2018 – Dr Hamish Graham

Oxygen halves child pneumonia deaths

A Melbourne student researcher and doctor has helped Nigerian hospitals halve the number of children dying from pneumonia—just by improving training and access to oxygen.

Dr Hamish Graham has been awarded with the inaugural $20,000 CSL Florey Next Generation Award for top PhD candidate in health and biomedical sciences.

2018 Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) annual dinner event in the Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra. Including the CSL Florey Next Generation Award presentation. 26 November 2018.
Photo: Bradley Cummings

Targeted oxygen therapy could save the lives of thousands of children. Hamish Graham says the key is identifying the children who need it most. He has found that providing Nigerian hospitals with equipment and training to measure blood oxygen levels has halved the number of children dying from pneumonia.

Hamish, a paediatrician who has worked in Sudan and Nigeria, is now working to make oxygen—a treatment we take for granted in Australia—available to every child who needs it.

Hamish’s research and his experiences as a doctor have shown that knowing which children need oxygen the most is vitally important for hospitals in developing countries where oxygen supplies are limited.

His work demonstrates that supplying pulse oximeters—clip-on devices that measure a person’s pulse and blood oxygen saturation—and the training to use them is as important as supplying oxygen itself.

“The Nigerian government has been changing its policies. Now we want to work with the World Health Organization to make sure pulse oximetry is part of routine care for every sick child that comes to hospital.”

The CSL Florey Next Generation Award recognises a current PhD candidate who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and potential in biomedical sciences, health and medical research. It is an initiative of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), supported by CSL, to encourage the field’s rising stars.

It carries a $20,000 cash prize and trophy, and was awarded last night at the Great Hall of Parliament House as part of the annual Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes gala dinner.

“Dr Graham’s work highlights the benefits to global healthcare practice from the translation of medical research. Clinician researchers such as Hamish have a critical role to play in translating research knowledge and expertise into best practice medical care,” says CSL’s Chief Scientist, Dr Andrew Cuthbertson. “CSL is proud to support this award for promising young Australian researchers. We commend Hamish on his outstanding achievements and look forward to following his career.”

“Howard Florey was a promising medical student and later a PhD candidate long before he conducted his Nobel Prize-winning research developing penicillin,” says AIPS director Peter McMahon. “We are delighted to acknowledge achievements in this new generation of Australian medical research pioneers.”

Dr Hamish Graham is a paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital and a doctoral candidate and research fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne.

Two runner-up prizes of $2,500 were also awarded to two finalists, selected from more than 90 applications:

  • Naomi Clarke, Australian National University, for her work towards eradicating intestinal worms
  • Dean Picone, Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, for his work developing better ways to measure blood pressure.

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare Catherine King with Award winner Hamish Graham and runners up Naomi Clarke and Dean Picone (Photo credit: AAMRI/Bradley Cummings)

Winner’s profile

Hamish Graham, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne

Targeted oxygen therapy could save the lives of thousands of children. Melbourne researcher Hamish Graham says the key is identifying the children who need it most. He found that providing Nigerian hospitals with equipment and training to measure blood oxygen levels has halved the number of children dying from pneumonia.

Hamish, a paediatrician who has worked in Sudan and Nigeria, is now working to make oxygen—a treatment we take for granted in Australia—available to every child who needs it.

Oxygen therapy can save the lives of children hospitalised with pneumonia, malaria, meningitis and other conditions. Hamish’s research and his experiences as a doctor have shown that knowing which children need oxygen the most is vitally important for hospitals in developing countries where oxygen supplies are limited.

Hamish’s work with 12 Nigerian hospitals has found that supplying pulse oximeters—clip-on devices that measure a person’s pulse and blood oxygen saturation—and the training to use them is as important as supplying oxygen itself.

“We’ve found that giving nurses pulse oximeters so they can identify which children need oxygen is really the key to improving how oxygen is used. We’ve seen oxygen access improve significantly, we’ve seen lives saved and we’ve answered some important research questions.”

Hamish’s research has found this approach can halve the deaths of children admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He says the next steps are building those changes into policy in Africa and beyond.

“The Nigerian government has been changing its policies. Now we want to work with the World Health Organization to make sure pulse oximetry is part of routine care for every sick child that comes to hospital.”

Finalists

Eradicating gut worms: a path out of poverty – Naomi Clarke, Australian National University

Hundreds of millions of children worldwide are infected with intestinal worms, which can stunt their growth and trap them in a cycle of poverty. Naomi Clarke has shown more can be done to reduce these worm infections worldwide.

Global efforts to control intestinal worms are reducing infection rates. Naomi’s research has shown that simple changes to program guidelines could benefit millions more children.

Smart blood pressure measurement to cut heart risk – Dean Picone, Menzies Institute for Medical Research

Heart disease is the world’s biggest killer, and high blood pressure is the top warning sign. Dean Picone is developing a smarter way to measure blood pressure, to save lives and prevent unnecessary treatment.

“We’ve been measuring blood pressure the same way for more than 100 years,” Dean says. He thinks modern technology can do better than the standard inflatable cuff method.

Background information

About the CSL Next Generation Award and the CSL Florey Medal

The CSL Florey Next Generation Award is a new award conferred to a current PhD candidate who has demonstrated outstanding capability, creativity and potential in the biomedical sciences and/or health and medical research.

It has been developed to encourage and support promising health and medical researchers early in their careers, and to complement the Florey Medal which is awarded biennially to an Australian biomedical researcher for significant achievements in biomedical science or human health advancement, and is supported by CSL Limited.

The Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS)

The Australian Institute of Policy and Science is an independent and non-partisan not-for-profit organisation founded in 1932. They have grown with Australia’s public policy history and work to:

  • increase public engagement in science
  • promote excellence in research, innovation, and the promotion and communication of science
  • inform and influence policy and policymaking
  • invest in a scientifically inspired, literate and skilled Australia that contributes to local and global social challenges.

AIPS achieves its objectives through an extensive network of partners spanning university, government, industry and community actors.