Mental health leader hailed on $3.5m night for research

Nov 5 2014

Mental health trailblazer Professor Brian Kelly has been heralded as the Hunter’s Researcher of the Year for 2014 during a record-breaking Awards Night held by HMRI.

Few clinical researchers have made such a profound contribution as the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health psychiatrist, whose distinguished track record spans rural health, palliative care and psycho-oncology, substance use, social determinants of mental health and clinical ethics.

He was selected for the highly respected honour from an outstanding field of senior HMRI researchers representing all major medical conditions.

Professor Kelly’s ground-breaking work on the Australian Rural Mental Health Study, Farm Link suicide prevention project and XTEND study of social support has had a major bearing on mental health outcomes for farming communities by refining health-care policies and improving services.

His work has also yielded international collaborations addressing workplace mental health and the impacts of environmental adversity.

Based at the Calvary Mater Newcastle, Professor Kelly has obtained almost $12 million in research grants and produced more than 110 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson praised Professor Kelly for demonstrating sustained excellence in community engagement and research.

“Beyond his outstanding academic achievements, Brian is making a meaningful difference for people with chronic health and psychiatric conditions, for the terminally ill, for farmers, and for medical students and health professionals,” Professor Nilsson said.

“It’s the quality of the research relationships he has fostered and the compassion he shows to patients which make him a thoroughly deserving recipient of our Award for Research Excellence.”

Professor Kelly joins an impressive honour board dating back to 1999 for the annual HMRI award, sponsored by the Sparke Helmore/NBN Television Triathlon Festival.

Dr Chris Williams was named winner of the prestigious, PULSE-sponsored HMRI Award for Early Career Research. At just 33, the former physiotherapist has rapidly developed an international research reputation in health promotion and the prevention of musculoskeletal pain.

Earlier this year Dr Williams published results from the largest randomised clinical trial of back pain management, revealing that paracetamol is no more effective than placebo for pain relief.

Since March 2013 he has been working with Hunter New England Population Health’s Healthy Children’s Initiative, overseeing the delivery of the first randomised controlled trial of an intervention to improve canteen policies in rural and remote primary schools.

A host of diseases, including asthma, cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes and more, benefitted as 54 new grants worth $900,000 were presented at the Hunter medical research community’s night of nights. It supplemented 27 grants valued at $2.6 million which were publicly recognised tonight after being allocated during the year.

Also announced tonight, the first ever HMRI Director’s Award for Mid-career Research went to John Hunter Hospital neurologist Professor Mark Parsons whose pivotal research into acute stroke interventions is changing clinical practice.

Professor Parsons is currently leading a Phase-3 trial of a clot-busting drug known as Tenecteplase, securing almost $4 million last month from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“It was another record-breaking year for us and the overall quality of the grant applications was truly exceptional,” Professor Nilsson added.

“Our researchers are working at the highest level internationally with a strong focus on translation, which is reflected in HMRI’s attainment of generous philanthropic support from the community.”


Professor Kelly is Head of Psychiatry at the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, Deputy Head (Teaching and Learning) of the School of Medicine and Public Health and a Clinical Academic Consultant Psychiatrist at John Hunter Hospital, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Brain and Mental Health Program.

Professor Parsons is Director Acute Stroke Services and Senior Staff Neurologist at John Hunter Hospital, Director of the Stroke Program for the Priority Research Centre, Translational Neuroscience and Mental Health and Deputy Head (Research) of School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Brain and Mental Health Program.

Dr Williams is an HMRI Postdoctoral Research Fellow and an Evaluation Officer at Hunter New England Population Health, researching in conjunction with HMRI’s Public Health Research Program.

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