Listen: Dr Hamish Graham in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Oxygen is an expensive and scarce resource for health facilities in the developing world. By training staff in identifying the sick children who need oxygen the most, a Melbourne student researcher and doctor has helped Nigerian hospitals halve the number of children dying from pneumonia.
Paediatrician, Dr Hamish Graham, spoke to Open House about being the award he has been given for his work and his vision to see oxygen available to every child in the world who needs it.
$20,000 inaugural award
Dr Graham is 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. He has been awarded with the inaugural $20,000 CSL Florey Next Generation Award for top PhD candidate in health and biomedical sciences.
Identifying children who need it most
Hamish, a paediatrician who has worked in Sudan and Nigeria, is now working to make oxygen—a treatment we take for granted in Australia—available to every child who needs it.
Oxygen therapy can save the lives of children hospitalised with pneumonia, malaria, meningitis and other conditions. Hamish’s research and his experiences as a doctor have shown that knowing which children need oxygen the most is vitally important for hospitals in developing countries where oxygen supplies are limited.
Training as important as the oxygen
Hamish’s work with 12 Nigerian hospitals has found that supplying pulse oximeters—clip-on devices that measure a person’s pulse and blood oxygen saturation—and the training to use them is as important as supplying oxygen itself.
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“We’ve found that giving nurses pulse oximeters so they can identify which children need oxygen is really the key to improving how oxygen is used. We’ve seen oxygen access improve significantly, we’ve seen lives saved and we’ve answered some important research questions.”
Halving child deaths
Hamish’s research has found this approach can halve the deaths of children admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He says the next steps are building those changes into policy in Africa and beyond.
“The Nigerian government has been changing its policies. Now we want to work with the World Health Organization to make sure pulse oximetry is part of routine care for every sick child that comes to hospital.”
CSL Florey Next Generation Award
The CSL Florey Next Generation Award recognises a current PhD candidate who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and potential in biomedical sciences, health and medical research. It is an initiative of the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), supported by CSL, to encourage the field’s rising stars. It carries a $20,000 cash prize and trophy.
From research to lifesaving best practice
“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,” says CSL’s Chief Scientist, Dr Andrew Cuthbertson. “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.”
Howard Florey helped develop penicillin
“Howard Florey was a promising medical student and later a PhD candidate long before he conducted his Nobel Prize-winning research developing penicillin,” says AIPS director Peter McMahon. “We are delighted to acknowledge achievements in this new generation of Australian medical research pioneers.”
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