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Professor Lesley Barclay - Improving Rural Health

Professor Lesley Barclay

Professor Lesley Barclay (AO PhD) is the newly appointed Director of the Northern Rivers University Department of Rural Health in Lismore. She is set to make a significant contribution to the development of research capacity in rural New South Wales.

As foundation Professor of Health Services Development at Charles Darwin University, Professor Barclay led the Graduate School for Health Practice that introduced a range of postgraduate education options for health professionals in the Northern Territory. She is a maternal child health researcher and health system reformer whose projects have improved maternity services in remote and urban Australia and internationally. Much of her recent research has been rural, remote or indigenous focused.

Professor Barclay has led over 30 competitive research projects in the last decade, and has been a Chief Investigator on 12 NHMRC and ARC funded projects in this period, leading 8 of these. In the last 10 years she has supervised 25 doctoral students, published an international prize-winning book and will publish another this year in the United States. Professor Barclay has also written 51 refereed research-based journal articles and over 15 major reports for governments.

Professor Barclay has worked in international development for nearly 20 years with AusAID, World Bank and WHO, providing advice in primary health care, maternal infant/child health and capacity building in health worker education systems in Asia, Melanesia and the Pacific Islands. She was awarded an AO in 2004 in recognition of her contribution to professional and international development and child health.


Dr Hasantha Gunasekera

Dr Hasantha Gunasekera

Dr Hasantha Gunasekera has had recent critical success in the 2013 NHMRC grants research funding. Dr Gunasekera is a general paediatrician and senior lecturer at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (Westmead). His research interests include general paediatrics, indigenous health, refugee health and otitis media.

Dr Gunasekera is part of a team of researchers granted $1,640,326 for the project ‘Randomised controlled trial of antimicrobial treatment versus watchful waiting for acute otitis media without perforation in low risk aboriginal children’. This is the first randomised controlled trial of watchful waiting for acute otitis media in urban Aboriginal children, and one of the first for any Aboriginal children, and will impact on national guidelines.

Dr Gunasekera is a Chief Investigator in the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH), a cohort study of urban Aboriginal children in NSW, and has performed comprehensive ear examinations on more than 1500 urban Aboriginal children to date, with all the children in the 1 to 7 year age range having had developmental screens and formal speech and language testing by a speech pathologist.

Through his work on SEARCH, he was awarded $950,000 from NSW Health to manage a new initiative: Hearing, Ear health and Language Services (HEALS) for urban Aboriginal children in NSW). HEALS plans to provide audiology and Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) services for nearly 100 children, and speech therapy services for more than 200 children. Eighty children have already accessed ENT operations and 180 children have accessed over 1000 speech therapy sessions through the scheme since it started in March 2013.


Professor Heather Jeffery

Professor Heather Jeffery

Over three million babies died in 2011 from infection, asphyxia, prematurity and low birth weight in their first month after birth. There are simple, cost-effective practices (like hand hygiene, breastfeeding and kangaroo mother care), that if routinely performed, would substantially reduce rates of neonatal sickness and death. How best to rigorously translate the evidence into practice is unclear. This is the challenge for RMCH affiliate Professor Heather Jeffrey and the collaborative South East Asia: Using Research for Change in Hospital-acquired Infection in Neonates (SEA-URCHIN) project research team.

Heather Jeffrey is a Professor in Public Health and the Chair of International Maternal and Child Health. Professor Jeffrey’s research interests include classification, causes and prevention of maternal, perinatal and infant death (including Sudden Unexpected Death Infancy in low, middle and high income countries); perinatal infection; and methods of translating evidence into clinical and preventive practice. The SEA-URCHIN project directly aligns with Professor Jeffrey’s research interests and aims to improve maternal and child health.

The SEA-URCHIN project is a five-year NHMRC funded research project (2011-15) that is seeking to determine if an evidence-based educational intervention (focused on the prevention and management of neonatal infection) can improve clinical practice and health outcomes for newborn babies. By evaluating the impact of tailored implementation strategies on rates of infection and death in the neonatal units of eleven hospitals across South East Asia, the project ultimately aims to reduce rates of neonatal infection.

The project has involved cross-institutional collaboration from across Australia (including the University of Sydney, Monash University, the University of Adelaide and the University of New South Wales), as well as international collaboration across four countries in South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia).


Professor Gustavo Duque

Gustavo Duque

Professor Gustavo Duque attended medical school at the University of Caldas (Colombia). Following medical school he completed an internal medicine residency at Javeriana University in Bogota (Colombia), followed by a two-year fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at McGill University. After completing his fellowship, Associate Professor Duque completed a PhD in Experimental Medicine at McGill University with the thesis entitled “Molecular Changes of the Aging Osteoblast”. He joined the faculty at McGill University Medical School in 2003 as a member of the Division of Geriatric Medicine. In 2003, he also joined the McGill University-Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research as Project Director.

In 2007, Professor Duque joined the Nepean Clinical School of the University of Sydney as Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Director of the Aging Bone Research Program. His research focuses on the identification of mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of osteoporosis in older persons, as well as prevention of osteoporotic fractures in this population. His work on mesenchymal stem cells differentiation has provided new evidence to the understanding of senile osteoporosis, including the toxic role of bone marrow fat and the potential trans-differentiation between bone and fat cells. His experiments using vitamin D in bone cells have demonstrated a new anabolic effect of vitamin D on both osteoblasts and differentiating mesenchymal stem cells.

Professor Duque's Research Program has developed collaborations with major academic institutions worldwide. He is currently funded by major agencies in Canada. He has published extensively on the biology of aging bone and the effect of vitamin D on bone formation. Additionally, he has pursued some clinical studies on vitamin D deficiency and falls prevention in older adults.