A Westmead doctor working on implantable bionics in treating facial paralysis has won a landslide vote to win a People’s Choice award at The Big Idea 2019.
Dr Shaheen Hasmat, who is a surgical skills senior resident medical officer at Westmead Hospital with First Class Honors in Physics from the University of Melbourne, is working on an implantable device that hopes to restore movement in patients with facial paralysis.
The Big Idea event hosted by Sydney Local Health District showcases innovation projects that address key health issues with commercial value.
Dr Hasmat’s work received 47 percent of a total 291 votes – securing the project a $10,000 boost in prize money.
“The awards at The Big Idea have generally been won by senior clinicians, so I was surprised to be the winner of the people’s choice award.” Dr Hasmat said.
“My team’s work is on implantable bionics to restore dynamic function in patients with facial paralysis.
“I have been working on the project for several years with a team of surgeons and biomedical engineers from across several institutes in Sydney including Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the University of Sydney.
“Working at the Westmead Research and Education Network has been really instrumental in facilitating my research efforts.
“The device restores facial movement, in particular eye closure, in patients who suffer facial paralysis which can be from a wide range of causes including Bell’s palsy, trauma and head and neck cancers.
“Facial paralysis results in a range of problems but protecting the eye and restoring smile are priorities.
“A person has to blink dozens of time each minute in order to keep the surface of the eye healthy and hydrated. Not being able to close the eyelids at all quickly leads to dryness, risk of infection and ulceration and eventual blindness in the eye.
“There are a lot of aesthetic consequences relating to facial paralysis but protecting the eye is the priority.
“This work is fundamentally a paradigm shift in facial reconstructive surgery and whilst the focus is on facial paralysis it is hoped to lay the foundation for similar line of work in the future.”