Clinical school newsletter

2010 - Issue 3

Clinical School News

We welcome Hasantha Gunasekera


Hasantha Gunasekera has recently started as an Academic Fellow in the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health after many years as a clinical tutor and examiner. He writes about his research and clinical work…

My research
Thankfully, my PhD titled “Epidemiology and management of otitis media in Indigenous and non-Indigenous children” was accepted in 2009! My research interests are Indigenous health, specifically ear health, as well as refugee health and general paediatrics. Another interest is International public health including a project on the ethical procurement of medical supplies (given much is produced in Asian factories with poor work conditions including child labour). My major research project is a Cohort study of urban Aboriginal children. We will soon have recruited the targeted 1700 children. All of these children will have a middle ear exam and hearing check and some (1-7 year olds) have had speech testing. We hope to provide the best data in the world on how middle ear disease impacts on later functional outcomes.

My clinical work
As a general paediatrician in a major tertiary referral centre I see a wide variety of fascinating clinical cases, from common general paediatrics to some very rare, specialty conditions. Working in the CHW refugee clinic is also great exposure. This clinical exposure is a wonderful resource for teaching medical students, junior doctors and those in specialist training. In addition to medical student teaching and examining I train and examine candidates for the Royal College of Physicians, Paediatric Division.

I look forward to making my contribution to the department.

Advanced training in academic medicine


Dr Patrina Caldwell has been appointed as the Paediatric Representative of The Royal Australian College of Physicians’ recently established Specialist Advisory Committee in Academic Medicine. The SAC in Academic Medicine will be overseeing the training of College trainees who wish to become medical academics.
The SAC in Academic Medicine has been established due to insufficient numbers of medical academics in the health system. It aims to support and foster scholarship, research and innovation in medicine. It is developing a process whereby trainees can be supported to train in research and medical education, and clinically through the physician training programs. This will enable trainees to be fully equipped as medical academics.

The College is seeking a small number of trainees for the 2011 academic year who are interested in training under the SAC in Academic Medicine. To be eligible, trainees must have successfully completed the written and clinical examination and be in their final year of Basic Training. For more information, email Libby Newton,

The Lililwan Project

The Lililwan Project is an Australian first examining the prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in a remote community setting. The project was initiated by Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services in Fitzroy Crossing and is being undertaken in the Fitzroy Valley in the remote Kimberley region of WA. The study will determine the prevalence of FASD and its impact on health service needs of children and their families.

Professor Elizabeth Elliott and Dr James Fitzpatrick (Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health) and A/Professor Jane Latimer (George Institute for Global Health) have partnered with the Fitzroy Valley FASD leadership team on the project. The team includes representatives from health, education and justice organisations serving the Fitzroy Valley and is chaired by Ms Maureen Carter, CEO of Nindilingarri Cultural Health Services.

James Maureen Liz Jane

A feasibility study was undertaken in late 2009 when the Sydney-based research team was invited to the Fitzroy Valley to consult with the community and local service providers. Stage 1 of the Lililwan Project began in April 2010. It involved collecting information about pregnancy, birth and early childhood from parents and carers of a cohort of 130 children born in the Fitzroy Valley in 2002 and 2003, and reviewing their health records. To date there has been a 95% participation rate. Information sessions on healthy pregnancy and early childhood were also run. Stage 2 will involve screening all children from Stage 1 to assess their health, behaviour and developmental status and to provide immediate treatment and referral when necessary.

The feasibility study and Stage 1 were funded by an anonymous donor. The Federal Government has contributed $1m to Stage 2 of the study.

Indigenous child health education module

James and Hudson Oscar

James Fitzpatrick, Anne Morris, Meg Phelps and Elizabeth Elliott have been awarded a Continuing Medical Education Grant from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians ($6000) and a grant from the Poche Centre ($10000) to develop an education module in Australian Aboriginal Child Health for Trainees and Fellows, and SMP and Masters students.
The module will be web-based and interactive and in four parts: 1) cultural awareness; 2) social determinants of Aboriginal child health; 3) Common and important diseases affecting indigenous children; 4) developmental problems and the effects of early life trauma.

James and Liz visited Fitzroy Crossing in August 2010 with a film producer and cameraman and have completed filming for the modules, which is currently being edited. The Division of Paediatrics of the RACP has invited the team to launch the module at the next RACP congress in Darwin in May 2011, although it is likely to be online before.

RACP college - Physician educators sub-committee, successful exam candidates

Congratulations to the following junior medical staff who were successful at the recent Royal Australasian College of Physicians Clinical Examination:


Lisa Amato Pankaj Garg Samridh Nagar
Andrew Biggin Michelle Gilchrist Marie Nazar
Phyllis Bogopa Karen Gomes Arany Nerminathan
Irene Chuah Martin Grips Rita Nyanga
Sachin Desai Geshani Jayasuriya Chetan Pandit
Ketan Dhabuwala Helen Kasby Pankaj Patel
Amanda Dyson Siah Kim Neelkanth Phad
Claire Egbers Rajesh Maheshwari Pramod Pharande
Annabelle Enriquez Jennie Monin Shalinder Samra
    Paul Tembo

Thank you to all Discipline members who contributed to their learning and examination preparation.
DPCH staff have recently joined committees of the College. Patrina Caldwell is now a member of the Specialist Advisory Committee in Academic Medicine and Meg Phelps the Physician Educator and Paediatric Teaching and Learning Subcommittees.

Research News

Early career researcher "research" project

A/Prof. Cheryl Jones, Sub Dean Research, would like to thank everyone who participated in focus groups or interviews with Wendy Oldmeadow over the last two months. Nigel Clarke, Patrina Caldwell and Cheryl Jones are conducting research to better define the needs and challenges faced by Early Career Researchers (ECRs) - defined as 10 years or less post research higher degree - in establishing a research career. Four groups have been interviewed or involved in focus groups: Early Career Researchers, Senior Researchers, PhD students near or at the end of their candidature, and those who have left research. There were over 40 participants, which exceeded targets for the four groups.

The research team is currently evaluating de-identified transcripts and hope to report back to the University, Kids Research Institute and participants within the month. The research team anticipate this program will lead to development of new support (or better access to or awareness of available support) specific to the needs of ECRs on the Children’s Hospital at Westmead campus. It will also inform the CHW project to Engage Clinicians in Research, lead by Kimberley Lilischkis and Patrina Caldwell.

Reproductive Maternal and Child Health Theme

The development of the Reproductive Maternal and Child Health Theme represents an exciting opportunity to develop adolescent and child health research into a major strength of the University and increase research productivity at Kids Research Institute. Co-theme leaders are A/ Prof. Cheryl Jones and A/ Prof. Chris O’Neill (from the Kolling Institute, RNSH).

Cheryl and Chris’ immediate task has been to map potential members. Cheryl has ensured all KRI members and active researchers at CHW with USYD titles are on the list, with the help of Leigh Smith, Di Hanlon and Amelia Hill. Cheryl and Chris have set up a working party to represent sites and sub themes - Kate Steinbeck and Cheryl will represent CHW and adolescent and child Health. They will shortly email people welcoming them to the theme and informing them of the working party. Mid term goals are to set up a webpage, hold a research theme day early next year after grant submissions, and develop a strategic plan for the theme.

Student News

Postgraduate research student - Jane Seto awarded fellowship

Jane Seto

Jane has recently been awarded the Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship by the American Australian Association. In October 2010, Jane will be moving to Seattle to work with Professor Jeffrey Chamberlain at the University of Washington to develop new gene therapy techniques to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Jane completed her PhD under Professor Kathryn North and Dr Nan Yang in February 2010. Her project focused on the muscle performance gene ACTN3, in which a common null polymorphism results in α-actinin-3 deficiency in 16% of the general population. People who are deficient in α-actinin-3 have lower muscle strength, and very few elite sprint and power athletes are α-actinin-3 deficient, suggesting that α-actinin-3 is necessary for optimal muscle power generation. Jane’s work involved exploring the mechanisms behind the effects of α-actinin-3 deficiency on skeletal muscle and understanding how it influences the response to muscle ageing and exercise training. Much of this work has since been published in high impact journals. The major manuscript in preparation demonstrates that ACTN3 genotype influences response to training by activation of the calcineurin pathway. This is a major novel finding that sheds light on how muscle adapts to exercise and genetic factors that affect performance.

Postgraduate research student: Charmaine Tam’s Lindau meeting

CHW Clinical School PhD student, Charmaine Tam, was one of 14 Australian participants at the 60th Interdisciplinary Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany, in June. It was attended by 79 Nobel Laureates and 650 young scientists from chemistry, physics and medicine from all over the world. Charmaine reports on the meeting:

“The Lindau conference was a unique and incredibly inspiring experience. Our days consisted of listening to lectures given by Nobel Laureates in the morning, followed by smaller group discussions with Laureates in the afternoon on topics ranging from the discovery of HIV, to atmospheric chemistry, to dark energy and matter. Not only were the lectures hugely stimulating but there were plenty of opportunities to interact with the Laureates. Indeed the Laureates were very enthusiastic to discuss science and meet young scientists. One of the highlights of the meeting was having lunch with Nobel Laureate Oliver Smithies, along with the rest of the Australian delegation. Smithies, a geneticist, shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2007 for his contribution to the development of gene targeting and transgenic mice…


“For me, Lindau was a truly amazing experience. The Nobel Laureates repeatedly said they are just normal people, but this isn’t true. They are truly inspirational people who pursue science for the love of it, are willing to take chances and will go the extra mile for projects that they truly believe to be important. Being surrounded by such passion and enthusiasm was incredibly motivating and has convinced me that this is how science should be practised.”

Postgraduate research conference

The Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health annual Postgraduate Research Student Conference held on 13 August 2010 at Rydges Parramatta was a great success. This year it was attended by 112 people.

The Conference provided postgraduate students with the opportunity to present their research to a diverse, supportive and critical audience of supervisors, peers and members of the Discipline. A number of senior academics commented on the increasingly high quality of research undertaken by the students.

The keynote speaker was Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at The University of Sydney and a staff-elected Fellow of Senate. His current research involves examining how health and medical issues are covered in the news media; the implications for tobacco control of web 2.0 technology; and the characteristics of public health research (and its dissemination) that impact on public health policy. Simon’s entertaining talk was titled “Better to be looked over than overlooked: maximising your research impact".

Thank you to the session Chairs: Louise Baur, Geraldine O’Neill, Sandra Cooper, John Christodoulou, Josh Burns, Meg Phelps, Patrina Caldwell, Dan Catchpoole, Kate Steinbeck and Nan Yang, plus the many postgraduate supervisors and post-doctoral researchers who helped with marking student presentations on the day.

This year the Conference was supported by Miltenyi Biotec, the Australian Genome Research Facility Ltd, BD Biosciences and the Medical Staff Council at CHW. The Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health also financially supported much of the meeting. Thank you to the sponsors for their support of the student prizes for excellence. As always, the competition for awards was very strong.

The sponsored prizes for best presentations went to:


Catherine King: The Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health Prize
Kevin London: CHW Medical Staff Council Prize
Peter Hsu: Miltenyi Biotec Australia Pty Ltd Prize
Monkol Lek: Student Presentation Award
Cuc Bach (not pictured): Australian Genome Research Facility Ltd Prize
Manoj Menezes (not pictured): First Year Prize

Diary date: University Graduations 17 December 2010

Grants, Achievements, Promotions and Titles


Dr Patrina Caldwell invited to join the SAC in Academic Medicine as Paediatrics and Child Health Member

Prof. Elizabeth Elliott appointed as Honorary Professorial Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health (2010-); Honorary Professor, School of Public Health, The University of Sydney (2010-); Chair, Scientific Program Committee, 27th International Pediatric Association Congress (2013); Expert Panel, 4th International Conference Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Vancouver (2011); Medical Advisory Committee, Steve Waugh Foundation (2010-)

Dr Megan Phelps appointed to RACP Physician Educator Subcommittee.

Dr David Little awarded the John Mitchell Crouch Fellowship by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons for 2011, the College’s most prestigious scholarship, for outstanding contributions to fundamental scientific research in the field. He has also been awarded the Australian Orthopaedic Associate’s Award for Orthopaedic Research for his contribution to international orthopaedic research.

Dr Spring Cooper won the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) Early in Career Public Health Awards in Immunisation 2010. This was for her presentation of data from our evaluation of the HPV school vaccination program, and in her role as research officer with the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Prof. Louise Baur appointed to the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (Randwick and Westmead) Advisory Council.


Prof Annette J Braunack-Mayer, A/Prof Maree F O'Keefe, Dr Rachel Skinner, Dr Kirsten J McCaffery, Ms Teresa Burgess, Dr Helen S Marshall, Mrs Maureen Watson: ARC Linkage project grant – Optimising intersectoral collaboration between the health and education sectors. $423,490

Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia: Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville – Biomarkers in early paediatric CNS demyelination and risk of progression to multiple sclerosis. Investigator Project Grant $26,000.

RACP Continuing Professional Development Grant: Dr Anne Morris, Dr James Fitzpatrick, Prof. Elizabeth Elliott and Dr Megan Phelps – Indigenous Child Health Education Modules. $6,000

Australian FASD Collaboration, Department of Health and Ageing, 2010-2011: Bower C, Elliott EJ – A diagnostic and screening test for FASD. $500,000.

The Lililwan Project Group. FASD prevalence in the Fitzroy Valley. Department of Health and Ageing, 2010-2011: Latimer J, Elliott EJ, Fitzpatrick J, Carter M, Oscar J. $500,000.

Lililwan Project Group. FASD prevalence in the Fitzroy Valley. Department of Families, Housing, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), 2010-2011: Latimer J, Elliott EJ, Fitzpatrick J, Carter M, Oscar J. 550,000.

Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance Department of Health and Ageing, 2010-14: Elliott EJ, Zurynski Y, McIntyre P, Booy R et al. $758,000.

Indigenous Child Health Education Module: Fitzpatrick J, Morris A, Phelps M, Elliott EJ. Poche Institute, University of Sydney, 2010-11. $10,000.

Promotions & titles

New Titles
Dr Simone Ardern-Holmes – Clinical Lecturer
Dr Pranav Jani – Clinical Associate Lecturer
Dr Dung Chi Vu – Honorary Associate
Dr Joseph Nuli Lemoh – Honorary Associate
Dr Le Thanh Hai – Honorary Associate
Dr Nguyen Thanh Liem – Honorary Associate
Dr Alyson Kakakios – Clinical Associate Professor
Dr Philip Britton – Clinical Associate Lecturer
Dr Lydia So – Clinical Associate Lecturer
Dr Mary Iskander – Clinical Associate Lecturer
Dr Justin Skowno – Clinical Lecturer
Dr John Harvey – Clinical Associate Professor

Honours Awarded to Medical Students
Nicola Benwell. A literature review of fetal alcohol syndrome in non-human primates
Kate Larkings. Clinical spectrum of Wilson Disease in children.


Upcoming conferences and meetings

The 16th Annual Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) Professional Development Program: 8 & 9/10/2010
Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. For more information visit the website or contact

Queensland Annual Paediatric Weekend: 15-17/10/2010
Sea World Resort, Main Beach, Gold Coast

Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society (ANZOS) 2010: Sydney - 21-23/10/2010
Hilton Hotel, Sydney
For more information, please visit the website

34th Miami Neonatology Conference: Florida - 3-6/11/2010
Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida
More information

Department of Pain and Palliative Care, The Children's Hospital at Westmead - 20 years of service celebration: Sydney - 5/11/2010
The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney

15th National Prevocational Medical Education Forum: Melbourne – 7 – 10/11/2010
More information

Women's Hospitals Australasian (WHA) and Children's Hospitals Australasia (CHA) Annual Conference: Melbourne - 8-10/11/2010
Hilton on the Park Hotel, Melbourne
More information

101 Neurological disorders not to miss - Paediatric Neurology Update: Sydney - 17/11/2010
The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney
Email Scott Day for more information

Annual Paediatric Update: Sydney - 18-20/11/2010
The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney

Writing reports for court workshop: Sydney - 20/11/2010
This half-day workshop run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons offers skills-based training in preparing medical reports for use in legal matters, focusing on the fundamentals of an excellent medico-legal report.
For more information, click here

Paediatric Society of New Zealand's 62nd Annual Scientific Conference: New Plymouth - 24-26/11/2010
More information

Excellence in Paediatrics: London - 2-4/12/2010
For more information, please visit the website


First Annual Winter Symposium in Intensive Care & Emergency Medicine: Aspen, Colorado - 9-14/01/2011
Aspen, Colorado.
For further information, please visit the website or .

"Quality in Midwifery: Good practice in care and education"
February 25-26, 2010
Gent, Belgium
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6th World Congress on Pediatric Critical Care: Sydney - 13-17/03/2011
Sydney Exhibition & Convention Centre
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14th Perinatal Society of Australia & New Zealand (PSANZ) Congress, 28-31 March 2010 Wellington, NZ.
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IV World Asthma & COPD Forum: Paris - 30/04-3/05/2011
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29th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID): The Hague - 7-11/06/2011
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9th International Congress of Tropical Pediatrics: Thailand - 17-19/10/2011
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