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Obstetrics research project wins funding

Five prize winners at this year’s Research X-Factor 2023. 

Group of people standing together in front of a screen
SydneyConnect Image: Dr David Zalcberg and his team after the win

Dr David Zalcberg and his team are eager to improve detection and prevention of a rare condition that affects newborns. 

They beat strong rivalry to claim first place in the Sydney Institute for Women, Children and Families’ (Institute) seed funding competition, Research X-Factor. 

“It will help us immensely as we embark on our groundbreaking journey,” David said. 

As the RPA Director of Obstetric Anaesthetics, David and his multidisciplinary team of expert obstetricians, midwives, and neonatology specialists were awarded $20,000 for a prospective cohort study to better detect and prevent Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy (HIE). 

The newborn brain injury is caused when not enough oxygen or blood flows to the brain during childbirth and occurs in 1-2 of every 1000 live births. 

The team’s key priority is to identify the markers as early as possible to prevent long term health challenges faced by many parents and families of HIE babies. 

“There is no set standard or one golden test that can tell us the degree of brain injury,” David said.  

“One of our ultimate goals is to create a test that can be used during childbirth, to measure the degree of stress that a baby may be undergoing.” 

The Research X-Factor event identifies and highlights innovative multidisciplinary research or service improvement projects. 

Hosted this year by Associate Professor Lauren Troy, senior staff specialist in respiratory medicine and Institute of Academic Medicine co-director, the judging panel awarded five winners and one people’s choice award out of twelve finalists. 

Prize money goes towards research and drives patient engagement and inclusion by developing better communication tools with diverse communities.  

This year’s finalists proposed ideas for initiatives from mental health to smoking and vaping, and traumatic birthing experience, to sexual assault, oral health, and Aboriginal breastfeeding practices.  

Due to the high quality of the submissions, Our District Chief Executive, Dr Teresa Anderson, added an additional $20,000 to the $80,000 prize pool. 

Congratulations to this year’s grant winners:  

  • First place: Dr David Zalcberg, BABBies study. Benefits of analysing brain biomarkers in perinatal care - a prospective cohort study. 
  • Second place: Karin Birkner, The ABFAB study. Aboriginal Breastfeeding practices: Facilitators And Barriers. 
  • Third place: Jennifer Jones, Reducing the effects of smoking and vaping on pregnancy and new-born outcomes: Exploring the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of clinicians and women. 
  • Fourth place: Associate Professor Rachael Cordina, Heavy menstrual bleeding in women with congenital heart disease. 
  • Fifth place: Dr Sarah Taki, Optimising the capacity of health care practitioners to support child health behaviour in the first 2000 days in families from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. 
  • People’s choice, through live voting from the audience: Associate Professor Shilpi Ajwani, Improving oral health policies for children with special health care needs: A comprehensive analysis and evidence-based recommendations in Sydney Local Health District.  

Dr George Johnson acknowledged the support and contribution of HESTA Super Fund to the People’s choice award, as the organisation donated four 50 dollar vouchers to the winners.  

“It was an incredible array of presentations and really challenging to pick a winner,” District Public Health General Manager and Institute Director, Dr George Johnson said. 

This year’s judging panel included George, Institute co-chairs Professor Adrienne Gordon, and Professor Sue Woolfenden, Executive Sponsors Lou-Anne Blunden and Professor Jonathan Carter, and Clinical Professor Sameer Bhole AM, Professor Andrew Baillie, and last year’s winner Associate Professor Brad De Vries. 

A special guest keynote presentation was delivered during deliberation by Professor Iona Novak AM, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Chair of Allied Health, at the University of Sydney. 

Her talk “Lost in Translation: Uncovering Rosetta Stones,” discussed her experience and interventions in closing the gap for cerebral palsy research.  

The Sydney Institute for Women, Children and their Families is focused on empowering and supporting women and their families across their lifespan.  

Watch the full recording of this year’s Research X-Factor and see the list of presenters: https://slhd.health.nsw.gov.au/siwcf-research/x-factor