WA Early-Career Child Health Fellowships Awarded in the Inaugural 2023 Round

Four early-career researchers committed to child health research have been awarded three years of funding each from the inaugural round of the Early-Career Child Health Researcher (ECCHR) Fellowships Program co-sponsored by the BrightSpark Foundation and the Western Australian Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund

Dr Samantha Carlson

Improving Childhood Vaccine Uptake in Western Australia 
The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute 
Samantha will do research that aims to protect more WA families from vaccine preventable diseases by improving childhood vaccine uptake. Dr Carlson will work with the community, health care providers, and organisations to codesign research projects and activities to ensure people are vaccinated on-time. 

Dr Brittany Dewdney

A new window of opportunity for children with brain cancer: An innovative model for evaluating the brain wound healing response and the paediatric immune microenvironment after brain surgery 
The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute 
Brittany will explore different ways of removing brain tumours in children. This work has the potential to change surgical approaches on children and lead to improved immunotherapy clinical trials. 

Denby Evans

Investigating the airway epithelium as a novel treatable trait of preterm-associated lung disease 
Curtin University and Telethon Kids Institute 
Denby will study the airways of premature babies whose lung function usually declines as they age. Ms Evans plans to identify what aspect of the cell structure and behaviour contributes to lung disease, opening the door to new treatments and improved lung health after preterm birth. 

Dr Hannah Thomas

Active listening: addressing community priorities and recommendations from the SToP Trial 
The University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute 
Hannah will work with Kimberley communities to identify, understand and action community-led skin health research. Untreated skin infections can lead to acute rheumatic fever and subsequent rheumatic heart disease – a preventable disease. 

The quality of applications submitted this round was of a very high standard and we thank the many applicants for their submissions in this highly competitive round. The four new Fellows are now incredibly well placed to deliver an independent research project over the next three years. We are looking forward to supporting them as they gain confidence and experience through this critical early-career development phase.  

Graham Dowland, Chair, BrightSpark Foundation

The applications were assessed by members of the Program Fellowship Advisory Panel (PFAP), which comprised six representatives from WA research organisations. Each applicant was assessed against five selection criteria. The four Fellows demonstrated a strong commitment to child health research and the ability to deliver an independent research project with the potential to have a significant impact on health outcomes for WA children. The Board are very grateful to the PFAP members who contributed their time and expertise in reviewing the applications.  

The three-year Fellowships will commence early in 2024. Each Fellow will receive a funding package which contributes towards salary and direct research costs (DRCs) up to the value of $120,000 per annum. 

The ECCHR Fellowships Program will open for applications for the 2024 round in early to mid 2024. 

About BrightSpark Foundation 

For more than 45 years, the BrightSpark Foundation has financially supported over 200 child health researchers in WA including the more recent collaboration with Raine Medical Research Foundation (Raine) to co-fund annual priming grants to emerging to mid-career researchers for WA based CHR projects assessed on a competitive basis. The new Early- Career Child Health Fellowships complement the existing Raine/BrightSpark Priming Grants fellowships program which supports mid-career researchers undertaking CHR in WA.  
 About WA Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund   

The WA Government’s FHRI Fund provides a secure source of funding to drive health and medical research, innovation and commercialisation and through these activities, improve the health and prosperity of all Western Australians.   It also provides an opportunity to diversify the economy, create jobs, improve the sustainability of the health system and position WA as a leader in research and innovation.  

This ECCHR Fellowships Program is being administered by BrightSpark. Further information is available on its website and enquiries may be directed to Dr Misty Palmer, Research Program Manager, info@brightsparkfoundation.com.au.

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