International honour awarded to western Sydney doctor for children, adolescent and young adult cancer research

Westmead Hospital’s Dr Joanna Fardell has been named the winner of a prestigious international award from the International Psycho-Oncology Society for her clinical and research contributions in the field.

Presented to one just one person each year, the Hiroomi Kawano New Investigator Award is an early career award that honours outstanding research contributions in the field of psycho-oncology.

“I wasn’t expecting an award for my work, let alone an award on an international scale,” Joanna said.

“I feel privileged to have my work recognised by the Society – it is a real career highlight.”

Joanna has been working with the Youth Cancer Services in the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead since March 2021.

She is responsible for setting up the Neuropsycho-oncology service for adolescents and young adults aged 15-25 – the first service of its kind both nationally and internationally.

Part of the Western Sydney Youth Cancer Service which focuses on providing youth-focused cancer care for adolescents and young adults, this is the first neuropsychology service of its kind (nationally and internationally) to focus on the unique cognitive needs of adolescents and young adults with cancer.

This service, focuses on supporting adolescents and young adults get back into school or work, ensuring they get the most out of their survivorship.

Joanna said she is thrilled that this service is being made available in western Sydney, highlighting that it will help meet the needs of local adolescents and young adults.

“Cancer at any age will greatly impact your life, but in the age bracket of 15-25 years old, you are going through great social, education and career developments.

“You are starting to set up for your future, whether that be through work or further studies. We want to help these young people get back into education or work and get back into the normality of social life.”

Throughout her impressive career, Joanna has contributed to research surrounding the improvement of mental health and quality of life in families affected by paediatric and adolescent cancer.

For the past 3 years she has led two large studies investigating the impacts of child and adolescent cancer on education and social-cognitive outcomes.

“After battling cancer, children and adolescents quality of life tends to decrease. They can often find it difficult to get back into the schooling routine and reconnect with friends.

“Children miss out on a lot of milestones whilst undergoing treatment. Throughout this time, we want to help them set up strategies to manage and overcome any problems they might have with their thinking skills that impact school or work.

“Working with them during and after treatment will hopefully help to eradicate these barriers and help them get the most out of their survivorship.”

Congratulations Joanna – western Sydney and local children are lucky to have you.