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Vol. 21 No 1 | Autumn 2019
College
RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation 2019 Research Scholarships, Fellowships and Travel Grants

The RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation aims to foster clinical and scientific research in women’s health, support global health projects, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Māori women’s health initiatives.

Under the oversight of the Research Grants Committee, the College supports promising early-career researchers across Australia and New Zealand by annually awarding research fellowships, scholarships and travel grants to those practising in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology. The assessment process was once again very competitive this year, with 21 applications received across Australia and New Zealand.

The RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation is pleased to advise that the following applicants have been offered scholarships and fellowships for research and travel in 2019:

Ella Macknight Memorial Scholarship, 2019–2020

Recipient: Dr Monika Skubisz
Institution: South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
Project: A randomised controlled trial to investigate the necessity of prenatal folic acid supplementation beyond 12 weeks of gestation.

Dr Skubisz is an O&G at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. Dr Skubisz’s project will investigate whether ceasing folic acid supplementation after 12 weeks of gestation will still allow Australian women to maintain adequate blood folate concentrations throughout pregnancy, as measured between 36 and 37 weeks, while minimising blood levels of UMFA, a biomarker of excess folic acid intake. The study will be undertaken over two years and recruit 100 women in early pregnancy, with half receiving extra folic acid and the other half not. The blood levels of folic acid will be measured at the end of each pregnancy to help decide if pregnant women need folic acid supplementation beyond 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Glyn White Research Fellowship, 2019–2020

Recipient: Dr Roxanne Hastie
Institution: University of Melbourne/Mercy Hospital for Women
Project: Improved Characterisation of Eclampsia
(ICE study).

Dr Hastie is a Mercy Perinatal Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Mercy Hospital for Women in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne. Dr Hastie’s project aims to improve prediction of eclampsia and identify a unique set of clinical signs and symptoms that occur prior to the onset of eclampsia. Over a two-year period, Dr Hastie will study women from countries where eclampsia occurs frequently and investigate the symptoms these women experience before they have a fit. By identifying these clinical signs and symptoms, it is hoped she will be able to develop a simple predictive algorithm for eclampsia that will enable appropriate and consistent prophylactic management.

Mary Elizabeth Courier Research Scholarship, 2019–2020

Recipient: Dr Daniella Susic
Institution: Royal Hospital for Women, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Project: The uterine microbiome in obesity-related endometrial cancer: identifying its composition and relationship with clinicopathological features and local and systemic biomarkers.

Dr Susic is an advanced FRANZCOG trainee and Clinical Research Fellow in O&G at St George Hospital. Dr Susic’s project will be completed over two years and aims to investigate how the microbiome of the endometrial cavity is related to the development of endometrial cancer in obese post-menopausal women. Using tissue and blood samples collected from women with and without endometrial cancer, she will investigate the role of this microbiome in endometrial cancer. The clinical significance of this project is the potential to discover new information about how endometrial cancer, the most common gynaecological cancer in women, relates to the local microbial environment.

Norman Beischer Clinical Research Scholarship, 2019–2020

Recipient: Dr Carole-Anne Whigham
Institution: University of Melbourne/Mercy Hospital for Women
Project: Detecting circulating maternal biomarkers to predict fetal size: FLAG 2 (Fetal Longitudinal Assessment of Growth).

Dr Whigham is currently enrolled in a PhD at the University of Melbourne and is a RANZCOG trainee at the Mercy Hospital for Women. Dr Whigham’s study aims to develop a blood test for on-the-day diagnosis of small for gestational age (SGA) and placental insufficiency, which are risk factors for stillbirth. Following from the FLAG study, which identified a number of biomarkers for SGA at 36 weeks, before the birth of a small baby at term, the aim of FLAG2 is to develop a test that will detect small babies in real time on any given day. In doing so, it is hoped the test will indicate which babies need urgent delivery on that day, and, therefore, avoid their risk of stillbirth.

RANZCOG NSW Regional Committee Trainee Research Grant 2019 (four awarded)

Recipient: Dr Kata Kraljevic
Institution: Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital
Project: How and what do obstetricians discuss with pregnant women who have had a caesarean section regarding their next birth options, and is this consistent with the best available evidence?

Dr Kraljevic is a RANZCOG trainee and O&G registrar at the Royal North Shore Hospital. Her project aims to use a highly innovative method to evaluate the quality of clinical communication, the shared decision-making process and content of information provided by obstetricians to women who have had a previous caesarean section about subsequent birth options. Obstetricians will subsequently be educated on evidence-based VBAC counselling considerations and given opportunity for reflective feedback and practice. This research aims to lead to better patient-centred care that emphasises maternal choice and autonomy.

Recipient: Dr Sameer Mathur
Institution: Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Royal North Shore Hospital
Project: The use of cervical cerclage for women at risk of preterm birth: a survey of current clinical practice and predictors of cerclage success.

Dr Mathur is a RANZCOG trainee and year 1 O&G registrar at the Royal North Shore Hospital. His project aims to provide data on current clinical practice among Australian and New Zealand Fellows and maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists regarding the use of progesterone and/or cervical cerclage for women at risk of preterm birth and/or a shortened cervix. The research project will analyse cervical cerclage cases for patient characteristics and ultrasound features from a large population dataset and report on recurring themes associated with success or failure of the cerclage.

Recipient: Dr Russell Duncan
Institution: Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Project: A potential role for the Ghrelin axis in endometriosis.

Dr Duncan is an advanced FRANZCOG trainee at Gosford Hospital and will be employed as a Provisional Fellow at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2019. His project will examine a potential role for the Ghrelin hormone axis in endometriosis. Ghrelin has been shown to be increased in pelvic fluid in women with endometriosis. Dr Duncan will examine if the ghrelin axis is present in endometriotic nodules with immunohistochemistry. Fasting blood hormone levels will be measured, as ghrelin is a major regulator of appetite and influences weight. Dr Duncan will hypothesise that the ghrelin hormone axis has a direct role in endometriosis and influences body weight.

Recipient: Dr Nicole Stamatopoulos
Institution: Nepean Clinical School
Project: Factors affecting early pregnancy and miscarriage.

Dr Stamatopoulos is a RANZCOG trainee and Acute Gynaecology, Early Pregnancy and Advanced Endosurgical Fellow at Nepean Hospital. Her project will investigate for other possible causes of miscarriage and improve women’s health prior to, or in, early pregnancy. One study aim is to see whether the presence or absence of gum disease has a link with miscarriage. The project will also investigate if there is any way to predict what will happen to a pregnancy in women who present with signs or symptoms of miscarriage. This can provide some idea as to the outcome of the pregnancy by the end of the first trimester.

Taylor-Hammond Research Scholarship 2019

Recipient: Dr Joseph Carpini
Institution: University of Western Australia
Project: Unlocking the ‘Black Box’: effects of cognitive and emotional demands on surgical performance in OBGYN.

Dr Carpini is an assistant professor at the University of Western Australia Business School in the Management and Organisations Department. The aim of his project is to examine the impact of cognitive and psychological demands on O&G surgical performance and examines task, environmental and personal antecedents of these demands. The multi-disciplinary project aims to inform understanding of how the psychological demands of surgery impact both technical and non-technical surgical performance. Using a mixed-methods design, including both experimental and longitudinal field studies, this study aims to provide important insights with implications for surgical practice and education. RANZCOG members will be invited to participate in the field study in mid-2019.

AGM Scholarship Recipients

Scholarship recipients (L to R) Dr Kata Kraljevic, Dr Daniella Susic, Dr Zhuoran Chen, Dr Chin Yong, Dr Rangi De Silva, Dr Roxanne Hastie and Dr Carole-Anne Whigham attended the 2018 RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation Scholarship awards ceremony.

UroGynaecological Society of Australasia (UGSA) Research Scholarship 2019 (two awarded)

Recipient: Dr Zhuoran Chen
Institution: University of New South Wales
Project: Refractory Urge Incontinence: the role of cytokines a marker for persistent infection in these patients?

Dr Chen is a RANZCOG trainee, Urogynaecology Fellow at St George Hospital, NSW, and enrolled in a PhD at the University of NSW. Dr Chen’s research project aims to investigate the fundamental mechanisms that underlie a debilitating and difficult to manage clinical condition, detrusor overactivity (DO). The research will investigate the level of urinary cytokines in patients with refractory DO who have had antibiotic therapy vs placebo. The aim of this project is to determine whether urinary cytokines are a marker for persistent infection in patients with refractory DO, and whether cytokine levels change after treatment. This study will apply laboratory-based scientific investigations (urinary cytokine levels) to help understand their relationship with clinical symptoms in patients with refractory DO post treatment with antibiotics.

Recipient: Dr Chin Yong
Institution: The Royal Women’s Hospital
Project: Bilateral sacrospinous ligament flap for treatment of apical pelvic organ prolapse: a combined cadaveric study and magnetic resonance imaging study.

Dr Yong is a RANZCOG Fellow and Urogynaecology Fellow based at the Royal Women’s Hospital. His research involves a combined cadaveric study and radiological analysis of sacrospinous ligament (SSL). The study objective is to develop a new native tissue surgical technique using SSL flaps to provide support for vagina apex for management of pelvic organ prolapse. The proposed technique may address some of the limitations of the traditional vaginal sacrospinous ligament colpopexy or hysteropexy and, also, a suitable surgical option for women who wish to avoid using mesh augmented prolapse repair.

Miriam O’Connor Travelling Scholarship 2019

Recipient: Dr Rangi De Silva
Institution: Mercy Hospital for Women
Details: For the purposes of undertaking an observership at the National Referral Hospital, Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Dr De Silva is an advanced FRANZCOG trainee based at the Mercy Hospital for Women. Dr De Silva’s volunteer placement involved clinical service delivery, clinical education, capacity development and policy development with key stakeholders. Ongoing placements will enable strengthening of the relationship with the obstetrics and gynaecology department, to encourage future collaborations and foster continuing research to improve perinatal outcomes in the Pacific region.

Scholarships/Fellowships continuing in 2019
Arthur Wilson Memorial Scholarship, 2018–2019

Recipient: Dr Natasha Pritchard
Institution: The University of Melbourne
Project: Novel therapeutic agents to treat pre-eclampsia in obese mice models.

Fotheringham Research Fellowship, 2018–2019

Recipient: Dr Maya Reddy
Institution: Monash University
Project: The cardiovascular toll of pre-eclampsia: determining impacts on the maternal, fetal and placental vasculature.

Support the Foundation

The RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation is grateful to those who have so generously supported its philanthropic work in the past year.

Donations to the Foundation, from individuals as well as organisations, enable the College to support not only clinical and scientific research, but initiatives in global women’s health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Māori women’s health.

RANZCOG members can support the Foundation via the payments section of the my.RANZCOG Members Portal. To login and donate, please go to https://my.ranzcog.edu.au/login

For donation enquiries, please contact Ms Jessica Davey, RANZCOG Women’s Health Foundation Coordinator on foundation@ranzcog.edu.au
or +61 3 9412 2993.

2020 Foundation Scholarship applications open late April and close 30 June 2019.


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