Breath of fresh air

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

Doctor Hamish Graham, 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, who has worked in Sudan and Nigeria, says targeted oxygen therapy could save the lives of thousands of children and the key is identifying the children who need it most.

Dr Graham has found that providing Nigerian hospitals with equipment and training to measure blood oxygen levels has halved the number of children dying from pneumonia and he is now working to make oxygen available to every child who needs it, a treatment taken for granted in Australia.

His work is said to demonstrate that supplying pulse oximeters, devices that measure a person’s pulse and blood oxygen saturation, and the training to use them are as important as supplying oxygen itself.

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

Dr Graham has been awarded the inaugural $20,000 CSL Florey Next Generation Award – an initiative of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, supported by CSL, to encourage rising talent – for top PhD candidate in health and biomedical sciences.

The $20,000 cash prize and trophy recognise a current PhD candidate who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and potential in biomedical sciences, health and medical research.

CSL’s Chief Scientist Dr Andrew Cuthbertson said: “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.

“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.”

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

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