2021 HMRI Research Award winners announced

Nov 5 2021

Above: Watch a recording of the 2021 HMRI Awards Night

The HMRI Awards are a celebration of the outstanding efforts and achievements of individuals and teams who drive and support the opportunities that health and medical research bring to the wellbeing of our community.
The recipients of the 2021 HMRI Awards for Research Excellence are:

• The HMRI Newcastle and Sydney Foundation Research Team Award – The Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered team
• Early Career Research Award – Dr Nicole Nathan
• The Mid-Career Research Award – Professor Vanessa McDonald
• The Research Excellence Award – Professor Michael Breakspear

HMRI's researchers of the year for 2021 - Dr Nicole Nathan, Professor Vanessa McDonald and Professor Michael Breakspear.

HMRI Director Professor Mike Calford said that while 2021 had been a challenging year, HMRI researchers had continued to excel.
“Our award winners’ tonight are a fantastic example of how the research conducted at HMRI is focused on the needs of our community,” Professor Calford said.

“The work of the DADAE team is empowering young women and improving their health, Dr Nathan is delivering evidence-based interventions to lower childhood obesity, Professor McDonald is developing a new paradigm in airway disorder treatment and Professor Breakspear’s advanced neuroimaging research is unlocking the secrets of the brain to tackle terrible diseases like dementia.”

“All of these researchers are addressing priority health areas for our community and are global research leaders.”

“This year’s awards were streamed live from the HMRI building on Thursday 4 November to virtually celebrate and honor medical research excellence.
Congratulations to this year’s winners and finalists.”

The Research Excellence Award
Recognises a researcher with a distinguished career who has delivered outstanding achievements in health and medical research. Awarded to Professor Michael Breakspear
The research excellence award is made possible by the generous support of The Cameron Family.
Professor Breakspear is the Group Leader of the Systems Neuroscience Group at HMRI. Professor Breakspear is a key driver at HMRI’s Imaging Centre and is currently chief investigator on several significant studies into dementia. Professor Breakspear’s use of advanced neuroimaging techniques has contributed to the better understanding of a range of conditions from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, to Parkinson’s disease and dementia. He has published over 230 journal articles and is Editor-in-Chief of the international neuroimaging journal, NeuroImage.

The HMRI Newcastle and Sydney Foundation Research Team Award
Recognises an outstanding team who has collectively demonstrated excellence in health and medical research for the wellbeing of our communities. Awarded to The Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered team.
The Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered team is a multi-award-winning education program that targets fathers and father-figures to improve their daughters’ physical activity levels, sport skills and social-emotional wellbeing.
This innovative program has been rolled out across Australia and around the world to bring an evidence-based approach that addresses and challenges the culture of gender prejudice.

Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered (DADAE) Team leader Professor Phill Morgan, pictured with HMRI Foundation Chair and HMRI Board member Scott Walkom and HMRI Sydney Foundation Chair Kristie Atkins.

The Breathing Fire team – investigating the impact of prolonged bushfire smoke exposure on adults with severe asthma; and pregnant and breastfeeding women with asthma and their children.
The Physically Active Children in Education (Pace) team – a program that aims to improve the delivery of physical activity by teachers in primary schools.

The Mid-Career Research Award
Recognises the outstanding leadership and achievements of a researcher within 15 years of completing their PhD. Awarded to Professor Vanessa McDonald.
The Award for Mid-Career Research is made possible by the generous support of The Sid Stephens Memorial.
Professor McDonald is a research leader in HMRI's VIVA Program, co-leader of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Severe Asthma, and a practicing academic clinician in the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at John Hunter Hospital.
Her current research is focused on developing a new management program for severe respiratory conditions known as Treatable Traits.
This new treatment paradigm aims to personalise medicine to individuals to achieve improved patient outcomes.

Professor Pradeep Tanwar. - an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, a Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow, and group leader of the University of Newcastle gynecology oncology program.
Professor Zsolt Balogh. - the Discipline Head of Traumatology and Surgery and leads the Traumatology Research Group at the University of Newcastle. He is also the Director of Trauma Surgery at the John Hunter Hospital and Hunter New England Local Health District.
Early Career.

The Early-Career Award
Recognises the outstanding leadership and achievements of a researcher within five years of completing their PhD. Awarded to Dr Nicole Nathan.
The Award for Early Career Research is made possible by the generous support of The Cameron Family.
Dr Nathan is 4.5 years post PhD and has more than 15 years’ experience as a health promotion manager with Hunter New England Population Health, where her primary role is to lead a multidisciplinary team to deliver childhood obesity prevention programs to the community.
Dr Nathan’s multi-award winning work on childhood obesity prevention programs has now been rolled out to over 600,000 students across NSW. Her work has led to children in the Hunter region having a lower incidence of obesity than the rest of the Australian population.

Dr Jessie Sutherland.- reproductive health researcher with a particular focus in the field of reproductive biology, infertility, and disease.
Dr Rebecca Wyse. - Behavioral scientist with a career objective of reversing increasing population rates of childhood obesity.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health, and the community.