The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON researchers feature strongly as Alumni Awards finalists

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The University of Newcastle (UON) Alumni Awards Finalists have been announced, and we’re thrilled to note a strong range of UON researchers in the field.

Stretching across nine categories to highlight the breadth of excellence in our alumni, the field is fiercely competitive and we’d like to congratulate all those who’ve made it to the finals.

Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service

The Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service recognises the work of an outstanding alumni member who has made a significant contribution to their community, and has built or enhanced the reputation of the University of Newcastle and its relationship with the community.

Dr Janet Wallace, PhD (Oral Health)

Dr Janet Wallace is Program Convenor of the Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy at the University of Newcastle, and her work addresses the desperate need for a preventative focus in this area. Janet established the first BOHT student placement program in residential age care facilities on the NSW Central Coast, a model that has now been adopted at other programs across Australia. Her pilot oral health program, ‘Senior Smiles’, has changed the way oral health is managed in residential aged care facilities, and expanded work and training opportunities for dental hygienists and oral health therapists.

A regular presenter and advocate for oral health in residential aged care facilities, she is regularly consulted by media, dental associations, dentists and facility managers throughout Australia and internationally. In 2017, she was the first oral health therapist awarded as Fellow of the Australasian Academy of Dentistry International for outstanding merit in the profession.

Alumni Award for Regional Leadership

The Alumni Award for Regional Leadership requires demonstration of leadership and/or entrepreneurship initiatives with significance in a regional context.

Professor Jenny May AM, Bachelor of Medicine (Hons)

Director of the University of Newcastle, Department of Rural Health, Professor Jenny May AM combines a deep passion for clinical work and her drive to improve the health of rural Australians through advocacy and research. She has made a remarkable contribution to the health and wellbeing of regional communities, and plays a significant role in growing the next generation of health care professionals by training and mentoring countless young doctors and students.

A practising GP, Jenny advises governments on rural health issues, and is on the national advisory group on Alcohol and Other Drugs and the National Medical Training Advisory Network. Her recent research focuses on recruitment and retention of the rural medical workforce. She is past Chair of the National Rural Health Alliance and Chair of the female doctors group of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia. She was named Telstra Rural Doctors Association of Australia Rural Doctor of the Year 2014, and received the Order of Australia in 2016.

Indigenous Alumni Award

The Indigenous Alumni Award recognises the contributions, outstanding talent and achievements of an Indigenous graduate in their chosen field.

Professor John Lester, PhD (Education)

From his role as the first Indigenous TAFE Principal in Australia to his appointment to the inaugural Aboriginal Studies Chair at University of Newcastle, Professor John Lester he has made an outstanding contribution to the field of Indigenous education.

John’s research, publications and advice have influenced state and national policy-making for more than 35 years. Following his appointment as inaugural Director of Aboriginal Education and Training with the NSW Department of Education and Training, he returned to UON, progressing to Director and most recently Acting Dean of Wollotuka School of Aboriginal Studies. At Wollotuka, he was head of one of only six centres of excellence for Indigenous Research in Australia, managing over $2.2m in project funding.

Above all, John has built bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and devoted his life to a better Australian society. His work in Indigenous education is celebrated by his life membership of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Bachelor of Medicine

Improving the competencies of doctors and other health professionals in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is a lifelong commitment for Associate Professor Peter O’Mara. It provides the focus for his work as a practising GP and Director of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). Peter is also Head of Indigenous Health at the University of Newcastle and a Director of the Wollotuka Institute.

Peter recognises that one way to close the gap in health outcomes of Australians is to grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce. While President of Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, Peter collaborated with medical deans across Australia to install Indigenous health curriculum in universities, and made inroads to ensure that all specialist colleges have training positions for Indigenous doctors. Under his leadership, the RACGP focuses on attracting and supporting Indigenous people to the GP workforce, and ensuring that the RACGP and training organisations develop culturally safe GPs and practice staff.

Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award

The Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award recognises the research achievements of early- and mid-career researchers.

Dr Emma Beckett, PhD (Food Science)

After transitioning into the field of molecular nutrition, Dr Emma Beckett has focused on the emerging field of gene-nutrient interactions in her work an Early Career Researcher in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle. Her research unites her experience in nutrition and microbiology to investigate the links between taste, genetics, gastrointestinal microbiotia and diet, and how these factors interact to predispose to health or disease – with possible implications of prevention and treatment for a number of diseases linked to dietary risk factors, including gastrointestinal and metabolic diseases.

With an impressive publication track record, Emma has won numerous awards and three fellowships from the Australian Academy of Science, and is poised to make a significant impact in microbiome research. Passionate about science communication, Emma uses her weekly ABC Central Coast radio segment to help people access the tools and information they need to critically assess nutritional information.

Dr Andrew Bivard, PhD (Medicine)

An Early Career Research Fellow at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, Dr Andrew Bivard’s work centres on acute ischemic stroke imaging, and patient selection for reperfusion therapies. Extremely talented at translating his research into clinical practice, Andrew led his team to develop the imaging processing program MiStar with industry partner Apollo. He has subsequently helped over 50 university hospitals worldwide incorporate new imaging techniques along with MiStar into their routine clinical assessments of patients suspected to have an ischaemic stroke.

Expanding his repertoire to design and run both acute stroke and stroke recovery trials, Andrew has completed an interventional study to investigate the effects of long term fatigue on brain structure and function, and to identify the effect of a common anti-fatigue drug on brain function. During this time, he also established and led an imaging research laboratory, been awarded 3 million dollars in research support, published 51 peer reviewed articles, presented at 26 international conferences, supervised five PhD candidates and completed his own PhD and postdoctoral fellowship.

Dr Amy Maguire PhD (Law)

Exploring alternative responses to controversial problems is what drives Dr Amy Maguire’s work, which is at the cutting edge of international legal research. She is engaged in innovative research to extend our understanding of self-determination beyond its historical applications to novel global problems, providing much-needed critical perspectives on climate law and governance, with the potential to influence global policy debates.

Amy’s broader research in international law and human rights, particularly around refugee protection, sees her challenging the international legal framework to achieve a better balance between the rights of nation states, individuals, minority communities and stateless peoples. Her research on capital punishment as a human rights issue has driven policy change in Australia and provided tools for constructive inter-governmental advocacy towards death penalty abolition. She received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Early Career Research at the University of Newcastle in 2016, and is frequently called on to contribute to public debate and government inquiries.

Young Alumni Award

The Young Alumni Awards recognises the outstanding achievements and contributions by a young graduate.

Dr Malcolm Starkey, PhD (Immunology and Microbiology)

Immunologist and microbiologist, Dr Malcolm Starkey is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Australian Research Council (ARC) Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow. His work is substantially contributing to understanding early-life impairment of a healthy immune system and how this predisposes to chronic diseases such as asthma, emphysema and kidney disease. His research findings have resulted in the identification of novel therapeutic strategies that are under further investigation.

Malcolm’s productivity during his short research career has been truly outstanding. He has published 31 journal articles and 60 conference abstracts in top-ranked journals in his field, presented at leading international conferences and world-renown institutions, and obtained over $1.1 million in competitive grants and fellowships. He supervises seven PhD students (four are now completed), post-graduate honours students, undergraduates and summer scholars annually. Malcolm is an active science communicator and a chair of the School's Research Higher Degree committee.

The Awards night will be held at a Gala Dinner on July 28, 2017 at The Great Hall, University of Newcastle. Tickets are available now.

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