Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Double nominees in the Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research

Nominees with Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy MP. Ingrid is 
front row third from left, Aya is is fifth from left.

The Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research was announced this week and our School was fortunate enough to be represented by two outstanding nominees. Ms Aya Mousa from the Monash Centre for Health Research Implementation and Dr Ingrid Hopper from the Australian Breast Device Registry were both in the running, highlighting the incredible breadth and quality of research coming out of SPHPM.

Aya receives her
 Finalist certificate
Aya’s PhD research examined the relationships between vitamin D and cardiometabolic risk factors (glucose control, inflammation, cholesterol, blood pressure) and the use of vitamin D supplementation for reducing these risk factors.

Cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability in Australia, and are largely preventable. With over 20,000 Australians dying as a result of coronary heart disease in 2014 alone1, better understanding of this topic stands to have a major impact on society.

Her results showed that although vitamin D didn't improve glucose control, it had beneficial anti-inflammatory effects in some medical conditions, including in type 2 diabetes, heart failure, and during pregnancy.

This work has advanced our understanding of the benefits of treating vitamin D deficiency in these populations, and has provided valuable new insights into the therapeutic potential of vitamin D in the treatment of conditions characterised by chronic low-grade inflammation.

The nomination tops off a huge month for Aya, who has also received a highly competitive Faculty Bridging Fellowship to support her to continue her research while applying for external fellowships. She also received a joint $3000 AMREP collaborative seed grant and a $10,000 MHTP Research Week ECR speed networking grant to progress her collaborative research idea examining mechanisms underlying gestational diabetes.   

Dr Ingrid Hopper’s nomination was based on her PhD research into the topic of polypharmacy in heart failure patients, which has already seen her awarded last year’s Mollie Holman Medal. 

Dr Ingrid Hopper
Heart failure happens when the heart muscle is damaged and doesn’t pump properly, causing extra fluid to build up in the body. Polypharmacy is when people take five or more prescription drugs to control a condition or multiple conditions. 

Multiple drugs are needed to treat heart failure, but these can create unwanted effects. The number of side effects increases with the number of drugs, which may be a result of the drugs interacting. This can lead to falls and delirium. The more drugs prescribed, the less likely people are to take them all correctly, and costs increase for the individual and the health system.

She found that there was still an important role in modern medicine for the 200-year old drug Digoxin, which helps control symptoms. This is particularly good news, given no current patents exist for it, making it cheap and supply plentiful.

It's also a big month for Ingrid, who secured an $11,000 Monash Advancing Women's Research Success Grant, which she'll put towards ASPREE data analysis.