRC Research Excellence Awards for the top-ranked applicant for a Practitioner Fellowship and Program Grant – that’s an outstanding achievement in such a highly-competitive arena. His research team, in conjunction with researchers across Australia and overseas, has also been actively involved with the identification of genes and risks associated with glaucoma, macular degeneration and myopia.

Prof Hewitt said the specific aim of this current Foundation-funded study is to determine the prevalence of glaucoma (including the risk of developing this) amongst people using a technique called ‘polygenic risk profiling’.  As part of a toolkit used in genetic risk prediction, this develops a score that will help guide more targeted approach to timely diagnosis and earlier intervention.

“We have recently developed a genetic risk score for use in detecting primary open angle glaucoma, so now we’re working to understand the effectiveness of this - applying this in a local, population-based setting across Tasmania“ he said.

Many of us know someone who has been impacted by eye disease, they may even have been directly affected themselves.  This is a vital study, and we know you’ll want to be kept up to date as Alex and his team progress with this over the months and years to come.

You can donate online today to help support researchers like Alex, and other local researchers in their quest to uncover more insights into diseases and conditions that directly affect the Tasmanian community.

We love introducing our supporters to the local researchers behind all the exciting and important projects.

After presenting at our annual Celebration of Research Excellence event in August, it was fantastic to hear more about Jessica’s research journey and her mission for better health for all Tasmanians.

Jess has been fortunate to have already experienced an interesting and varied career that includes time spent in a regulatory agency and also inspiring the next generation of researchers through academia. After spending several years as a research project manager, including coordinating a major community-based research trial in Sydney, Jess decided it was time to pursue her own PhD, a significant undertaking indeed! She completed this in 2017 and then took the opportunity to take up a fellowship in the oncology office of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, before making her way to Tasmania.

“That was a great experience and gave me the opportunity to work with data from various oncology trials and gain an understanding of the drug development and approval process. My time at FDA helped inspire the research project I am now pursuing thanks to the generous support of the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation,” she said.

Although clinical trials are an essential component of medical research and drug development, most patients with cancer often do not enrol to take part in trials. As a consequence, the challenges of translating findings from trial data into the real world are well-known.

With a multidisciplinary team from the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation, Jessica and her colleagues are investigating the real-world outcomes and side effects of new immunotherapy agents for Tasmanians with lung cancer. This new 2021 Incubator Grant is generously funded by a local Tasmanian benefactor and will provide important local evidence about these drugs which can then be used to build a resource which can better inform future studies in this area, based on real life outcomes.

With many Tasmanians knowing someone who has been impacted by cancer, or being affected directly themselves, this is a vital study, and we know you’ll want to be kept up to date as Jessica and her team progress.

You can help support researchers like Jessica to keep improving the lives of Tasmanians by making an online donation today. Thank you for continuing to improve the lives of the Tasmanian community.

Meet Richard Turner, an experienced Professor of Surgery with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education sector, who for many years now has added his expertise to inform clinical settings in Tasmania and beyond.

Skilled across the diverse areas of epidemiology, emergency medicine and oncology, Richard is heavily involved in lecturing at the University of Tasmania, while also team building across a range of sectors. Through its highly competitive annual grant rounds, the Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation has been proud to fund research projects led by Prof Turner in 2010, 2016 and now in 2021.

Professor Turner said he is delighted to work with an excellent group of local Tasmanian collaborators on his most recent research project.

After starting his career in the 1990s as an academic General Surgeon in Cairns, Richard was given advice that would help shape his career.

 “Around the time I started my career I attended a lecture by a UK surgeon who had gained worldwide recognition as an expert in benign conditions that cause mastalgia or painful breasts. His advice to young hopefuls seeking renown in their field was to find a disease process that no-one else was interested in, but was still an area of unmet need for the patients suffering from it. Luckily, my clinical practice in Far North Queensland provided ample inspiration, and before long I had found not one but two unloved diseases on which to build a career.”

“What the visiting UK expert did not quite say was that ‘unloved’ diseases do not attract the same degree of research funding as those conditions considered to be ‘high priority.”

He said he feels extremely fortunate to have received Foundation funding for his important research. Funding in 2015 for the Tasmanian Gynecological Anal Neoplasia Study (TasGANS) culminated in a top-tier publication that raised awareness of anal dysplasia in women with a history of HPV-related gynecological lesions. This was ground-breaking work in a critical area.

Professor Turner and his team have recently received funding for a data linkage study that will quantify the epidemiological and economic burden of pancreatitis in Tasmania. Statewide hospital and pathology data will be linked to provide a dataset which profiles Tasmanian pancreatitis cases from 2007-2018 to underpin further research.

 “We anticipate that this project will provide impetus for similar work on a national scale that will ultimately identify underserviced population groups and lead to tailored strategies for quality improvement - this will be vital for Tasmanians now and into the future,” he said.

You can support researchers like Richard by making a donation online, or calling one of our friendly team members on (03) 6166 1319.

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