Wednesday, 17 February 2016

SPHPM Profile: Professor Danny Liew

For the latest SPHPM profile we spoke to Professor Danny Liew, Co-Director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Research and Education in Therapeutics (CCRET) at SPHPM. He has had a long affiliation with the School in many capacities, and is thrilled to be back home at SPHPM.

Q: What is your role at SPHPM?
A: I am the Professor of Clinical Outcomes Research (just realised the acronym for this is quite catchy: PoCOR.) Essentially, my role involves research that directly impacts clinical and public health practice, as well as health policy. I’m also Co-Director of CCRET, together with Chris Reid.

Q: Explain CCRET - what work is undertaken in the centre?
A: CCRET undertakes the spectrum of human research, from laboratory studies (Bing Wang and his group) through to large clinical registries (led by Angela Brennan, Diem Dinh and Lavinia Tran) and clinical trials (Louise Shiel, Marina Skiba, Ingrid Hopper et al), as well as health services research and health economics. Bench to bedside, and beyond.

As the name suggests, the focus of CCRET is on cardiovascular diseases, but we also have an interest in other areas, including nutrition (Alice Owen), musculoskeletal disease (Ilana Ackerman), oncology and ageing. The ‘Therapeutics’ part also reflects our traditional strength in drugs, devices and other clinical interventions, but the Centre now also works in health promotion and prevention (Team Ben Smith).

Although I maintained an association with CCRET after leaving in 2007, it was still eye-opening to realise the breadth and depth of work being done within the Centre.

The success of CCRET is a tribute to the late, great Professor Henry Krum, who founded and first led the Centre. I had the privilege of training under Henry, both clinically and academically. What a terrific mentor, colleague and friend he was. That the Centre continues to thrive will be his legacy, and I’m immensely proud to be part of it.

Q: Why are clinical trials and registries so important? What trials and registries are operating in CCRET?

A: Most people appreciate the value of clinical trials. They provide the highest level of evidence about the potential benefits of healthcare interventions. However, clinical trials alone may paint an incomplete picture. They show that an intervention may work (efficacy), but not necessarily that it will in real-life practice (effectiveness), nor that it is worth the costs (cost-effectiveness). Data from clinical trials often need to be combined with observational data from the real world, such as from registries, so that the latter questions can be adequately addressed. This is crucial for the translation of research findings into practice and policy. So that’s what we do in a nutshell: inform best healthcare.

CCRET currently houses a large program of trials and registries, too many to mention here individually. Currently, they cover a wide range of cardiovascular (and related) diseases, as well as cardiovascular procedures, and their outcomes. The registries represent a rich resource for translational research as discussed, but importantly, they also provide valuable insight into the quality of clinical care. CCRET is unrivaled in the country in the cardiovascular registry space, just as the SPHPM leads the way in clinical registries generally.

Q: Tell us more about your background - how did you get here?

A: When I was a medical student (before the war!), I undertook a summer vacation job with Professor John McNeil, Head of SPHPM. My interest in epidemiology spurred, I followed with an Honours and a PhD in the School. In between, I completed clinical training at the Alfred Hospital. All this amounted to 15 years on the Monash-Alfred campus. In the context of such a long association, it seems no surprise that I would return ‘home’.

The eight years away was spent at The University of Melbourne (where I still have an honorary appointment), St Vincent’s Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. These are excellent places to work in and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities given to me there; valuable experiences gained and lasting friendships forged.

Q: What is your vision for CCRET?

A: Stay Number 1 in cardiovascular outcomes research. Grow, engage, innovate. (I’m also visualising an in-built bar and karaoke facilities in the corner of our office area!)

Q: Anything else of interest you wish to discuss?
A: The perception of SPHPM from the outside is a world-class, dynamic institution renowned for exceptional research and teaching in the clinical and applied sciences. This is well deserved. It’s great to be back!

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