The University of Newcastle, Australia

Public health crusader honoured for excellence

Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Hunter's health and medical researchers found 80 reasons to celebrate last night as HMRI announced or acknowledged its community-funded grants and prizes during the 2015 Awards Night.

Following on from recent national grant success, a multitude of disease areas across the seven HMRI research programs received further support.

In the top award, long-serving public health leader Professor Julie Byles was honoured with the Award for Research Excellence, recognising her pioneering work in planning and service delivery for an ageing global population.

As a world-renowned and respected expert in gerontology and geriatrics, Professor Byles serves as Director of the University of Newcastle's Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing and co-directs the HMRI Public Health research program.

She was instrumental in establishing the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health in 1995 and continues to lead it, as some of the original study participants advance into their 90s.

Throughout her career Professor Byles has secured $30 million in external grants and produced more than 230 research papers. Her advice is sought by the federal government and World Health Organisation to inform public health policies.

"Professor Byles' research exemplifies both excellence and long-term commitment. She is a highly productive, passionate, generous and inspiring leader," HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson said.

"Above all Professor Byles is making a significant difference for the social, psychological and health-care needs of older people in our region and beyond ... her work is changing perceptions of ageing, not only in society but among the medical profession."

Professor Nilsson also presented the second annual Director's Award for Mid-Career Research to Professor Philip Morgan, Deputy Director of the University of Newcastle's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition.

For Professor Morgan it adds to a list of 30 major research and teaching accolades that he has won since completing his PhD in 2003, including being co-recipient of the HMRI Early-Career Research award in 2009.

His major obesity prevention programs – SHED-IT; Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids (HDHK); Workplace POWER and DADEE – have been delivered with unprecedented success. Global adaptations of HDHK are now underway in the UK and US as Western nations face an obesity epidemic.

Meanwhile, the PULSE-funded HMRI Award for Early Career Research went to Dr Susan Hua, an academic pharmacist working in targeted drug delivery using nanotechnology.

She is a leader in the field of therapeutic targeting, using advanced nano-pharmaceutical techniques, evaluating new drug delivery systems to assess potential clinical uses and novel mechanistic paths.

Dr Hua independently established her translational nano-pharmaceutics laboratory and research program, and has built strong collaborations with other major research groups interstate and internationally.
Among her outcomes are a targeted drug delivery system for delivering therapeutics specifically to the uterus, along with new delivery models for drugs that target inflammatory cells in the gut.

HMRI Foundation Chairman Kyle Loades said the Awards Night again highlighted the Hunter community's unwavering support for medical research through ongoing fund-raising initiatives.

"So much is now being achieved by researchers in this new era of precision and personalised medicine, and we really thank the philanthropic community – the families, individuals and businesses who share their wealth to help create better health," Mr Loades said.

"By allowing us to transform an idea into a new treatment or cure, it's a powerful expression of faith in our researchers and the difference they can make for families now and into the future."

See www.hmri.org.au for the full listing of grant and award winners.

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