2018 Betty McGrath Fellowship Scheme recipients announced

Monday 05 November 2018

Earlier this year Mater clinicians and health professionals were invited to apply for the Betty McGrath Fellowship scheme. This prestigious and competitive Fellowship enables practising Mater clinicians or health professionals to increase their research activity by providing salary support to back-fill their positions.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients who have been successful in receiving funding from the coveted Betty McGrath Fellowship Scheme:

  1. Dr Elizabeth Hurrion (top left) from the Mothers, Babies & Women’s Health Program with her project titled, ‘Neuroprotective role of sulphate among preterm infants (SuPreme study)’.
  2. Ms Rebecca Keating (bottom left) from the Chronic Disease, Biology and Care Program with her project titled, ‘An investigation into factors influencing glucose control in cystic fibrosis’.
  3. Dr Lisa Gillinder (top right) from the Neurosciences and Cognitive Health Program with her project titled, ‘Defining the Clinical Phenotype of Neuronal Autoantibody associated epilepsy’.
  4. Dr Mohamed Shanavas (bottom right) from the Cancer Biology and Care Program with his project titled, ‘An in-depth characterization of T cells within the intra-tumoural microenvironment in Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma’.

For Dr Hurrion, a Senior Neonatologist at Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU), this funding will allow her to dedicate more time to the successful roll out and completion of the SuPreme Study which aims recruit 1500 preterm infants and follow them up to two years of age.

“I’m constantly inspired by the babies and the families that I meet so what motivates me with this research is to give these families a brighter future by potentially preventing cerebral palsy, and possibly other disabilities, among preterm infants.”

“If our research is able to prove that there is link between sulphate deficiency and disability, we can commence moving into the clinical trial phase of our study.

If the clinical trial is successful in reducing disability, this intervention can be rolled out worldwide as standard practice to reduce disability resulting from preterm birth worldwide.

The Betty McGrath Fellowship scheme will allow Nurse Practitioner Rebecca Keating to conduct research into factors influencing glucose control in cystic fibrosis that has the potential to alleviate some of the treatment burden of Cystic Fibrosis patients.

“I have been working with Cystic Fibrosis patients for more than 10 years now and there has been limited research into therapies for glucose abnormalities,” says Ms Keating.

“Cystic Fibrosis patients have such a burdensome treatment load so when they are told they also need to start injecting insulin up to 4-6 times a day on top of their daily maintenance therapy, I have witnessed first-hand the overwhelming emotion of frustration, anger, devastation or sadness that comes with additional treatment.”

“If I can help reduce this burden with earlier diagnosis or provision of other treatment options, this will make an enormous difference to their lives on a physical, emotional and psychological level.”

Dr Lisa Gillinder is an Epileptologist at the Mater Advanced Epilepsy Unit. Her research into autoimmune epilepsy aims to improve a clinician’s ability to diagnose autoimmune epilepsies, by expanding the clinical approach to epilepsy and creating a new differential diagnosis to ensure patients are no longer misdiagnosed.

“At present 1-2% of the population, in any country in the world, has epilepsy. Of this, one third will be refractory to medications meaning standard medications are not effective in preventing seizures,” explains Dr Gillinder.

“Positive findings in this area will ultimately improve understanding and accuracy in the diagnosis and management of epilepsy and allow clinicians to create more inclusive diagnostic criteria for autoimmune epilepsy.” 

“This means that epilepsy patients presenting with refractory seizures more tailored treatment options to increase their chances of seizure freedom and potentially result in an effective cure for this subgroup of epilepsy,” says Dr Gillinder.

The Betty McGrath Fellowship Scheme is a joint initiative of Mater Health and Mater Research that is funded by Mater Foundation, and designed to support improved evidence-based clinical practice at Mater. 

Dr Mohamed Shanavas is a Haematologist passionate about the identification of new strategies for improving the health outcomes for the sub-set of lymphoma patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

“More than a third of these patients die within five years of diagnosis despite intensive treatment, and identification of new strategies for this sub-group of patients is an unmet medical need,” says Dr Shanavas.

“The research I am undertaking aims to gain a more in-depth understanding of intra-tumoural T cells in DLBCL and the characterisation of T cells in individual patients to assist clinicians better identify patients who are likely to respond to various immunotherapy agents and allow for more personalised delivery of immunotherapy to be given to patients.”

“Receiving this funding means that I now have more dedicated and protected research time, allowing me to accelerate my research with the aim of improving the health outcomes of people with DLBCL sooner.”