New researchers set to improve health in western Sydney with Kickstarter grants

Blacktown Hospital Kickstarter grant recipients Dr Henry Chen, Dr Jocelyn Jiang, Nada Bechara and Chin-Yen Yeo.

Lung cancer, spinal pain and artificial intelligence are among the topics going under the microscope thanks to $80,000 in research grants distributed across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

The ten ‘Kickstarter’ grants were funded by the WSLHD Research and Education Network and awarded to eight early-career researchers from Auburn, Blacktown and Westmead hospitals, drawn from allied health, medical and nursing disciplines.

WSLHD executive director of research Professor Mark McLean said the grants are designed to enable clinicians to dedicate time toward research that will make a difference for patients.

“This is an exciting time for health research in western Sydney, and it’s fantastic to see so many clinicians from a wide variety of backgrounds getting involved in research early in their careers,” Prof McLean said.

“These start-up funds are a game changer as they enable staff to begin research that will potentially lead to a bigger project with serious investment.”

Auburn Community Dialysis Centre nurse unit manager Nelson Ubera with dialysis patient Sonia Shalala.

Blacktown Hospital pharmacist Chin-Yen Yeo is among three allied health professionals to receive a Kickstarter grant this year. Her research will investigate the health literacy, perspectives and experiences of inpatients prescribed antibiotic therapy at Blacktown Hospital.

“Antibiotics are high-risk medications which cause significant patient harm when used in error. Many consumers overestimate the benefits but underestimate the risk of harm from antibiotic use,” Chin-Yen said.

“This is a research priority for western Sydney, where English is not the first language for more than 50 per cent of the population. It’s a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with the Patient Experience and Consumer Engagement pillars to bridge the gaps in health literacy and patient safety.

“It’s really fantastic that our district recognises the value of the allied health workforce in building research capacity at western Sydney. And it’s great to see so many allied health people with a passion for research and quality improvement.”

Auburn Community Dialysis Centre staff (from left) nurse Jingjing Echo, admin officer Marina Tarasov, clinical nurse educator Lin Jun Huang, nurse Angelica Pineda and nurse unit manager Nelson Ubera.

Blacktown Hospital cardiologist Dr Henry Chen is using new imaging technology to study the impact of different components of cardiac dysfunction in heart failure, which disproportionately affects vulnerable populations.

“For young specialists such as myself, the Kickstarter grant is an incredible opportunity to help me focus on my passion and to help all of us all to push the frontiers of our respective specialities,” Dr Chen said.

The eight funded projects are as follows:

  • Chin-Yen Yeo, pharmacy. A pharmacist-led study to explore the scope and appropriateness of antibiotic information communicated to inpatients at Blacktown Hospital.
  • Nada Bechara, podiatry. Studying whether vitamin C supplements improve the healing of foot ulcers and avoid the need for amputation.
  • Katherine Maka, physiotherapy. Determining the usefulness of hospital patients completing their own pre-assessment summary when being treated for spinal pain.
  • Dr Jia Liu, medical oncology. Studying the effectiveness of using liquid biopsies to monitor for cancer recurrence in patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy treatment for Stage III non-small-cell lung carcinoma (the most common form of lung cancer).
  • Dr Jocelyn Jiang, immunology. Studying other ways of detecting inflammation in the fluid found in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Dr Jacqueline Chen, endocrinology. Using artificial intelligence to detect vertebral fractures on chest x-rays ordered for other conditions.
  • Dr Henry Chen, cardiology. Using new imaging technology to study the impact of different components of cardiac dysfunction in heart failure.
  • Nelson Ubera, Auburn Community Dialysis Centre. Studying how cognitive function affects falls and fractures in patients receiving haemodialysis.