Clinical School newsletter

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2015 Newsletters

March 2015 - Newsletter

CHW Clinical School news

Welcome to 2015

Louise Baur

In December 2014 we farewelled Professor Peter van Asperen who had been Acting Associate Dean of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School since August 2013. Peter provided exemplary leadership over this time, providing excellent mentoring and helping to promote a sense of calm and order in the School. He supported the staff in the School in various ways, enabling them to continue to do their work to a very high standard. His transitional role, during a period of uncertainty for the School, has been of vital importance. We thank Peter for his wisdom, hard work and good humour.

I am delighted to take up the role of Professor of Paediatrics & Child Health at the University of Sydney and Associate Dean of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School. I follow in the footsteps of some excellent people, including Professors Kim Oates, Craig Mellis and Kathryn North. On the specific topic of Craig, may I encourage you to read an article elsewhere in the newsletter about his recognition in the recent Australia Day Honours?

It is a time of much change in both the University and health sectors, and also across the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and the broader Westmead precinct. So it is both exciting, but also somewhat daunting, to take on the leadership of the Clinical School and Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health at this time. There are many opportunities ahead for us. How can we take advantage of all of them? Consider some of the questions that confront us at the start of 2015:

  • How do we grow our leadership in medical education and medical education research, in health and medical research, in research student supervision and in health care and public health?
  • How do we best educate medical and postgraduate students so that they are able to undertake the delivery of very high quality health care, throughout the 21st century, to children and young people?
  • How do we support excellence in research and research training at the basic science, clinical science, population health and health service level, in areas relevant to child and adolescent health?
  • How do we develop the skills of our clinical teachers, our researchers, our supervisors, our administrators and our managers so that all are equipped for the challenges ahead?
  • How do we integrate the work of the Clinical School with CHW, with SCHN, with the Westmead precinct, the broader University, and beyond?
  • How do we manage our resources effectively, at a time of resource constraint for the sector?

In order to start to meet the challenges ahead, in early April 2015 our School will be holding a planning retreat. You may hear more about this in the weeks ahead.

I look forward to continuing to work with the excellent staff in the Clinical School, our many honorary teachers and researchers, and our inspiring students.

(Prof) Louise A BAUR AM FAHMS
Professor of Paediatrics & Child Health, University of Sydney
Associate Dean, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School, University of Sydney

Postscript: Louise was recently featured in the University News: Five minutes with Louise Baur

Australia Day Honours

Congratulations to two long-standing CHW anaesthetists, A/Prof. David Baines and Dr. Neil Street on being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the recent Australia Day honours

  • Associate Professor David Bruce BAINES: For significant service to medicine in the field of paediatric anaesthesia as a clinician, administrator and mentor, and to medical education.
  • Dr Neil Eastwood STREET: For significant service to medicine in the fields of paediatric anaesthesia and malignant hyperthermia, and to the people of the Asia -Pacific region through medical aid programs.

David and Neil have provided excellent clinical leadership over several decades at the hospital, and have supported the CHW Clinical School's medical student teaching and postgraduate research students. David is also a Clinical Associate Professor in the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health.

We also congratulate Prof. Craig Mellis (Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney) on being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM):

  • Professor Craig Michael MELLIS: For significant service to medicine, particularly in the field of paediatrics and child health, as a clinician, and to medical education and research.”

Craig is a former Douglas Burrows Professor of Paediatrics & Child Health at The University of Sydney and former Associate Dean of the CHW Clinical School. He is now Associate Dean of the University's Central Clinical School, but maintains close links with CHW. Craig has made major contributions to medical education, the mentoring of clinicians and researchers, the practice of evidence based medicine, epidemiology and respiratory medicine.

Vale Paul Roy

Professor Paul Roy was a close colleague and friend of many of us at Children's Hospital at Westmead and RPA, where he worked for most of his life as a nephrologist and teacher. He sadly passed away in December last year after a brief illness. He is remembered for his many enthusiasms, his love of teaching both within the College and at the University where he was awarded an MD for his work on kidney disease, and his devotion to family, his wife Joyce, children Jane and Simon and his three grandsons. He was a pioneer in dialysis and transplantation for children and had a strong interest in rare diseases, including cystinosis, aboriginal renal disease and urinary tract infections. He maintained a long association with both the clinical team and Professor Craig in the Centre for Kidney Research and taught students until he finally retired.

Paul's recent obituary appeared in the SMH; as well said by Dr Hodson, Vale Paul!

Children in immigration detention

The forgotten children

Professor Elizabeth Elliot recently described the toxic environment of immigration detention centres for children in the ABC news. The article followed the tabling in Federal Parliament of the Australian Human Rights Commission report, The forgotten children: National inquiry into children in detention centre (2014). Elizabeth also wrote about her 2014 visit to Christmas Island with the Australian Human Rights Commission in an opinion piece in The Drum.

Professor David Isaacs and Alanna Maycock described the degradation, despair and loss of dignity they recently witnessed on Nauru in a Sydney Morning Herald commentary. A feature article on their experience included comments by Dr Hasantha Gunasekera.

Lorimer Award winners

Congratulations to the following winners of the 2014 Lorimer teaching awards (The Lorimers) for their excellence in teaching medical students undertaking the Child and Adolescent Health Specialty Block and supervising postgraduate students in the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health. For each Lorimer winner, we provide an excerpt from the nominations received.

Anthony Zehetner

Dr Anthony Zehetner – CRS teaching
‘Dr Zehetner was great at guiding the group towards relevant areas. He has excellent clinical knowledge and was able to share it in an accessible and encouraging way.’

Ameneh Khatami

Dr Ameneh Khatami – Medical teaching
‘A very patient and incredibly informative bed side tutor. I found her tutorials the highlight of my days on the wards.’

Senthil Kamaraj

Dr Senthil Kamaraj – Surgical teaching
‘He was extremely generous with his time and never acted as if we were a burden. He was great at engaging us in discussion, getting us involved in theatre and making us feel part of his team. As medical students we experience a great variety of teaching styles and come to appreciate those teachers who recognise the importance of passing on knowledge in the medical profession - even more if they are effective at passing on that knowledge!’

Adolescent Medicine Unit - Team teaching
‘The AMU team has given me a better insight into the complexities of chronic diseases, especially when coupled with the specific challenges posed by adolescence. Getting to spend time with the other members of the team (eg OT and social workers) was great for seeing how the multidisciplinary team helps. Everyone was very welcoming.’

Adolescent Medicine Unit
Kathryn McGarvey

Kathryn McGarvey - Nursing/allied health
This award acknowledges Kate’s commitment, enthusiasm and time devoted to her role as the Resus4Kids Educator. Every year Kate runs around 12 Resus4Kids workshops for medical students, which are highly regarded and sought after.

Dermot McDowell

Dr Dermot McDowell - Special award
'Dermot McDowell is simply awesome! His tutes are incredibly informative and it's apparent he loves to teach.'

Chris Ingall

Dr Chris Ingall - Rural teaching
'A very patient and helpful teacher.'

Russell Dale

Prof Russell Dale - Supervision of University of Sydney postgraduate research students
This award acknowledges Russell for his commitment, enthusiasm and time devoted to the role as the Clinical School’s Postgraduate Co-ordinator and Sub Dean Postgraduate Studies for the last six years.

Geraldine O

A/Prof Geraldine O'Neill - Supervision of University of Sydney postgraduate research students
This award acknowledges Geraldine for her commitment and enthusiasm to her role as Deputy Postgraduate Co-ordinator in the last four years. As Geraldine stands down from this role, we take this opportunity to sincerely thank her for her contributions over the last four years.

Welcome Esther Tantsis: Academic fellow

Esther Tantsis

We welcome Dr Esther Tantsis, 2015 Academic Fellow at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School. Esther has just completed her training as a paediatric neurologist at Westmead. Esther has a Bachelor of Medical Science majoring in anatomy and neuroscience (USyd) and an MBBS from The University of Sydney, which she completed in 2002. Her pre-internship was at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, where she was one of the first print students to be accepted.

Esther has a PhD on multiple sclerosis and related disorders, completed in 2014 through the University of Sydney. The study was a 10-year retrospective study of all patients presenting to The Children’s Hospital Westmead with an episode of central nervous system demyelination. It examined the clinical phenotype, MRI findings and antibody production in these patients. Her supervisors were Professor Russell Dale and Dr Fabienne Brilot in the neuroimmunology department.

Esther has always had a firm interest in education. She has been running an informal teaching program for the junior members (registrars and residents) on the neurology rotation every term for the last three years and has been teaching medical students in bedside tutorials. As part of her academic fellowship, she will be involved in a range of medical student teaching and will undertake an education project.

Medical education update

Dr Hasantha Gunasekera is the new Coordinator of the Child and Adolescent Health Specialty Block. Dr Anne Morris will remain as Coordinator of Master of Medicine (Paediatrics) and will have an ongoing role in the Child and Adolescent Health Specialty Block.

#edtech Network
The University of Sydney Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL) have recently set up an #edtechNetwork. The network brings members of the university community together for the #edtech talks to hear about the latest edtech developments, and to share their ideas, experiments and successes in using technology in their teaching. The University will be looking to the members of the Network as a source of expertise, ideas and advice in relation to developing new resources and strategies. For more details on #edtech talks or other ITL events

Research news

Congratulations to Ben Marais

Ben Marais

Congratulations to Associate Professor Ben Marais, who has recently published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine:

Oliwa JN, Karumbi JM, Marais BJ, Madhi SA & Graham SM. Tuberculosis as a cause or comorbidity of childhood pneumonia in tuberculosis-endemic areas: a systematic review. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine (2015).

The article summary:
"Pneumonia is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in infants and children worldwide, with most cases occurring in tuberculosis-endemic settings. Studies have emphasised the potential importance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in acute severe pneumonia in children as a primary cause or underlying comorbidity, further emphasised by the changing aetiological range with rollout of bacterial conjugate vaccines in high mortality settings. We systematically reviewed clinical and autopsy studies done in tuberculosis-endemic settings that enrolled at least 100 children aged younger than 5 years with severe pneumonia, and that prospectively included a diagnostic approach to tuberculosis in all study participants. We noted substantial heterogeneity between studies in terms of study population anddiagnostic methods. Of the 3644 patients who had culture of respiratory specimens for M tuberculosis undertaken, 275 (7.5%) were culture positive, and an acute presentation was common. Inpatient case-fatality rate for pneumonia associated with tuberculosis ranged from 4% to 21% in the four clinical studies that reported pathogen-related outcomes. Prospective studies are needed in high tuberculosis-burden settings to address whether tuberculosis is a cause or comorbidity of childhood acute severe pneumonia."

DPCH profile: Dr Aaron Schindler

Aaron Schindeler

Dr Aaron Schindeler is a mid-career research scientist at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. He holds an appointment as a Senior Research Scientist at the Hospital and a Conjoint Senior Research Fellow with the University of Sydney.

Aaron’s research started as a work experience student at the CSIRO while studying at the University of Queensland. At this time he worked on a project using termite genes to improve the digestion of dairy cattle. During his undergraduate years he worked in a range of labs on honey bee genetics, protein crystallography of HIV proteins with novel inhibitors and understanding genes involved with sex determination.

In his PhD at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute he studied fundamental processes involved with muscle and heart development. Looking for a more applied and practical research endeavour, in 2003 he commenced work at the Children’s Hospital under Prof David Little. His starting project was highly translational, aiming to help children with NF1, many of whom had poor surgical outcomes and required amputation.

Over the past 10 years NF1 has been a major focus of Aaron and Prof Little’s research. They have generated new animal models of congenital pseudarthrosis of the tibia (CPT) to try novel pharmacotherapies. One of these, combining BMP-2 and bisphosphonates, has yielded promising results in preclinical models and anecdotally in clinical practice. Together with Prof Kathryn North, Prof Josh Burns and Dr Kate Quinlan, in 2013 he discovered a novel mechanism for muscle weakness associated with NF1, published last year in Human Molecular Genetics. Since then he has elucidated a novel approach for treating this muscle weakness that is showing promising outcomes in animal models.

Aaron has also been fascinated with understanding the cellular determinants of bone repair and has designed new fluorescent reporter models for tracking cells during fracture healing, outlined in “Bone remodeling during fracture repair: The cellular picture”, which has been cited over 270 times. He has become involved with research into genetic bone diseases such as osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) and used cell and drug based approaches to improve outcomes in preclinical models.

Aaron has 59 publications with ~1200 citations and 24 competitive grants totalling almost $5M. This includes five NHMRC project grants, an international fellowship from the CTF (2009-2010) and a major international grant from the US Department of Defence. He has been a named inventor on 14 patent applications.

Prof David Little, A/Prof Craig Munns, Prof Josh Burns and Aaron are establishing the Centre for Children’s Bone and Musculoskeletal Health (CCBMH), due to be launched in 2015. It aims to be a leading university centre for basic, translational and clinical research into paediatric musculoskeletal conditions.

Key Publications:
Seime T, Kolind M, Mikulec K, Summers MA, Cantrill L, Little DG, Schindeler A. Inducible cell labelling and lineage tracking during fracture repair. Develop. Growth Differ. Nov 11 2014; ePub ahead of print.
Sullivan K, El-Hoss J, Quinlan KGR, Deo N, Garton F, Seto JTC, Gdalevitch M, Turner N, Cooney GJ, Kolanczyk M, North KN, Little DG, Schindeler A. NF1 is a critical regulator of muscle development and metabolism. Hum Mol Genet. 2014; 23(5):1250-9.
Cheng TL, Valtchev P, Murphy CM, Cantrill L, Dehghani F, Little DG, Schindeler A. A sugar-based phase-transitioning delivery system for bone tissue engineering. Eur Cell Mater. 2013; 26:208-21.
El-Hoss J, Sullivan K, Cheng T, Yu N, Bobyn J, Peacock L, Mikulec K, Baldock P, Alexander IE, Schindeler A, Little DG. A murine model of neurofibromatosis type 1 tibial pseudarthrosis featuring proliferative fibrous tissue and osteoclast-like cells. J Bone Miner Res. 2012; 27(1):68-78.

Clinical School researcher profile: Prof Russell Dale

Russell Dale

Prof. Russell Dale graduated in medicine in 1992, trained as a paediatrician, paediatric neurologist and academic in London and was awarded his PhD in neuroimmunology at the Institute of Neurology, London in 2006. Since 2007 Russell has worked as clinical academic at the University of Sydney based at The CHW Clinical School. His main areas of research are in paediatric neurology: Paediatric Neuroimmunology, including autoimmune movement disorders, autoimmune encephalitis, CNS demyelination disorders including multiple sclerosis and familial auto inflammatory disorder; and Paediatric movement disorders including Tourette syndrome, genetic and acquired movement disorders. His overall aim is the early recognition and treatment of autoimmune brain disorders, aiming to reverse brain inflammation with immune suppressive treatment and improve outcomes by researching the role of autoantibodies as diagnostic biomarkers, and pathogenic mediators of autoimmune brain disease (where he is internationally recognised for his work).

Russell is Head of child neurology research at CHW and Deputy Head of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research. In 2013 he became Head of the Australia New Zealand Child Neurology Society Research group and in 2011 the Petre Foundation Professor in Paediatric Neurology Research. He runs a significant clinical and laboratory research program in neuroimmunology and movement disorders. His laboratory has discovered, or participated in defining the importance of, several autoantibody biomarkers in neurology. One of their autoantibody biomarker discoveries has been patented.

Russell has published 125 peer-reviewed publications in the most influential and highest citing journals in his field, including Lancet Neurology, Annals of Neurology, Brain and Neurology, with 2850 citations. His most cited article in Brain (2000) has been cited 330 times and is the most cited paper on multiple sclerosis in children. He is a regular invited or keynote speaker at conferences in his field, including the World Congress of Neurology, International Movement Disorders conference and International Child Neurology Conference.

Russell has received $2.7 million dollars in NHMRC and philanthropic support for research, including a 2015 NHMRC project grant in autoimmune movement disorders, 2015 Multiple Sclerosis Research Australia project grant in autoimmune demyelination and NHMRC Practitioner Fellowship award, 2014-18.

Recent selected publications:

  1. Suleiman J, Dale RC. The recognition and treatment of autoimmune epilepsy in
    children. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2014 Dec 8. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12647
  2. Ramanathan S, Reddel SW, Henderson A, Parratt JD, Barnett M, Gatt PN, Merheb
    V, Kumaran RY, Pathmanandavel K, Sinmaz N, Ghadiri M, Yiannikas C, Vucic S,
    Stewart G, Bleasel AF, Booth D, Fung VS, Dale RC, Brilot F. Antibodies to myelin
    oligodendrocyte glycoprotein in bilateral and recurrent optic neuritis. Neurol
    Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2014 Oct 29;1(4):e40. doi:
  3. Dale RC, Tantsis EM, Merheb V, Kumaran RY, Sinmaz N, Pathmanandavel K,
    Ramanathan S, Booth DR, Wienholt LA, Prelog K, Clark DR, Guillemin GJ, Lim CK,
    Mathey EK, Brilot F. Antibodies to MOG have a demyelination phenotype and affect oligodendrocyte cytoskeleton. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2014 May 22;1(1):e12. doi: 10.1212/
  4. Pathmanandavel K, Starling J, Merheb V, Ramanathan S, Sinmaz N, Dale RC,
    Brilot F. Antibodies to Surface Dopamine-2 Receptor and N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
    Receptor in the First Episode of Acute Psychosis in Children. Biol Psychiatry.
    2014 Jul 23. pii: S0006-3223(14)00547-2.
  5. Mohammad SS, Fung VS, Grattan-Smith P, Gill D, Pillai S, Ramanathan S, Brilot
    F, Dale RC. Movement disorders in children with anti-NMDAR encephalitis and other autoimmune encephalopathies. Mov Disord. 2014 Oct;29(12):1539-42.
  6. Dale RC, Brilot F, Duffy LV, Twilt M, Waldman AT, Narula S, Muscal E, Deiva K,
    Andersen E, Eyre MR, Eleftheriou D, Brogan PA, Kneen R, Alper G, Anlar B, Wassmer E, Heineman K, Hemingway C, Riney CJ, Kornberg A, Tardieu M, Stocco A, Banwell B, Gorman MP, Benseler SM, Lim M. Utility and safety of rituximab in pediatric autoimmune and inflammatory CNS disease. Neurology. 2014 Jul 8;83(2):142-50.

Early Career Researcher profile: Dr Leigh Waddell

Leigh Waddell

I am the Laboratory and Diagnostics Manager at the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research. My goal is to enhance diagnostic practices to provide all patients living with neuromuscular disorders (NMDs) a genetic diagnosis and ultimately a cure for their disease.

The next step to advance the diagnosis of NMDs in Australia is to bring Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to standard diagnostic practices. I coordinate and co-lead a research project into gene discovery for NMDs. We have sent samples from 170 families, in whom standard diagnostic practices are yet to identify a diagnosis, to our collaborator A/Prof Daniel MacArthur, group leader at the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT (a world leading Institute in NGS and bioinformatics). Together we have identified a diagnosis for a further 76 families and identified 7 novel NMD causing genes, considerably expanding the list of known genes in the field.

This project has demonstrated the potential for NGS to be used as a diagnostic tool. This will enhance diagnostic success rates and have immediate positive impacts for people living with NMDs through genetic counselling, prenatal diagnosis and providing invaluable information on prognosis. It will also advance the field by contributing to the understanding of disease mechanism and the development of treatments and therapies.

I have co-authored 20 high-quality publications as well as one book chapter. Many of these publications have made major differences to the diagnosis or testing practices of NMDs.

I am a committed member of the diagnostic steering group of the Australasian Neuromuscular Network (ANN). The ANN was established to bring together patient groups, clinicians, diagnostic laboratories and researchers in the field. Together we have made huge advancements towards establishing coordinated diagnostic services NMDs in Australia.

2015 ECR talk and cheese seminars

Topic Date
Social Media and your research Wednesday 25th March
Tips on writing your grant rebuttal Tuesday 12th May
CV building Wednesday 29th July
Mentorship Tuesday 29th September
Tips on grant style and budgets Wednesday 25th November

Venue: Doreen Dew Lecture Theatre, L4 Education Centre
Time: 12.30 - 1.30pm

These sessions are intentionally kept fairly informal with lots of time for open discussion and questions. This program has been developed to address ECR education needs identified in the DPCH ECR research study. Seminars will be held every two months and will address key topics that are relevant for all ECRs (with clinical, basic-science and public health interests).

This is an excellent opportunity to meet other ECRs and strengthen ties within the ECR community. The target audience is all ECRs who are in the first 10 years post-PhD, however interested senior researchers and final-stage PhD students are welcome as well. The coordinators of these events are , A/Prof Patrina Caldwell, A/Prof Karen Walker and A/Prof Nigel Clarke.

Do you want to be a research supervisor?

If you are interested in accreditation as a research supervisor (or know a colleague who would like to supervise), the Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health runs a supervisor accreditation program at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. The Discipline’s program is an alternative to the course offered by the University’s Institute of Teaching & Learning.

If there are sufficient numbers to run the program in 2015, it will be held in July/August. Participants need to attend two of the three seminars (each seminar is two hours) and present at a final accreditation seminar. Further information about supervision of postgraduate research students.

Please register your interest in attending the supervisor accreditation program at CHW by emailing

Medical education research update

DPCH medical education research
The DPCH Medical Education Research meetings are held bi-monthly on the first Tuesday of the month from 12 to 1pm in the CHW Clinical School seminar room. Future meetings in 2015 will be held on:
May 5
July 7
September 1
November 3

If you would like more information, please contact or

The following education research grant has recently been awarded to DPCH staff:

KM Scott, S West, T Gerzina, A Harrison, M Phelps, M McEntee, N Wheate. Harnessing the potential of mobile learning in health practices settings. 2015 University of Sydney Education Innovation Grant. Amount awarded: $10,000.

The following medical education papers have been published and accepted for publication:

O'Leary F. Simulation as a high stakes assessment tool in emergency medicine. Emergency Medicine Australasia. Early view

Scott KM, Gome GA, Richards D & Caldwell PHY (In Press) How trustworthy are apps for maternal and child health patient education? Submitted to Health and Technology.

ANZAHPE 2015 conference
This year’s conference of the Australia New Zealand Association of Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE) will be held in Newcastle from 28 to 31 March. It will be a joint meeting with the Asian Medical Education Association (AMEA) Conference, held from 30 march to 1 April.

Student news

Sydney University Paediatric Society


A stuffed toy ready to play at the Teddy Bear Hospital!

SUPS is a Sydney Medical Program student-initiated and governed society designed to bring together like-minded medical students who have an interest in Paediatric Medicine. SUPS is gearing up for a big year in 2015!

SUPS’ Careers Night will take place at The University of Sydney. We are excited to host six great speakers, including Dr. Megan Phelps and Prof. Andrew Holland. These fantastic speakers will show our medical students the wide range of work that can be done within the field of Paediatrics and will provide advice on how to get involved in Paediatrics as a student.

Our first Teddy Bear Hospital event will take place on the 6th of March as part of the Bandaged Bear Appeal. The Teddy Bear Hospital gives patients and their siblings the opportunity to be a doctor for the day by treating their “sick” stuffed toy provided by SUPS. Keep a look out for future events including a SUPS team for The Balmoral Burn, Music and Arts Day at Bear Cottage, SUPS’ Paediatric Medicine and Paediatric Surgery Case Conferences, and the SUPS Advocacy and Philanthropic Series: a year-long project aimed at raising awareness and funds for a charity involved in Childhood Nutrition.

We sincerely appreciate the support of the staff at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, in particular the support of Dr. Megan Phelps and the Child Life Therapists Karen Weir and Sandra Pengilly. We are looking forward to a great year!

Prof. Stephen Alexander receives MD

Stephen Alexander

Congratulations to Professor Stephen Alexander, who graduated as Doctor of Medicine on 5 December 2014. Because the MD will soon be conferred on all medical graduates, this is the last MD to be awarded as a higher doctorate by research at Sydney Medical School.

Steve is a paediatric nephrologist and Head of the Nephrology Department at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. He trained in Medicine at the University of Melbourne, then Royal Children’s Hospital and subsequently in Perth. At the Children’s Hospital in Boston and the Brigham and Massachusetts General Hospital he worked on human tolerance and mixed chimerism, before returning to Australia.

His research interest, which forms the basis of his MD, is in tolerance in autoimmune disease and transplantation particularly focussed on a subset of lymphocytes called Regulatory T cells or Tregs. He has worked on this at Westmead Campus with his team for 14 years, with close collaboration with Prof Harris, Prof O’Connell, Dr Nankivell and Prof Chapman at Westmead Hospital.

Steve and his team (Dr Wang, Dr Zhang, Dr Watson, Dr Hu, and Dr Fletcher) have demonstrated the cause of tolerance following bone marrow engraftment in spontaneous tolerance in a paediatric liver transplant, and have demonstrated in a number of ways and models the important role of Tregs in protecting against kidney disease and against damage in kidneys post transplantation. His transplant work has also included work on hearts and pancreatic islets.

Throughout his research career Steve has been very much supported by his family, wife Krysty, children Tom, Sam and Isabel, and his parents Pacita and Ivan, to whom he has dedicated his MD.

Postgraduate research student graduation


Congratulations to the students whose degrees were conferred at the Graduation ceremony on 5 December 2014 and in absentia on 3 November 2014.

Julia Brotherton, PhD
Evaluation of Human Papilloma Virus vaccination in Australia: assessing coverage and developing surveillance strategies
Supervisors: Peter McIntyre, Suzanne Garland, Marion Saville

Fleur Garton, PhD
The role of a-actin-3 in muscle adaptation to changing physical demands and the molecular mechanisms involved
Supervisors: Kathryn North, Peter Houweling, Stewart Head

Kelly Gray, PhD
Interventions for congenital talipes equinovarus
Supervisors: Joshua Burns, Paul Gibbons, David Little

Melanie Halliday, MPhil
Cardiopulmonary function in children with congenital heart disease ages 8-12 years: Does performance meet perception?
Supervisors: Dominic Fitzgerald, Hiran Selvadurai, Megan Sherwood

Mandy Ho, PhD
Obesity and Insulin Resistance in Adolescents
Supervisors: Louise Baur, Sarah Garnett

Marshall Hogarth, PhD
alpha-actinin-3: A novel genetic modifier of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Supervisors: Kathryn North, Peter Houweling, Stewart Head


Peter Hsu, PhD
The role of interleukin 10 in immune tolerance -lessons learnt from human pregnancy
Supervisors: Ralph Nanan, Stephen Fuller

Nathan Trist, MPhil
The relationship between trapezium union, CMC joint instability and function following pollicisation
Supervisors: David Little, Michael Tonkin

Gillian Blue awarded DPCH 2014 prize for best paper by HDR student

Gillian Blue

Congratulations to Gillian Blue, who was awarded the Discipline of Paediatric and Child Health’s 2014 Prize for the best paper by a higher degree research student. Her paper “Targeted next generation sequencing identifies pathogenic variants in familial CHD” was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Gillian writes…

"Congenital heart disease (CHD) affects 0.6 - 0.8% of live-born infants and places a significant burden on individuals, their families and society. Most research in this field has focused on the possibility that only a few common genetic changes contribute to the majority of sporadic cases. Although we have learned a lot from large-scale studies, such as the genome wide association studies (GWAS), these studies do not provide information relevant to the majority of individuals. They are helpful in understanding the defects in cardiac development but do not assist in providing individual genetic counselling to patients and their families.

In this study we demonstrate the first use of a congenital heart disease (CHD) gene panel, using next generation sequencing technology, in families affected by Mendelian forms of CHD. Whole exome sequencing offers many opportunities; however, it is often accompanied with logistic and interpretative hurdles. For this reason we set out to create a disease-targeted gene panel for families affected by CHD. We demonstrated a promising diagnostic yield of 31% in the 16 families analysed. Identifying a genetic cause for the heart defect in these families has significant implications for future family planning, as well as assessments for conditions associated with CHD.

The ability to provide individualised advice regarding possible genetic causes and recurrence risks is highly valued by practitioners, affected patients and their families. Furthermore, the CHD panel is the first step in trying to address the questions, 'Why me?' and 'How did this happen?', so often asked by patients and their families."

Postgraduate research student profile: Alan Ma

Alan Ma

Alan Ma is a clinical geneticist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Nepean Hospitals. He is also halfway through a part-time MPhil looking at the genetic basis of developmental eye and Mendelian disorders. His research involves utilising next-generation sequencing technologies, with targeted panel, whole exome and genome sequencing, to find answers for families with rare Mendelian and developmental eye disorders. He is a member of the Eye Genetics Research team, under the supervision of A/Prof. Robyn Jamieson.

Alan’s research has focused on developmental eye disorders such as congenital cataracts, anterior segment dysgenesis and microphthalmia, which have a severe impact on vision. His work on congenital cataracts has demonstrated a very high (70%) mutation detection rate, finding answers for many families with this disorder. This is much higher than the previous published literature and shows the power of new technologies to help families find genetic answers.

This work has led to a number of awards, including the ‘New Investigator Prize’ at the 2014 Human Genetics Society of Australasia meeting in Adelaide, as well as several Sydney University postgraduate conference prizes. He will also be presenting this research at the 2015 American College of Medical Genetics conference in Salt Lake City.

Alan enjoys the ‘bench to bedside’ nature of this research, which involves patient clinical review, consent, genetic counselling, labwork and results provision. As next-generation sequencing becomes more commonplace, he hopes to use his skills in bioinformatics and molecular genetics to improve the diagnosis and management of all the genetics patients that he sees.

In addition to work and research, Alan enjoys long distance and trail running, bushwalks, jazz and his ‘real’ job, which is looking after his 4 week old daughter, Ashley Grace.

Summer research scholarship

The 2014-2015 Summer Research Scholarship (SRS) projects in the Clinical School culminated with a showcase of the students’ oral presentations at a special event on 17 February. Dr Nicholas Wood, Sub Dean Postgraduate Studies and chair of the SRS presentation event said, “We were extremely impressed with the quality and breadth of work undertaken, how much was achieved in a short period, and how clear and well-presented the research activities and findings were. We look forward to seeing the students back in our Discipline down the track for their higher degree candidature”.

The SRS program exposes students to the research process and gives them the opportunity to test whether they wish to purse a research career. The scholarships were jointly funded by Sydney Medical School and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Clinical School and valued at $2,400 for each student. Fifteen SRS students were at the Clinical School over the summer months.

Madeleine Fitzpatrick was the Discipline’s winner of the Clinical School’s presentations and went on to compete in the Dean’s SRS Prize Competition against seven other finalists. Madeleine’s polished and professional presentation and confident answering of questions won her first prize. Congratulations Madeleine!

Madeleine Fitzpatrick

Madeleine (right) and her supervisor A/Prof. Geraldine O'Neill

Madeleine wrote…
"My SRS project utilised a spheroid model of neuroblastoma to test whether two novel compounds could change cellular invasion patterns. I worked with A/Prof Geraldine O’Neill and Dr. Camilla Mitchell. I am currently studying an MBBS at the University of Western Sydney and have just completed a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney. My SRS project was valuable in exposing me to the research process and has encouraged me to incorporate further research into my medical career. I would highly recommend an SRS project to all aspiring scientists as it provides a great deal of insight into the process behind published science."

Postgraduate Students' Society

Introducing the NEW Westmead hub post grad student society.


The Student Research Society (StResS @ Westmead) is a social society for all research students based at or affiliated with the Westmead campus. StResS endeavours to provide a variety of social and educational events with the aim of creating an exciting and supportive student environment on and around campus.

We are always looking for new ideas and team members – even if it’s just for one or two events, so if you have any ideas please feel free to contact us, we’d love to hear them!

Join our mailing list to keep up to date with the latest social events

Grants, Achievements, Promotions and Titles

Grant news

G Wong. Understanding the social determinants and health disparities in children with chronic kidney disease (K-CAD) study. Jacquot Research Establishment Fellowship. Amount awarded: $90,000.

KM Scott, S West, T Gerzina, A Harrison, M Phelps, M McEntee, N Wheate. Harnessing the potential of mobile learning in health practices settings. 2015 University of Sydney Education Innovation Grant. Amount awarded: $10,000.

Congratulations to Dr Gulam Khandaker on his recent grants:

  1. Research Foundation of Cerebral Palsy Alliance - 2014 Grants Program (Career Development Grant) of $AUD48,698.4 over a two year period [PI Dr Gulam Khandaker]
  2. Research Foundation of Cerebral Palsy Alliance - 2014 Grants Program (Project grant) of $AUD27,000.0 over a one-year period
    Project title: Bangladesh Cerebral Palsy (CP) Register: IT Set Up
    [Investigators (Australia): Dr Gulam Khandaker, Ms Hayley Smithers-Sheedy, A/Prof Iona Novak, Prof Nadia Badawi, Prof Cheryl Jones and Prof Robert Booy
    Investigators (Bangladesh): Prof Mohammed Muhit, Md. Monzurul Alam, Dr Aynul Khan, Md. Johurul Islam, Ms Afroza Parvin and Ms Shahitaze Parvin]
  3. Sydney Medical School New Staff/Early Career Researcher Scheme 2015, $17,560 for one year [PI Dr Gulam Khandaker]
    Project title: Burden of congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in Bangladesh and Myanmar: piloting a rapid retrospective assessment model for detention of CRS in developing countries


Level C Senior Lecturer promotions
Dr Karen Scott

Level E Professor promotions
Professor Stephen Alexander – Professor of Paediatric Nephrology and Transplantation
Professor Maria Craig – Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology
Professor Russell Dale - Professor of Paediatric Neurology


Upcoming conferences and meetings


Men’s Mental Health: Building a Healthier Future Forum 2015. Sydney - 19 & 20 Feb 2015.
Mental Health Services (MHS) Learning Network will be holding The MHS Summer Forum ‘Men’s Mental Health: Building a Healthier Future’ in Sydney in February 2015.
TheMHS Summer Forum is an annual two day educational program that examines the obstacles to good mental health services, highlights recent research, sets out the challenges, and focuses on policies, programs and directions for the future. Visit the MHS website for more details.

23rd International Childhood Education Symposium. England - 15 - 19 Mar 2015.
This symposium will be held at Harris Manchester College in the University of Oxford, England from 15 to 19 March 2015. Early bird registration closes 15 October 2014. For further information, please visit the website

ANZAHPE/AMEA 2015 Joint Conference . Newcastle Town Hall, Newcastle, NSW, March 29 - April 1, 2015.
For the first time, the Australian & New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators (ANZAHPE) and the Asian Medical Education Association (AMEA) will hold their annual conferences conjointly in 2015. The joint Conference will be held at the fabulous venue of Newcastle City Hall in Newcastle, NSW. RACP Congress 2015

9th Australasian Gene and Cell Therapy Society meeting University College, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria - 29th April to 1st May 2015.
Further details, including conference registration and membership application forms are available on the AGCTS website. Alternatively, you may contact the Secretary

RACP Congress 2015 Cairns, Queensland, May 24-27, 2015.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is holding its annual Congress in the stunning tropical setting of Cairns, North Queensland. The congress includes the ceremony, a diverse program including workshops and sessions, exhibits, and social functions.
In 2015, we are building on the past theme of Future Directions in Health, and moving forward to reinvigorate Congress and challenge delegates to ‘break boundaries and create connections’. For further information please visit the website.

9th World Congress on Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, November 18-21, 2015.
We invite you to join us at the upcoming 9th World Congress on Pediatric Infectious Diseases (WSPID 2015). The congress provides specialists a world forum for sharing the latest knowledge and receiving updates on the treatment and prevention of pediatric infectious diseases. Organized by the World Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (WSPID), this biennial congress is the largest gathering of its kind. For further information please visit the website.


3rd International Conference on Nutrition and Growth (N&G 2016) Vienna, Austria, March 17-19 2016.
The 3rd International Conference on Nutrition and Growth (N&G 2016) will provide a unique platform for discussing the interplay between nutrition and growth in children. For further information visit the website.

28th International Pediatric Association Congress Vancouver, Canada, August 17-22, 2016
The 2016 IPA Congress will have the theme of Community, Diversity and Vitality. For further information please visit the website