2017 Research Grants recipients

March 28, 2017

Eight researchers across Australia were awarded to generate new knowledge with the potential to drive improvements in stroke prevention, treatment and care.

Small projects grants recipients

Dr Elif Ekinci, The University of Melbourne
Research project – Metformin in patients with pre-diabetes and stroke study

Dr Elif Ekinci a researcher from The University of Melbourne will lead a pilot study into the treatment of stroke patients with pre-diabetes. Diabetes is a leading cause of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. Pre-diabetes also increases the risk of stroke – this risk is increased in stroke survivors. With the support of the Stroke Foundation, Dr Ekinci will investigate if the diabetes drug metformin can reduce the risk of pre-diabetic stroke survivors suffering another stroke.

Margaret Galloway, University of Newcastle
Research project – Determining the minimum dose of exercise required to improve cardiorespiratory fitness in stroke survivors

Many stroke survivors are unable to achieve a recommended minimum amount of physical activity which puts them at risk of suffering a secondary stroke. University of Newcastle researcher Margaret Galloway has been awarded a Stroke Foundation grant to investigate if lower doses of physical activity can improving cardio fitness in people after stroke. The study will deliver exercise sessions via telerehabilitation in participants’ own homes. If successful, this approach could mean supervised exercise training is more achievable for stroke survivors in regional and rural areas, and for others who have difficulty accessing community fitness facilities.

Dr Dana Wong – Monash University
Research project – Telehealth delivery of memory rehabilitation following stroke

Monash University researcher Dr Dana Wong will utilise a Stroke Foundation grant to develop a telehealth rehabilitation program to help stroke survivors with memory loss. About half of all stroke survivors experience memory difficulties, which affects their ability to work, carry out daily activities independently, and enjoy a rich quality of life. Memory rehabilitation programs can significantly improve everyday memory function. However, barriers to accessing these rehabilitation services include geographic location, mobility restrictions, and economic cost. Telehealth options such as videoconferencing may represent a cost-effective way to overcome these barriers. This study will determine whether digital technology can deliver the same positive outcomes as face-to-face rehabilitation. This innovative study will be the first to establish whether telehealth approaches to memory rehabilitation can be feasible, effective, and a cost-efficient inclusion to stroke rehabilitation services.

Dr Rachel McGrath – University of Sydney
Research project – Short-Term Exenatide therapy in Acute ischaemic Stroke (STEXAS) Study

University of Sydney researcher Dr Rachel McGrath will lead a groundbreaking study to determine the best way to manage high blood sugar levels in acute stroke patients. Both high and low blood sugar levels during stroke can have a negative impact on a patient’s health and recovery. Elevated blood sugar levels increase the patient’s risk of dying threefold as the stroke can spread to a larger area of the brain. This clinical trial will determine whether the peptide Exenatide can effectively lower blood glucose levels in stroke patients and as a result the risk of disability and even death.

Dr Margaret McGrath – University of Sydney
Research project – Sexuality after stroke: Development and pilot of a novel patient-centred intervention

University of Sydney researcher Dr Margaret McGrath will lead an innovative project looking at new ways to help stroke survivors and their partners to reclaim their sex lives after stroke. Despite the fact many stroke survivors and their partners experience difficulties with sexuality after stroke, less than 20 percent of stroke survivors in Australia receive education and support in this area. Despite its relevance to health and wellbeing, sexuality is neglected in rehabilitation and there is a lack of patient-centred resources. Dr McGrath’s project will address this gap by developing a pilot intervention program for stroke survivors and their partners covering crucial areas such as sexual identity, intimacy, and relationships.

Seed grant recipients

Dr Nadine Andrew – Monash University
Research project – Identifying gaps and inequalities in access to GP coordinated care for survivors of stroke

The long-term needs of Australians living with stroke are not being met by our healthcare system. It is difficult to address this problem when little is known about how survivors are managed in the community. Dr Nadine Andrew from the University of Monash has been awarded a seed grant from the Stroke Foundation to determine how stroke survivors are being managed in the community. The study will for the first time determine patterns of GP access, the type of care provided, and whether or not survivors are being managed according to best practice. This important study will provide an insight into the ‘black hole’ that survivors often feel they have been plunged into upon discharge.

Dr Kathleen Bagot – The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Research project – Technology-facilitated communication to improve the door-to-treatment times for patients with acute stroke symptoms: from proof-of-concept to sustainable intervention

Faster delivery of time-critical stroke therapies improves patient outcomes. Dr Kathleen Bagot, a researcher at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, is leading a trial of the Pulsara smart-phone app to determine if this technology can improve access to time-critical stroke treatment. The Pulsara app enables real-time, simultaneous communication between ambulance and hospital and emergency department staff. This Australia-first evaluation of this app is now being extended from a proof-of-concept pilot to a 12 month trial thanks to a Stroke Foundation seed grant. Results from this trial will provide support to use the app in more Australian hospitals and ambulance services.

Future leader

Dr Tanya Medley, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Dr Tanya Medley, a senior research scientist at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is the recipient of the 2017 Future Leader grant. Throughout her career, Dr Medley has focussed her work on cardiovascular disease, researching various areas such as genetics, regenerative medicine and vascular biology. Dr Medley led the development of the Heart Foundation’s blood pressure guidelines and coordinated the National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance’s Absolute Cardiovascular Disease Risk Guidelines. Dr Medley is currently coordinating the first set of national clinical guidelines for childhood stroke to improve the care of Australia’s youngest stroke patients. Dr Medley is a true future leader and will use the grant to further her knowledge of implementation science and enhance her ability to lead the implementation of Australia’s first set of paediatric stroke guidelines.