Founding members

Professor Michael Nilsson

Professor Nilsson is the Executive Director of Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Newcastle, Burges Professor of Medical Science at the University of Newcastle and Staff Specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine at Hunter New England Health, Newcastle, Australia. Prior to his current appointment, Professor Nilsson held a position as Director of Research and Development at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, Northern Europe’s largest University Hospital. Professor Nilsson is one of very few senior specialists in rehabilitation medicine globally with a strong translational research platform in stroke and basic neuroscience, combined with specialist expertise in rehabilitation medicine.

His research is focusing on mechanisms underpinning resilience, brain plasticity and neural repair and how these mechanisms are influenced by psychological and cellular stress. He is also investigating the effects of the environment on brain recovery in both animal models and clinical settings.

Recently, he was the principal investigator of a pioneering interdisciplinary Swedish research program, The Culture and Brain Health Initiative, which included studies on the effects of cardiovascular exercise, music, rhythm and dance, design, architecture on brain resilience, cognition and motor skills in healthy individuals and stroke survivors. He has operated both in the public and private health care sector and has established novel rehabilitation programs based on multimodal stimulation and training.

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Associate Professor Rohan Walker

Associate Professor Walker is a neuroscientist and senior researcher based at the Hunter Medical Research Institute. His area of research focuses on psychological stress and stress resilience. He is a chief investigator and co-director of the University of Newcastle's Priority Research Center in Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury and a named research fellow for the NHMRC Center of Excellence in Stroke Recovery and Rehabilitation. He also heads the UoN Research Group for Performance Biometrics. Currently, Associate Professor Walker acts as a Grant Review Panel member for the NHMRC, as well as acting as an external reviewer for the New Zealand HRC and Canadian Science Foundation. His work is currently supported by the Department of Defense, through the Defense Science and Technology Organization, the NHMRC as well as the Hunter Medical Research Institute.

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Professor Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is an electrical engineer and Associate Professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

The underlying theme of Associate Professor Johnson’s research is digital information and digital signals processing. She is extensively engaged in applying digital signal processing in the field of biomedical engineering, with a focus on developing new technologies to improve the brain’s recovery following injury or disease. Sarah is currently working on new sensor-enhanced motor-learning technology to assist during recovery from stroke.

Associate Professor Johnson has been awarded a CSIRO postgraduate scholarship, an Australian Research Council Postgraduate Research Fellowship and Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. She was recently awarded the NSW Premiers prize for Excellence in Engineering and Information and Communications Technology.

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Associate Professor Michael Pollack

Associate Professor Michael Pollack

Associate Professor Michael Pollack is a Rehabilitation Medicine physician with a special interest in stroke rehabilitation and recovery. He has been working in this field for over 25 years and is currently, District Director of Rehabilitation Medicine in Hunter New England Local Health District. He is also the Director of the Hunter Stroke Service (a service he established in 1995).

Dr Pollack’s key interest is as a clinician. Apart from his direct patient management role, he has led the introduction and evolution of models of care in rehabilitation generally, and stroke rehabilitation specifically, at local, State, and National levels. As a researcher, Dr Pollack has multiple publications, a conjoint affiliation with the University of Newcastle and a close collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute. Dr Pollack has also held a number of leadership positions in the Australasian Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine (Royal Australasian College of Physicians) and the NSW Ministry of Health, Agency for Clinical Innovation.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.