Million-dollar questions

Can you mend a broken heart? Will wearing hearing aids prevent dementia? What’s the best way to treat diabetes? How can you help someone who is hospitalised after illicit drug use? Is it true we really are what we eat?

RPH Research Foundation’s new Career Advancement Fellowships program is providing more than $1 million in funding to help six of WA’s brightest researchers discover the answers to these important health questions. RPH Research Foundation’s Board Chair Professor Lyn Beazley said the Career Advancement Fellowships were created to nurture talented early to mid-career researchers. The foundation was inundated with applications for the first funding round.

Among the winners was Dr Catherine Bondonno, from Edith Cowan University’s Institute for Nutrition Research, who has helped to prove clinically that eating an apple a day can keep the doctor away by improving your heart health and reducing your risk of heart disease. And WA’s Pink Lady and Bravo varieties offer some of the biggest heart health bangs for your bite.

Another tick for kids’ hospice

WA’s landmark children’s hospice is another step closer to providing holistic and compassionate care to children living with a life-limiting condition. The State Government is investing an additional $3.2 million for project planning and design to finalise the detail of the project. The Child and Adolescent Health Service has entered into a partnership with the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation to build the hospice, which will cost an estimated $25m, with the foundation so far securing $5m from other sources.

The hospice will have seven beds and three family accommodation suites for families to stay onsite, which will be particularly important for regional families. The hospice will provide outreach support and bereavement care to children and families across WA. It is expected to be complete in late 2023 and open in 2024.

New silica testing

WA recently became the first state to mandate more advanced CT scans, replacing less effective chest x-rays for workers in an update to legislation last amended 25 years ago. Now Perth Radiological Clinic is using a new way to perform CT scans to diagnose potentially lethal silicosis in people working with engineered stone. Dust disease experts at PRC have trialled the new and more detailed CT scan with improved imaging and reduced radiation dose. Silicosis, once common but now almost non-existent in mining workers, has re-emerged as a major risk for industries working with engineered stone.

Money up for grabs

WA’s peak diabetes research funding group is urging the State’s medical researchers to apply for grants for 2022 projects. Diabetes Research WA is putting forward two $60,000 research grants to help keep WA researchers in the lab looking for breakthrough discoveries. The winners of the grants will be announced around World Diabetes Day, held on November 14 each year. Grant application information can be found at, with submissions closing on July 30.

Loo help

The only Continence Nurse Specialist Course in Australia is underway at Hollywood Private Hospital, coordinated by a 79-year-old nurse with 60 years’ nursing experience. The unique course provides 14 nurses from WA and interstate with theory and clinical placement to help people living with incontinence. Training and Development Manager Anne Green said the course had been running for 30 years, with graduates providing an important service to clients of all ages with care and compassion. 

“We are the only remaining provider of such a course in Australia,” Mrs Green said. “Without this contribution there would be a devastating gap for people who live with incontinence, or struggle without knowing what options are available.” 

The course is run by Continence Nurse Specialist Lesley Pitman, 79. “Incontinence affects all different types of people, from small children to the elderly,” she said. “Many people end up in nursing homes because they are incontinent.”

Winners are grinners 

The South Metropolitan Health Service has recognised exceptional clinical and patient-centred care at its recent 2021 Excellence Awards attended by more than 200 staff, guests and sponsors. The winners included: Excellence in Clinical Care – the Comprehensive oral care project, Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group (FSFHG); Excellence in Improving the Patient Experience – My Choice fixed menu and allergy mapping project, FSFHG; Excellence in Developing and Engaging Staff/Team – Annual IMPROVE Conference, FSFHG; Excellence in Strengthening Partnerships – Aged Care Transition and Liaison Nurse, Rockingham Peel Group; Excellence in Innovation – Frailty Assessment Unit, FSFHG; Researcher of the Year – Professor Bu Yeap, Consultant Endocrinologist, FSFHG.

Tackling blindness

Western Australia is on the cusp of developing a world-first treatment for thousands of sufferers of a form of retinitis pigmentosa, which could see patients’ slow transition into blindness stopped in its tracks. The treatment, which was conceived, researched, developed and will hopefully be trialled in WA, is targeted at retinitis pigmentosa 11 – a degenerative condition that causes a gradual deterioration of vision until a person is completely blind. 

It was first envisaged after Professor Sue Fletcher, PYC Therapeutic chief scientific officer, had a discussion with renowned ophthalmologist Dr Fred Chen, (Lions Eye Institute and The University of Western Australia), who was growing frustrated watching his clients suffering this condition, which is the leading cause of childhood blindness, slowly having their eyesight taken from them.

“The fact that all the key moments of the development of this treatment have been in Perth is truly remarkable,” Professor Fletcher said. “The proof-of-concept work was undertaken at Murdoch University, in collaboration with Dr Chen and his team at the Lions Eye Institute.

Dig Deep

WA Indian Doctors Foundation which does the charity work has launched a fundraising initiative to do ground work in Kolkata, India, in one of the COVID-19 epicentres. It is concentrating on raising public health awareness to help create some resilience in the population. 

To help go to

Over the rainbow

Staff at North Metropolitan Health Service were encouraged to wear rainbow colours on May 17 to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia. The day was a celebration of sexuality, gender and diversity that aimed to raise awareness for the work still needed to combat discrimination towards LGBTQIA+ people around the world. 

The NMHS said it was important that all people, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex variations, had access to safe health services and work in an inclusive workplace.

Art for art’s sake 

What do you do with leftover metal from orthopaedic surgery? Turn it into art, according to the Head of Orthopaedics at St John of God Murdoch. Professor Piers Yates has created and donated a sculptural piece to Murdoch – a crucifix made from metal tools, implants and equipment used in surgery. He creates many of these sculptures, but this one was especially created for Murdoch.

Father Jose, left, CEO Ben Edwards and Professor Piers Yates with the donated artwork.