Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research

Established in 1995, the Victorian Government’s Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research recognise the exceptional contributions of Victoria’s early-career health and medical researchers and highlight the breadth of work being undertaken in Victoria to make significant improvements to the lives of people around the world.

Recipients of the five category awards receive $5,000, and an additional $15,000 is granted to the winner of the Premier's Excellence award.

The five award categories include:

  • Basic Science Researcher
  • Clinical Researcher
  • Aboriginal Researcher undertaking research in any field of health and medical research.
  • Health Services Researcher
  • Public Health Researcher

Key dates for the 2023-24 awards

  1. Applications open

    22 November
  2. Closing date

    07 January

    Applications for the 2023 Premier's Awards for Health and Medical Research are now closed.

    All applicants will be advised via email of the outcome of their application approximately 12 weeks after the closing date.

  3. Outcomes announced

    Finalists and unsuccessful applicants will be notified in early 2024.

  4. Awards ceremony

    The awards ceremony will be held in 2024

Assessment

Assessment process

The assessment process will be conducted by a selection panel comprised of leading members of the Victorian health and medical research community, representing a broad range of health and medical research fields.

Eligible applications will be assessed by the selection panel on how well they meet the assessment criteria. All supplementary attachments, including reference letters and other information provided as part of the application, will be taken into consideration during the assessment process.

The selection panel will determine finalists and make recommendations to the Minister for Medical Research on category and Premier’s Excellence Award winners.

No correspondence will be entered into regarding the final outcomes of the selection process including feedback on any application. This decision will not be subject to review or appeal of any kind.

This is a competitive program and successful applications will be required to rate highly against the assessment criteria, once the assessment process has been completed, the panel will determine finalists and make recommendations to the Minister for Medical Research on category and Premier’s Excellence Award winners.

Assessment criteria

CriteriaWeighted percentage

1.    Quality and significance of research project outcomes

  • Scientific rigour regarding all aspects of the research design, including methodology, hypotheses, measurement of outcomes and statistical analysis.
  • Applicant’s project contributes novel insights into an issue where there is both burden and unmet research need, and the extent to which the research will lead to translational outcomes.
  • Research output as judged by measurable outcomes such as research publications, patent applications, adoption of findings or methods into clinical or public health practice; prizes, evidence of research and research-related knowledge transfer and other evidence of national and international recognition including conference/speaking engagement.
70 per cent

2.    Applicant’s degree of independence and autonomy

  • In conceiving their research project, including the generation of hypotheses, research design and methodology.
  • In the execution of the research project, including interpretation of the results and in writing the papers.
15 per cent

3.    Demonstrates qualities of an emerging leader in their field

  • As judged by contributions such as: collaborative networking between other organisations/ institutions, peer reviewing of publications, engagement with community or public advocacy, facilitating and/or speaking at events, student mentoring, equitable collaboration on their university or institute departmental activities, and active involvement in student or professional societies, committees, clubs or teams.
15 per cent

2022 Winners

Dr Emily Lelliott

Dr Emily Lelliott In the past decade, groundbreaking therapies have emerged that extend the life expectancy of melanoma patients and, in some cases, lead to cures. However, despite this, an Australian life is still lost to melanoma every six hours. Dr Lelliott recognised the urgent need to understand why these therapies succeed in some patients but fail to save others. Her research aimed to unravel the underlying effectiveness of these therapies and identify ways to enhance their efficacy in a broader range of patients.

In the past decade, groundbreaking therapies have emerged that extend the life expectancy of melanoma patients and, in some cases, lead to cures. However, despite this, an Australian life is still lost to melanoma every six hours. Dr Lelliott recognised the urgent need to understand why these therapies succeed in some patients but fail to save others. Her research aimed to unravel the underlying effectiveness of these therapies and identify ways to enhance their efficacy in a broader range of patients.

The research uncovered unexpected effects of melanoma therapies on the immune system, specifically on a type of immune cell called T-cells. T-cells have abilities to identify and eliminate harmful diseases, including cancer, within the body. Dr Lelliott's discoveries revealed that therapies initially designed to target melanoma cells also significantly enhance the cancer-fighting capacity of T-cells. This insight can be strategically leveraged to improve therapeutic effectiveness across various contexts.

This research has not only opened a new area of focus but has also influenced the design of clinical trials, not only for melanoma treatment but also for other types of cancer.

Through her research, Dr Emily Lelliott has advanced understanding of melanoma therapies and their interactions with the immune system. Her work has the potential to reshape the landscape of cancer treatment, offering hope for improved outcomes and ultimately saving more lives.

Dr Shawana Andrews

Dr Shawana Andrews

Dr Shawana Andrews did the ‘Cloaked in Strength’ study to explore the lived experiences of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) among urban Aboriginal women. This study involved engaging 17 Aboriginal mothers in Melbourne through yarning interviews and a series of possum skin cloak workshops, allowing their stories of DFV to be considered.

The study explored the marginal position of Aboriginal women, including in private and public, their communities, and across society. The analysis identifies Aboriginal women’s relationships and how structures of power impact their mothering and obscure DFV accountability.

Several significant areas of discussion emerge from this research, including the perpetuation of silences surrounding DFV, the importance of understanding the relationality of Aboriginal women, and their agency in the management of daily experiences of DFV.

A significant conclusion is that DFV research is important to Aboriginal women and can un-silence Aboriginal women’s voices. The thesis has contributed valuable evidence that can inform policy and practice reforms related to DFV. It has identified the nuanced experiences of Aboriginal women placing gender at the centre of the work and challenging existing frameworks in child protection, DFV, and Aboriginal health and welfare policy and practice.

The study identifies that the health outcomes of Aboriginal women living with DFV often encompass complex and long-term psychological traumas that are significantly unaddressed. Dr Shawana Andrews’ research has the potential to be transformational for Aboriginal women by recognizing the nuanced nature of mothering within the context of DFV and acknowledging the gendered lived experiences associated with it.

Dr Kathryn Connelly

Dr Kathryn Connelly Dr. Kathryn Connelly's research addresses the need for new treatments in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an incurable autoimmune disease. Despite demand for effective therapies, there has been a lack of success in clinical trials for SLE. One challenge is inadequate clinical trial endpoints, which often fail to capture meaningful improvements.

Recognising this gap, Dr. Connelly's research focuses on developing an instrument and endpoint to measure treatment response in SLE clinical trials accurately. To do this, she assembled an international taskforce of lupus clinical experts, patient representatives, and experts from pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Connelly aims to understand the limitations of existing trial endpoints, address knowledge gaps, and form a step-by-step plan to create and implement a new instrument and endpoint.

By introducing more robust and patient-centric measures, Dr. Connelly's research aims to enhance the evaluation of potential therapies and facilitate the approval of novel treatments for SLE. This work has the potential to impact the lives of people living with SLE by improving their quality of life and expanding their treatment options.

Dr Owen Bradfield

Dr Owen Bradfield Legal complaints against doctors provide important mechanisms for monitoring and maintaining healthcare standards. However, they can also be distressing for doctors, with evidence that they can double a doctor’s risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

Dr Owen Bradfield’s research explores the relationship between legal complaints against doctors and their well-being. Through analysis of legal cases, legislation, and extensive datasets, he demonstrates that regulatory processes designed to protect the public do not always identify or mitigate risk.

The research finds that punitive regulations can discourage candour, encourage concealment of mistakes, and create fear of seeking help, which can worsen health outcomes for doctors and potential public risks. The findings highlight that to safeguard patient care and support doctors' well-being, systemic issues in the regulation of healthcare standards must be addressed.

Dr Bradfield's work deepens our understanding of the balance between competing public and practitioner interests in a regulatory context. This work offers a pathway for reforms that protect doctors' well-being, uphold the highest standards of patient care, and ensure a safer healthcare system.

Dr Jaithri Ananthapavan

Dr Jaithri Ananthapavan

Dr. Jaithri Ananthapavan’s research focuses on preventive health measures targeting obesity in Australia. Her work examines how economic evidence can be used to evaluate preventative health programs and inform decision-making in shaping effective policies.

The research looked specifically at cost-benefit analysis (CBA) as a tool to evaluate obesity prevention initiatives. To test the suitability of using CBA to assess obesity prevention initiatives, Dr Ananthapavan developed a comprehensive CBA framework specifically designed for preventive health policies and applied it to the assessment of a supermarket-based obesity prevention intervention.

These findings provide valuable insights that can inform the implementation of the National Obesity and National Preventive Health strategies. Dr Ananthapavan's research contributes to improving the health outcomes of all Victorian’s and informs evidence-based decision-making in tackling the obesity epidemic.

2021 winners

Last year’s award recipients were announced at a ceremony in April 2022. Find out more about the winners and their work below.

Dr Xiaodong Liu
Monash University

Regenerative medicine has the potential to transform healthcare. But until now a key stage in stem cell-based therapeutics needed for safe clinical trials has been inaccurate.

Research by Dr Xiaodong Liu at the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute opens the door to improved stem cell-based therapies during early pregnancy, as well as in-cell replacement therapies used to treat diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

Dr Liu’s research also resulted in the creation of a model of human embryos from skin cells, termed an iBlastoid, that can be used to study diseases that affect early development and infertility. Dr Liu’s discovery will transform our ability to study early human development and improve capacity to determine how to manage diseases or complications in the early stages of pregnancy.

Dr Liu’s work also provides opportunities to improve human reproduction technologies through screening for drug toxicity and pathogen susceptibility. Such a breadth of potential advancements means that in the long term, Dr Xiaodong’s research will deliver real-world benefits throughout the community.

For this reason, Dr Liu’s contribution to the design and delivery of this multidisciplinary research project has been recognised in renowned medical research journals and received coverage in scientific media around the world.

Dr Liu was also named the winner of the Basic Science Researcher category.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Xiaodong Liu

Transcript - Dr Xiaodong Liu, PAHMR 2021 Xiaodong-Liu-video-transcript.docx (DOCX 30.87 KB) DOCX icon

Dr Angela Dos Santos
Australian Stroke Alliance

Stroke is a major contributor to the health gap experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Whilst awareness of the signs of stroke and causality needs focused attention to reduce incidence rates, other major contributors continue to be the ongoing effects of colonisation, institutional and structural racism as well as prejudices and bias found within health systems.

Dr Angela Dos Santos is Australia’s first Aboriginal neurologist and stroke specialist. As a clinician and researcher, Dr Dos Santos is addressing the unmet needs of First Nations people and families affected by and at risk of stroke.

Research led by Dr Dos Santos is the first to demonstrate low levels of community awareness related to stroke symptoms. It also identified important differences in risk factors, treatment and outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experiencing stroke.

Dr Dos Santos is leading a national initiative to bring stroke care directly to First Nations communities. As Indigenous Chair of the Australian Stroke Alliance, Dr Dos Santos is bringing CT Brain scanners to the skies and designing an air mobile stroke unit that will reduce time to diagnosis and stroke-related disability in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

This research has major potential to significantly transform and improve stroke outcomes for First Nations people and communities.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Angela Dos Santos

Transcript - Dr Angela Dos Santos, PAHMR 2021 Angela-Dos-Santos-video-transcript.docx (DOCX 30.8 KB) DOCX icon

Dr Rachel Nelligan
University of Melbourne

Knee osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal condition. It affects more than two million Australians and costs the Australian economy $23 billion every year.

This burden is forecast to increase to unsustainable levels for healthcare systems within 10 years. Despite this, many people with knee osteoarthritis don’t undertake evidence-based recommended treatments, such as strengthening exercise and physical activity.

Research has established this is partly due to problems accessing services and appropriately trained health professionals, as well as the challenges people with knee osteoarthritis face adhering to exercise over time.

PhD research by Dr Rachel Nelligan from the University of Melbourne is helping resolve this urgent issue. As part of her PhD research, Dr Nelligan developed and evaluated a 24-week self-directed, digital exercise approach for people with knee osteoarthritis that requires no health professional involvement.

Findings from the research showed this kind of unsupervised intervention meaningfully improving symptoms such as pain and function, and improved quality of life for sufferers of knee osteoarthritis.

Following the project’s success, Dr Nelligan’s research informed a program that is now available free to the public and has over 12,000 users, including public health outpatient clinics across Australia where demand for osteoarthritis care is typically hard to access. It has also been modified for use overseas, and has been introduced to clinical services in the UK, Japan and China.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Rachel Nelligan

Dr Rebecca Goldstein
Monash University

Excess or insufficient weight gain in pregnancy can lead to adverse health impacts for the woman and infant, including higher risks of premature birth or necessary caesarean sections. Dr Rebecca Goldstein’s research analysed over a million women to help address key public health gaps and strengthen the case to fund healthy pregnancy programs around the world.

Beyond measuring outcomes for the woman and infant, Dr Goldstein’s research engaged with health professionals to gain their perspectives and to better explore the experience of the pregnant women.

As part of her research, Dr Goldstein analysed over a million women to help address key public health gaps and strengthen the case to fund healthy pregnancy programs around the world.

Dr Goldstein’s research demonstrated the importance and feasibility of multi-disciplinary, real-world lifestyle intervention as part of routine pregnancy care, assisting clinicians to work with women to manage their weight during pregnancy and mitigate complications in pregnancy-related to weight gain or loss.

Dr Goldstein combined personal experience of healthcare with clinical and research skills to help clarify and address existing gaps in public health policies. Dr Goldstein’s research underpins the case to fund projects that will deliver healthy pregnancy programs in Australia and internationally for generations to come.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Rebecca Goldstein

Transcript - Dr Rebecca Goldstein, PAHMR 2021
Rebecca-Goldstein-video-transcript.docx (DOCX 30.33 KB) DOCX icon

Dr Roshan Selvaratnam
Monash University

Fetal growth restriction is the largest contributor to late pregnancy stillbirth.

Of the Australian jurisdictions, Victoria has led the way to addressing this significant issue by refining health policies to improve detection. For almost 15 years, the Victorian Government has used the public reporting of maternity service performance indicators to make improvements.

Drawing on key information gathered in Victoria, Dr Roshan Selvaratnam’s PhD research found current detection processes only identify 20 per cent of growth restricted fetuses. His work also found that inaccurate identification often leads to unwarranted early deliveries.

These early deliveries are not only unnecessary for pregnant women but can be harmful to children before and after birth, and to their longer-term educational outcomes. Dr Selvaratnam’s research also helps explain why Australia’s stillbirth rate has been stagnant for over two decades.

As a result of this work, new performance measures will be introduced into Victorian hospitals for regular maternity-related reporting, with the intention to roll out these measures around Australia.

This is international first will enable Australia to lead global initiatives to safely reduce stillbirth rates around the world.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Roshan Selvaratnam

Transcript - Dr Roshan Selvaratnam, PAHMR 2021 Roshan-Selvaratnam-video-transcript.docx (DOCX 30.87 KB) DOCX icon

Dr Christina Zorbas
Deakin University

Unhealthy diets are a major contributor to disease and death in Australia. Many people gravitate towards ‘junk’ food because healthy alternatives are more expensive, making them particularly appealing to communities experiencing limited incomes.

Research has found that as a population, Australians spend 58 per cent of their food budgets on junk foods. Furthermore, there are currently no routine systems to monitor and regulate the affordability of healthy diets in Australia.

Melbourne dietitian, Dr Christina Zorbas, is helping change this. Dr Zorbas’ PhD research aims to improve food equitability by creating fairer opportunities for everyone to access a healthy diet. To achieve this, Dr Zorbas developed an easy way to estimate the affordability of diets for people on low incomes.

This work informed the development of the Victorian Food Stress Index and has been used by key stakeholders including VicHealth, Cancer Council, UNICEF, and the World Health Organisation.

Dr Zorbas continues to work with research partners and the community to help communities get closer to reducing everyday health inequalities around Australia and the world.

PAHMR 2021 – Dr Christina Zorbas

Transcript - Dr Christina Zorbas, PAHMR 2021Christina-Zorbas-video-transcript.docx (DOCX 30.76 KB) DOCX icon

Page last updated: 29 February 2024