Professor Clare Collins was named Researcher of the Year tonight at the Hunter Medical Research Institute’s prestigious 2017 Awards Night.
HMRI Director Professor Michael Nilsson, in announcing the award, said Professor Collins had become a distinguished leader in nutritional health since completing her PhD in 2000 while working as a paediatric dietitian at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.
“Through her burgeoning media profile and prolific publication record, Professor Collins needs little introduction to anyone interested in nutrition,” Professor Nilsson said.
“She’s a trailblazer in her field, with a proven capacity to disseminate research findings and a strong commitment to improving nutritional knowledge and evidence-based health policy.”
Professor Collins is co-director of the UON’s Priority Research Centre in Physical Activity and Nutrition, Director of Research for the School of Health Sciences, and a Fellow and spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Her grant tally of over $20 million includes two fellowships and five project grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) plus a recent contribution of $1.7 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Academically, Professor Collins has authored 295 journal articles – 190 in the past 5 years alone – and more than 300 conference abstracts. Further, she has mentored more than 20 dietitians to completion and currently supervises 16 Higher Degree Research candidates.
Tonight’s announcement at the HMRI Building capped off a stellar night where special guests included the 2017 Australian of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, and HMRI Patron Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair. Seven Fellowships, 54 grants, 10 scholarships, six travel grants, three Equal Futures Awards and three equipment donations were acknowledged.
This extraordinary community support included more than $8 million in philanthropic funding.
“It’s the net result of an amazing 21,000 individual donations and a 40 per cent increase in philanthropic revenue,” Professor Nilsson added. “Leading into the Institute’s 20th anniversary next year, we’re looking in remarkably good shape.”
In other honours, physical activity pioneer Professor David Lubans received the HMRI Director’s Award for Mid-Career Research, contested by researchers within 15 years of completing their PhD.
As physical inactivity becomes a global pandemic, Professor Lubans is striving to give young people the confidence and competence to be more active, more of the time. His interventions for improved fitness are widely implemented in both primary and secondary school settings.
The HMRI Award for Early Career Research went to Associate Professor Gillian Gould, a long-serving GP who attained her PhD in 2015 and gravitated to Indigenous health research.
Based at Calvary Mater Newcastle, Associate Professor Gould is working in the complex area of smoking cessation during pregnancy, leading to an intervention known as SISTAQUIT (formerly ICAN QUIT in Pregnancy).
HMRI Board Chairman Kyle Loades said a record number of research fellowships acknowledged during the Awards Night showed an exceptional level of community engagement and commitment.
“We saw tears of absolute joy and relief when recipients were told that their futures had been secured for between three and 10 years,” Mr Loades said. “Not only did it mean financial certainty, it gave them the comfort of knowing they could focus on their research work – not divest time and energy in chasing future grants.
“It’s an honour and privilege for HMRI to be entrusted with such substantial, long-term support and we look forward to repaying that faith with better health outcomes.”
* HMRI partners with the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.