Emerging Health Researcher Award Previous Winners

Priya Sumithran

Priya Sumithran

Leader of the Obesity Research Group at the University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine (St Vincent’s), endocrinologist and Head of Obesity Medicine at Austin Health

2012 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

I was thrilled and very honoured to be named the Emerging Health Researcher, and to be among the inspiring group of finalists for this award.

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

This award is extremely valuable for ECRs, both for the recognition it brings to our work to date, and substantial funds to support development of our ideas. It provided a tremendous boost to my career by encouraging me to continue as a researcher at a time when I was deciding what my post-PhD career would entail.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

I currently lead the Obesity Research Group at the University of Melbourne, Department of Medicine (St Vincent’s) and am an endocrinologist and Head of Obesity Medicine at Austin Health. The main goals of my research are to improve the outcomes of obesity treatment, with a focus on the neuroendocrine regulation of eating behaviour and the intersection between obesity and mental health, and to improve access to effective treatment of obesity.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

I was just completing my PhD at the time I received this award. A key highlight of my career since then is making the transition to establishing my own research program as an independent researcher.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

The goal of my work is to benefit people’s health and wellbeing - seeing its impact in clinical practice has been very rewarding.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

Congratulations on the fantastic work that has resulted in your nomination for this Emerging Health Researcher award! There will be many successes as well as disappointments on the path ahead - take a moment to reflect and celebrate this achievement.

Gabrielle

Gabrielle McCallum

Senior Research Fellow, Clinical Nurse, and Program Leader of Menzies’ Child Health Respiratory team, Darwin.

2015 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

Shocked and humbled. I really was not expecting to hear my name called out 😊

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

Working in the Northern Territory, you can sometimes feel isolated from the rest of the nation and the opportunity for collaboration. Whilst working remotely can be challenging, it also comes with beauty and different opportunities. This award was a wonderful reminder of the important work I have been blessed to be part of and that it was recognised as being meaningful beyond our borders. This award was not for me but for all the children, families and people I work with to facilitate improved lung health outcomes for children that extend throughout the life course.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

I am a Senior Research Fellow, Clinical Nurse, and Program Leader of Menzies’ Child Health Respiratory team in Darwin. Having worked in the NT for over 22 years, my passion is to improve lung health outcomes for children, particularly First Nations, through evidence-based research, culturally appropriate educational resources, and translating research findings into meaningful and culturally appropriate outcomes. My work includes multiple large, complex multi-centre randomised controlled trials and other observational studies with a multidisciplinary team, extending nationally and internationally to New Zealand, Alaska and Malaysia to reduce the burden of poor lung health, particularly for First Nations children, by identifying important questions to address knowledge gaps.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

My novel randomised controlled trials, and follow-up studies, are the world’s first trials on bronchiolitis in First Nations children. My study outcomes have been translated into changes for health policy to improve follow-up post-hospitalisation for bronchiolitis and directly into local, national and international bronchiolitis treatment guidelines. Two decades of research has led to a paradigm shift in paediatric respiratory management of bronchiolitis across the Northern Territory that is being extended to Western Australia for children with bronchiectasis.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

My passion for improving respiratory education led to development and evaluating of the first, First-Nations-specific culturally appropriate, educational flipcharts for common childhood respiratory conditions (bronchiolitis, pneumonia, bronchiectasis and asthma) that have been adapted to a multi-lingual mobile application “Lung Health for Kids” that is freely available to download on Google Play and the Apple Stores.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

Remain true to who you are and what you do; we are all called to run in a different lane. Never doubt what you can contribute to improve the health and wellbeing of people.

Amanda McCullough

Amanda McCullough

Commercialisation Team, Queens University, Belfast

2017 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

Shocked, amazed and delighted. It made the work that had gone into the years prior to winning even more worthwhile. I was only back from maternity leave about 6 weeks when I won the award 🙂

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

It was amazing to be recognised in this way. It meant a lot. Receiving validation that the work you had undertaken was valued by Bupa was fantastic. It added huge value to my career. Soon after winning the award, I was able to launch my own consulting business that supported others working in healthcare and academia to reach their potential and to implement evidence-based interventions in practice.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

I moved back to the UK in Dec 2019, and now work on the commercialisation team of Queen’s University Belfast. My job is to support other researchers to find ways of commercialising their research and bringing it to market. It builds on my experience developed in Australia.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

Lots. I was able to progress and form my research career to run my own business, move back to the UK and start a new role which I would not have had the experience to be able to deliver had I not left academia.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

The thing I am most proud of is the students I supported from undergrad to PhD students. I taught undergraduates and provided mentorship to many PhD students and other postgraduates, and seeing them thrive / succeed has been the most rewarding part of my career to date.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

I’m not sure if you are getting to meet in person, but if you are, enjoy the opportunity to be in the room with so many talented people, and know that you have done a great job to be in the final, no matter the outcome.

Jennifer Huynh

Jennifer Huynh

Postdoctoral researcher at the Olivia Newton-John Research Institute.

2018 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

It was very humbling to receive the Award and in all honesty a surprise! I think it’s fantastic that Bupa provided opportunities through this Award to help support young and emerging researchers at such an important point in their careers.

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

This level of recognition not only helps validate the efforts of early researchers but also boosts their confidence as they are beginning to gain momentum in their careers. This Award has helped me pursue my research, supported my career trajectory and opened up a lot of opportunities for me which I am very grateful for.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

Since receiving my Award in 2018, I have continued working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Olivia Newton-John Research Institute. My research focusses on uncovering how molecules called “cytokines” can prevent our immune system from attacking and killing cancer cells. Understanding the intricacies of how our immune system works gives us an exciting opportunity to develop ways to engineer our body to fight off cancer.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

One of the major highlights so far in my career since winning this award was the recent publication of my research findings in a leading cancer journal, Cancer Immunology Research. This is the first account of how a cytokine called IL-11 can stop the immune system from killing cancer cells. This work has been 4 years in the making not to mention a fair share of experimental failures! It was gratifying to finally have this work published.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

Like every other researcher in the biomedical field, I find my work incredibly fulfilling, intellectually stimulating and also challenging at times. But I would say what I find very rewarding and instils me with pride is supervising and mentoring students. Watching students grow over time as young scientists, feeding off their enthusiasm for research and engaging in science discourse is what I believe is an accomplishment in itself.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

Many early career researchers would probably agree with the sentiment that there are few objective markers of success that recognise hard work and scientific achievement at such an early stage. Being nominated by a fellow colleague and to be selected as a Finalist for this Award is not only a stark reminder of your achievements but also builds self confidence in your abilities. I have no doubt that this year’s finalists will further flourish in the years to come in their endeavours to improve the health of Australians.

Myles Young

Myles Young

Lecturer in the School of Psychological Science at the University of Newcastle.

2019 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

I felt very shocked! I really enjoyed meeting the other finalists and hearing about their terrific achievements. All would have been worthy winners. I was humbled to be selected from the group.

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

For me it was life changing. I was coming to the end of a fellowship and had been overlooked for several job opportunities and fellowship applications. But winning the Bupa award opened a lot of doors for me. Shortly after I was offered an ongoing position at the University of Newcastle, which felt like winning the lottery. I'm so grateful to the Bupa Foundation for their support.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

I am a lecturer in the School of Psychological Science at the University of Newcastle. This role is part teaching, which I have really enjoyed, and part research. My research focuses on developing and testing innovative, online programs to improve men’s physical and mental health.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

Last year, we completed a trial of a new online program we had designed for men who are overweight or with obesity, and symptoms of depression. It was the first online program designed to help men with both conditions, and we saw some brilliant results. After 6 months, men in the intervention group had achieved a clinically meaningful weight loss and reduced their depressive symptoms by 50%. To improve the health of these men in our local community was a huge career highlight.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

I am proud of all my achievements, but I also know that everything I have accomplished has been built on a bedrock unwavering mentorship and support from my family and colleagues. Now, my proudest moments are when my students produce brilliant work, get papers published, or win awards of their own. It's a great feeling to pay forward the kindnesses that were shown to me.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

I've missed out on many more awards than I have won. If you think you could be a good fit for the award, you should definitely apply, but know that the final result is not a judgement on you or the quality of your work. Sometimes the stars just align and this was definitely the case for me.

Dr Jin Han

Dr Jin Han

Research Fellow and a National Suicide Prevention Fund Postdoctoral Fellow at the Black Dog Institute

2020 Winner

How did you feel when you were told you were the winner of the Emerging Health Researcher Award?

I was blown away by the announcement.

What does recognition like this mean to early career researchers and did it add value to your career?

It is one of the best acknowledgements I could imagine for early career researchers in the field of health research. This award not only gives good exposure of my research on social media and within my institute, but also energises me to do more for suicide prevention and e-mental health in young people.

What is your current role, and can you give us a general synopsis of your research area?

My research aims to support young people to become “digitally-engaged” in their own medical care and preventative health efforts. I use a range of methodological approaches (such as epidemiologic surveys, in-depth interviews, clinic-based studies, and ecological momentary assessments) to better understand how suicidal thoughts and behaviour develop in young people. I can then use this information to guide the development of digital self-monitoring tools and therapeutic interventions that are sensitive to young people’s unique stage of neurobiological and psychosocial development.

Are there any key highlights in your career since winning this award?

Shortly after the announcement, I was promoted to Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) and was awarded a regional collaborative grant from the Australian Academy of Science to develop and deliver an online mental health course to help international students in Australia to cope with stress in the post-covid era.

Name the one thing you have achieved in your research career that you are most proud of?

My colleagues at the Black Dog Institute and I developed the world-first Dialectical Behaviour Therapy-based smartphone application called the LifeBuoy. In a randomised control trial of 455 young Australians aged between 18 and 25 years, we found that the app significantly reduced suicidal ideation from baseline to post-intervention and at 3-month follow-up compared to the control condition. Between-condition effect sizes were -0.43 at post-intervention and -0.32 at 3-month follow up, indicating a small but significant effect of the LifeBuoy app on suicidal ideation in young people. The digital intervention appears to be acceptable and welcomed by young people. It could help to increase support and access for those who might not be engaged in face-to-face treatments.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the 2021 Finalists?

I encourage any early career researchers who are thinking of applying for this award to submit their applications. Take this opportunity as a chance to review and reflect on your research journey and in particular their research impacts on the health of Australian community. You may amaze yourselves with the outcomes!