29 Nov 2022

Research translation celebrated at Sydney Showcase 2022

Australia’s leaders in research translation have come together at Sydney Showcase, an event co-hosted by Maridulu Budyari Gumal (SPHERE),  Sydney Health Partners and the Sax Institute as part of the NHMRC Research Translation Long Weekend.

Held on November 17 at Sydney University, the in-person event brought together a community of researchers, clinicians, and administrators to celebrate successful research translation.

Presentations began with Professor Sandy Middleton from Australian Catholic University who spoke about the successful rollout of the Quality in Acute Stroke Care program across Australia and Europe. The program, which involves nurses trained to monitor a patient’s temperature, blood-sugar levels and ability to swallow immediately after a stroke, has been shown to reduce the risk of death and disability by up to 16%.

Professor Middleton explained that researchers need to be mindful of the minimum intervention required to be effective.

“It’s easy to over-egg the pudding when it comes to implementation science,” she said.

“We need to think of implementation like a drug trial – what’s the lowest dose of intervention that will be enough?”

The idea of making intervention as simple as possible, while still being effective, was echoed in the presentation by Professor Luke Wolfenden from the University of Newcastle. He discussed his team’s work on the school lunchbox education program, SWAP IT, and how it was simplified as it evolved from a pilot study to an Australia-wide program.

Professor Wolfenden said the process of scaling up the program showed the value of having a financial partner who is a stakeholder in the research.

“Having skin in the game is important. Unless you have partners, you’ll never have translation.”

Clinical Associate Professor, Merran Findlay, from the University of Sydney, an expert in nutrition support for people with cancer, spoke about her involvement in creating new clinical guidelines and then implementing them in hospitals.

“It’s a challenging process - the sands often shift beneath your feet. You need to be prepared to adapt.”

She emphasised the importance of interviewing patients, carers and clinicians before and after the intervention, to give “everyone a voice” and to ensure that the intervention was suitable for patients.

The importance of scalability in research translation was further explored by Adjunct Professor Andrew Milat, Director of Evidence and Evaluation at the NSW Ministry of Health. Professor Milat offered an insightful summary of NSW Health’s COVID-19 response and the lessons learnt from it.

“It’s an amazing example of how quickly research translation can occur,” he said. He also cited the Translational Research Framework, which was developed by the Sax Institute, as a great resource for early-career researchers.

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