$275,000 for Westmead Research and Education Network grant winners

Westmead REN grant recipients Professor Jan-Willem Alffenaar and Dr Aravinda Thiagalingam.

Kidney health, blood infections and end-of-life care are among the research topics being funded by the annual Westmead Research and Education Network (REN) grants for 2020-2021.

The six grants are split evenly between new, early-mid career and established investigators. Four of the six recipients are based at Blacktown Hospital and the other two at Westmead Hospital.

Blacktown Hospital nephrologist Dr Katrina Chau said the funding would allow her to continue the research she began with a Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals Medical Kickstarter Grant received last year.

Blacktown Hospital REN grant recipients (from left) Avril Egerton, Dr Matthew Nguyen, Dr Katrina Chau and Dr Ravindra Dotel.

“That grant definitely got the project up and running, but in order to run more detailed tests on the samples that we collect I needed more funding,” Dr Chau said.

“This grant has also given me the confidence to push on with this project as I feel I have the backing of my colleagues in Western Sydney Local Health District.”

REN director Professor Stephen Leeder congratulated the recipients for their exceptional work.

“Despite the restriction imposed by COVID-19, we currently have nearly 2,000 active clinical research studies involving a wide range of staff across the district, so selecting just six recipients was no easy task,” Professor Leeder said.

“We are confident this investment will reap benefits for patients across Western Sydney and potentially around the world in the years to come.”

Prof Alffenaar with aged care pharmacists Anita Sivasubramaniam and Julie Hsieh, and Dr Thiagalingam with research assistant Daniel Mcintyre.

The six grants have been awarded to the following research projects.

New investigators

Westmead and Blacktown hospitals basic physician trainee Dr Matthew Nguyen, to create a tool to assess the frailty of kidney transplant recipients and potentially improve post-surgery outcomes.

Blacktown Hospital clinical nurse specialist Avril Egerton, to improve communication between health professionals, patients and their families about end-of-life care in order to improve quality of life and shared decision making.

Early-mid career investigators

Blacktown Hospital staff specialist nephrologist Dr Katrina Chau, to study all the bugs that live inside our gastrointestinal tract and see whether they affect the risk of getting infections while on kidney dialysis.

Blacktown Hospital infectious diseases physician Dr Ravindra Dotel, to determine the source of hospital-acquired Staphylococcus aureus (‘golden Staph’) blood infections and improve infection control.

Established investigators

Westmead Hospital clinical pharmacologist Professor Jan-Willem Alffenaar, investigating the impact of infection on the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs in older people and whether this causes adverse reactions such as sedation, falls and delirium.

Westmead Hospital staff specialist Dr Aravinda Thiagalingam, enhancing the educational aspect of doctor-patient interactions by empowering doctors to create their own simple video content rather than using generic multimedia content.