The University of Newcastle, Australia

Major funding to train the next generation of surgical researchers and reduce surgical infections

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Academic surgeons from across Australia have been awarded more than $780,000 from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to investigate the causes of surgical site infections and train the next generation of surgical researchers.

Dr Peter Pockney
Dr Peter Pockney

The team will be led by surgeon Dr Peter Pockney, Senior Lecturer in the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and will include researchers from the United Kingdom in a large trial in emergency abdominal surgery patients.

A surgical site infection develops in the part of the body where the surgery took place. It is one of the most common complications associated with surgery and occurs in up to one quarter of emergency abdominal surgery cases1.

Dr Pockney will receive an MRFF grant of $782,256 for an Australian clinical trial, which is part of a multi-centre, multi-national randomised controlled trial of single-use negative pressure dressings used to dress wounds at the end of emergency surgery.

“Our grant success will enable us to see if we can reduce surgical site infections, a distressingly common occurrence that affects around one in four patients undergoing emergency abdominal surgery,” Dr Pockney said.

“This trial will consist of patients receiving a new type of active wound dressing. We hope to reduce the impact of surgical site infection, such as extended hospital stays, extended ongoing wound care, and higher mortality rates in this patient group.

“In addition to the potential clinical benefit of the trial, this project will also train a new generation of surgical researchers, as the trial is designed to be carried out by surgical trainees rather than by established clinicians and researchers. Our role will be to make sure that the trainees learn first-hand how to conduct high quality, patient focussed, safe and appropriate trials aimed directly at improving patient outcomes.”

Dr Pockney will lead a team of Australian researchers from the Clinical Trials ANZ organisation, sponsored by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, in partnership with researchers based at the universities of Birmingham and Manchester in England.

Australian trainees and surgeons taking part in this trial include clinicians from across five states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia – and the universities of Adelaide, Flinders, Melbourne, Sydney and Western Australia, led by the group at Newcastle.

The MRFF funding will start in November.

The MRFF is administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council and provides grants of financial assistance to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians.


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