Two Tall Poppies honoured for achievements

Aug 17 2018

Drs Andrew Gardner and Serene Yoong

Two emerging researchers from the University of Newcastle have been announced as winners of the prestigious 2018 NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Awards, which recognise the achievements of Australia’s outstanding young scientific researchers and communicators.

At a ceremony held in Sydney last night, Dr Andrew Gardner and Dr Serene Yoong were honoured for their vast contributions to the scientific field that have benefited the community and shared scientific knowledge with a range of audiences.

As a renowned concussion expert with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and Hunter New England Health (HNEH), Dr Gardner is investigating the long-term effects of sports concussion in retired professional rugby league players.

“This work will help uncover possible associations between concussion and dementia, and the interaction of other clinical issues such as mental health problems, chronic pain and genetics. Through the Young Tall Poppy campaign, I look forward to continue sharing important information and key findings with the community to reduce the risk of sports-related concussions.”

As a dietitian expert also working in conjunction with HMRI, Dr Yoong is developing and implementing nutrition guidelines in childcare centres to help address childhood obesity.  

“Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health concerns of the century due to the societal and economical cost it imposes on the community. My research focuses on supporting childcare centres with implementing nutrition guidelines, and I am thrilled by the opportunity to act as a role model and improve the provision of healthier foods as a Young Tall Poppy.”

As part of the Young Tall Poppy program, the award winners will spend the next year sharing their knowledge with school students, teachers and the broader community through a series of workshops, seminars and public lectures.

Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Professor Kevin Hall, said the Awards recognised the promising potential of the University’s emerging researchers.  

“Dr Gardner and Dr Yoong are two outstanding early career researchers that have already demonstrated significant impact in their respective fields. The esteemed network of Young Tall Poppies provides a national platform to bolster the research understanding and outcomes of issues that are impacting communities around the world.”

More about the University’s 2018 Young Tall Poppy Science Award winners:

Dr Andrew Gardner

As a clinical neuropsychologist and sports concussion researcher, Andrew Gardner is focused on the long-term consequences of head trauma in collision sports, including the risk of dementia later in life. He established Australia’s first public health sports concussion clinic in Newcastle, which provides free evaluation and medical recommendations to adult athletes suffering concussion.

His expertise has influenced policy papers produced by Sports Medicine Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia NSW and Brain Injury Australia. He is a concussion consultant to Rugby Australia, a member of its Concussion Advisory Group and he has been the independent concussion spotter for the 2017 and 2018 State of Origin series. Dr Gardner is a regular speaker at various sporting clubs and sporting events where he shares key findings about his research and the potential link between concussion, cognitive problems and dementia. Later this year, Dr Gardner will travel to Harvard Medical School to work with its Football Players Health study.

Dr Serene Yoong

Serene Yoong is an expert dietitian who has translated evidence-based nutrition guidelines to help childcare services improve child nutrition. Dr Yoong was the lead dietitian in the development of the online menu planning program, feedAustralia, which helps improve the provisions of healthy foods in childcare centres. The program is currently used by more than 1,000 childcare centres nationally and has reached an estimated 100,000 children.

She was integral in the development of the ‘Good for Kids’ website, which provides high quality resources for childcare centres and schools. Her research has also been influential in changing practice and overall child health at the local, state and national levels. Dr Yoong has also developed evidence briefs for the World Health Organisation and the Australian Government, collaborates with the Cochrane group to help simplify research evidence, and trains health promotion officers, staff at childcare centres and other representatives from the health and education sectors.

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