Author: Dr Kelly Avery-Kiejda
In our schools today, students are encouraged to take part in STEM education and pursue a career in an associated field. Some, hopefully, will take the path towards becoming a research scientist or clinician.
If you’ve ever met a medical researcher at HMRI, you’ll know that they’re incredibly passionate, talented and hard-working people. They are driven to make the world a better place.
Many have a personal reason for trying to find better treatments for their chosen disease, and many of their research projects are funded by philanthropic donations, from people in the community who have lost a loved one or who have had a personal experience with the disease they are funding.
This makes medical research one of the most rewarding careers you will ever find. To be able to contribute to research that will change people’s lives is an amazing experience. Equally amazing is the role of the community in funding research at HMRI – it not only changes health outcomes, it changes the lives of the researchers conducting the study.
Being a medical researcher is a tricky career path to navigate – especially if you are new at it. Most medical researchers are employed on a contractual basis, ranging 1-3 years in duration. This contract relies heavily on National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) funding and due to the highly competitive nature of NHMRC funding (16.4% success rate), it is becoming harder for researchers, particularly in their early stages, to be successful in these schemes.
Philanthropic funding is transformative to a medical researcher. This provides start up-funds for researchers who have a great idea, with a great support network, but with limited data to support that idea or who may be new to the funding game. Philanthropic funding is essential to initiate a research project, acquire more data and to increase the chances of being successful in larger NHMRC grants (more funds for a longer duration).
With these funds, an important and innovative idea can finally have the chance to change health outcomes.
This is why community plays such a vital role in medical research, ensuring innovation in these fields continues to thrive. But there are many ways the community can become involved, including participation in a clinical trial or a consumer group to provide scientists with feedback on the outcomes that matter to them most.
In Newcastle, researchers at HMRI are running a number of clinical trials and have access to world-class infrastructure including a whole genome sequencer, significantly increasing their ability to make personalised medicines become a reality.
The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is also providing hope to researchers and the community. The fund is scheduled to reach $20 billion in 2020-21, which will bridge the gap between the health-care system and medical research, so that innovative research outcomes reach the community quicker.
From 31 May-8 June we are celebrating the wonderful work our health and medical researchers do – this is Medical Research Week. In Newcastle, a Scientific Meeting was held on 1 June at HMRI. Key landmarks in Newcastle have been lit green to celebrate Medical Research Week and HMRI’s 20th anniversary.
To me, green symbolises hope. I love watching new green leaves cover the bare empty branches in spring. Green is also the colour of HMRI, the place where world-class medical research is being conducted in Newcastle. This year marks the 20th anniversary of HMRI.
These events showcase our Hunter scientists. So let’s support and celebrate our medical researchers and the important work that they do.
It will ensure Australia is at the forefront of the best and most up-to-date healthcare.