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Posts Tagged ‘JCU medical research’

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

JCU medicine professor’s remarkable health care career recognised

James Cook University’s Professor Maxine Whittaker has been awarded the Royal Australasian College of Physicians International Medal for 2017.

The prestigious medal, which was presented at a ceremony in Melbourne recently, acknowledges the significant contribution Professor Whittaker has made to health care in low- and middle-income countries over many years.

JCU medicine professor’s remarkable health care career recognised

Dean, Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences Prof Maxine Whittaker (Photo credit: JCU)

Professor Whittaker is Dean, Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences in the College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and the Deputy Director of the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University.

Professor Whittaker said she was “surprised, honoured and humbled” by the award.

“I didn’t know that I had been nominated, and to have been so by my peers, who are also international in their careers, is an honour,” she said.

“Humble, because so many people have contributed to my receiving this award—my family, my teachers and mentors, the people with whom I have worked at field, policy, service, management and community levels, and those who have and continue to inspire me.

“I have been raised to believe in equity and human rights, and always saw health as being critical in that package. I knew at high school that I wanted to work on the ‘big picture’ causes and solutions of health problems and inequities, but didn’t know at that time that was called public health nor that there was a career in that.”

Professor Whittaker has lived and worked in Bangladesh, Zambia, Zimbabwe and PNG and has worked extensively in China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kenya, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Vietnam, and other Pacific Island countries and territories.  She has extensive experience in project and program design in health and development, especially in infectious diseases (including malaria) and reproductive health and health system reform for a variety of national governments, international development partners and NGO organisations.

Professor Whittaker said her inspiration for her work took hold early in her university studies.

“I studied medicine and remember the day that a Professor Schofield (JCU’s Professor Louis Schofield’s father) taught us public health—and I went home to my parents and said—‘I can do what I want to do—there is a career that lets me do this’.”

Professor Whittaker has developed local research teams in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Northern Queensland remote communities, and Vanuatu, and participated in the development of training materials and activities.

She is a member of faculty for the Science of Malaria Eradication course, part of a consortium of IS Global, Harvard School of Public Health and Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. It is an intensive week-long leadership course that provides participants from around the world with tools to approach malaria elimination and eradication.

Professor Whittaker was educated at the University of Queensland, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

She has won numerous awards, including the Dr Jerusha Jhirad Oration Award, University of Queensland Short Fellowship, and is a Life Member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association and an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Medical Students Association.

Professor Whittaker said there were two major highlights of her career.

“I have seen the professional growth and success of my students, mentees and colleagues and this also inspires me. Seeing the sustainability of reforms in which I have been one of the players in developing. For example, changes in health legislation, scaling up of family planning choices in a country. Improved policy approaches to quality of services is another highlight.”

Professor Whittaker said she plans to continue her work at JCU.

“I will continue to strengthen the One Health Approach to address the sustainable development goals, growing the health system’s research capacity at JCU and in our partner networks in the tropical regions, and to work with my JCU colleagues to continue to address the strategic intent of the university.”

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Would you like more information about JCU medicine or public health? Contact OzTREKK at info@oztrekk.com!

Friday, April 21st, 2017

JCU medical research finds new drug to ease C-section trauma

James Cook University researchers from the College of Medicine and Dentistry may have found a way to reduce trauma and prevent infections after Caesarean births.

JCU medical research finds new drug to ease C-section trauma

L to R: Lisa Davenport, Professor Geoffrey Dobson, Dr Hayley Letson (Photo: JCU)

Caesarean delivery rates are increasing worldwide and around a third of all mothers in Australia, USA and UK give birth surgically each year, but a C-section is not without risks.

Fourth-year JCU Medical School student Lisa Davenport joined Dr Hayley Letson and Professor Geoffrey Dobson from the Heart, Trauma and Sepsis Research Laboratory at JCU to research ways to reduce the stress response to the trauma of surgery.

Caesarean sections involve one or more incisions in a patient’s abdomen, known as a laparotomy, and are a common option for delivering babies.

But they have a raft of potential side-effects, including cutting the baby, post-surgery infection, fever, excessive blood loss or clotting, scar tissue formation and extended stays in hospital.

Dr Letson said a single laparotomy is a major injury.

“It can activate the brain’s stress response from the multiple ‘damage’ signals sent out from the original incision,” she said.

The JCU research showed that a laparotomy causes inflammation and an early activation of the immune system, which can then spiral out of control.

Ms Davenport examined whether an Adenosine, Lidocaine and Magnesium (ALM) drip could reduce the trauma of surgery when used by itself in experimental models. She discovered that adverse responses were reduced when the subject was infused with a small amount of the ALM drip.

“Low volume therapies may be important, because you want to avoid large fluid volumes that can shock the body a second time,” she said.

Professor Dobson said that precisely how tiny volumes of the ALM drip works is an active area of investigation in the Dobson Laboratory, but experiments have shown it protects against infection as well.

Dr Letson said the ALM therapy appears to be linked to improved brain control over whole body function at times of surgical stress. “It suppresses signals that activate immune cells and promote inflammation,” she said.

The work has applications to other major surgery and especially to rural and remote medicine. Professor Dobson said new frontline drugs are urgently required to make major surgery safer for the patient and more predictable for the surgeon, with the potential to reduce complications and massively reduce health care costs, and possibly reduce waiting times for elective surgery.

“The global surgical statistics are staggering. Of the 234 million major surgeries performed every year, every hour there are around 1,000 deaths and 4,000 major complications, and 50% may be preventable,” he said.

Ms Davenport has completed the study and is currently analysing the data and writing a paper for a high-profile surgical journal.

Her study parallels the Dobson Lab’s ongoing trauma work being supported by the US Military, and a new collaboration that started late 2016 with the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

The research team is also pursuing funding opportunities to investigate the use of ALM fluid as a potential treatment for post-partum haemorrhage. Of the 500,000 maternal deaths each year, approximately 25% are due to haemorrhage.

Study medicine at JCU Medical School

JCU Medical School offers an undergraduate-entry medical program that specializes in rural, remote and indigenous medicine and is located in north Queensland, Australia. Rather than having to earn a bachelor degree first, undergraduate-entry medical programs allow students to enter directly from high school. If you have completed high school studies or would like to apply to a medical school in Australia without using your MCAT score, you may wish to learn more about undergraduate-entry medical programs offered by Australian universities.

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Next semester intake: February 2018
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: August 30, 2017

Apply now to James Cook University Medical School!

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Would you like more information about studying medicine at JCU Medical School? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Medical Schools Officer Courtney Frank at courtney@oztrekk.com.

Monday, June 27th, 2016

JCU Medical School student receives award for research

Sixth-year JCU Medical School student Chloe McKenna has been awarded Best Research Paper Prize at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 2016 Annual Scientific Congress in the specialty program of Rural Surgery.

Chloe’s presentation, Quality of life outcome comparisons examining sacral nerve stimulation and biofeedback as management of faecal incontinence, was based on her honours research.

 JCU med student receives award for research

Chloe has received the award for best research (Photo credit: JCU)

Chloe said presenting was a great experience, but she never expected to win.

“It was great being able to share my preliminary findings with other clinicians,” she said. “Winning was a huge surprise.”

Being from a dietetics background, Chloe’s research stemmed from her interest in gastrointestinal issues.

Chloe said faecal incontinence was much more prevalent than people thought.

“In north and far north Queensland 12.8 per cent of people experience faecal incontinence,” Chloe said.

“It is non-discriminatory and can affect people of any age.

“This research looks at two different ways faecal incontinence is treated and will hopefully help us conclude which one delivers better outcomes for patients.”

Chloe, who completed her PhD through the College of Public Health, Medical & Veterinary Sciences, said she was grateful to her supervisors, including James Cook University‘s Professor and Townsville Hospital Head of Surgery Yik-Hong Ho, for their support.

Chloe is also hoping to also submit her research at this year’s Townsville Health Research Week symposium.

“I am hopeful that the research will have reached some conclusions by September and we will be able to share them at Research Week,” she said.

About the JCU medical program

JCU Medical School offers an undergraduate-entry medical program that specializes in rural, remote and indigenous medicine and is located in north Queensland, Australia. Rather than having to earn a bachelor degree first, undergraduate-entry medical programs allow students to enter directly from high school. If you have completed high school studies or would like to apply to a medical school in Australia without using your MCAT score, you may wish to learn more about undergraduate-entry medical programs offered by Australian universities.

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Semester intake: February
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: August 30, 2016

Entry requirements

Entry into the JCU Medical School medical program is directly from high school. Students may also transfer into the program during their undergraduate degree or at the completion of their undergraduate degree.

  • Entry is directly from high school. Students may also transfer into the program during their undergraduate degree or at the completion of their undergraduate degree.
  • High school cumulative average necessary to be considered is a minimum of 85% in Grade 12 subjects, including prerequisite subject grades.
  • If you are applying to the program after you have partially or fully completed your post-secondary studies, you should have a Canadian GPA of 80% cumulative average across all university studies, but to have a competitive application, applicants should have achieved at least an 82% cumulative average.
  • Interview: held in-person and via video conference

Apply now to James Cook University Medical School!

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Would you like more information about JCU Medical School and the MBBS program? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Medical Schools Officer Courtney Frank at courtney@oztrekk.com.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

JCU researchers study diet to combat schizophrenia

Research by James Cook University scientists has found a diet favoured by body-builders may be effective in treating schizophrenia.

Associate Professor Zoltan Sarnyai and his research group from JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) have discovered that feeding mice a ketogenic diet, which is high on fat but very low on carbohydrates (sugars), leads to fewer animal behaviours that resemble schizophrenia.

James Cook University Medical School

Chart of some effects of the ketogenic diet on mice (Image credit: JCU)

The ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920s to manage epilepsy in children and more recently as a weight loss diet preferred by some body builders.

Dr Sarnyai believes the diet may work by providing alternative energy sources in the form of so-called ketone bodies (products of fat breakdown) and by helping to circumvent abnormally functioning cellular energy pathways in the brains of schizophrenics.

“Most of a person’s energy would come from fat. So the diet would consist of butter, cheese, salmon, etc. Initially it would be used in addition to medication in an in-patient setting where the patient’s diet could be controlled,” he said.

Schizophrenia is a devastating, chronic mental illness that affects nearly one per cent of people worldwide. There is no cure and medications used to alleviate it can produce side effects such as movement disorder, weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

But if the research findings can be translated into the effective management of schizophrenia they may offer a secondary benefit, too.

The group’s paper, published online in the leading journal Schizophrenia Research, also shows mice on a ketogenic diet weigh less and have lower blood glucose levels than mice fed a normal diet.

“It’s another advantage that it works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type-two diabetes we see as common side-effects of drugs given to control schizophrenia,” said Dr Sarnyai.

The JCU researchers will now test their findings in other animal schizophrenia models as they explore a possible clinical trial.

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Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston for more information about science degrees and research degrees available at James Cook University. Email  Shannon at shannon@oztrekk.com or call toll free at 1-866-698-7355.