​2016 Clinical Research Fellowship Winners



​ Dr Christopher Rowe

Bachelor of Science (Medicine). Bachelor of Medicine. Bachelor of Surgery. Honours Class 1. University of New South Wales

Dr Chris Rowe graduated in Medicine from the University of New South Wales.  He is currently a Clinical Research Fellow of ​Hunter New England Local Health District,  studying targeted therapies for thyroid cancer as part of his PhD studies through the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute.  He is completing specialist Endocrinology training through the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and continues to work in the Department of Diabetse at John Hunter Hospital.

Project: Targeting Therapy to Thyroid Cancer Cells 

Description: Thyroid cancer is common – the fifth most common cancer in women. While the majority of patients have an excellent prognosis, some metastatic cancers are resistant to usual treatment of radioactive iodine therapy. Chris’ research will study whether cytotoxic chemotherapy can be directly targeted to thyroid cancer cells by exploiting unique surface receptors on these cells. The potential benefits of this approach include maximising positive treatment effects while reducing overall drug dose and minimising side effects to non-targeted tissue.


Dr Nicholas Zdenkowski

PhD candidate, Graduate Diploma in Clinical Epidemiology, Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), Diploma of Palliative Medicine, RACP, Bachelor of Medicine

​Dr Nick Zdenkowski is a Medical Oncologist and clinician researcher with a special interest in breast cancer. He has gained extensive experience in managing clinical trials whilst working as a Clinical Fellow with the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group (ANZBCTG), a large collaborative trials group that is based in Newcastle. At the ANZBCTG he had a diverse role, to support the scientific and logistic aspects of running a portfolio of national and international clinical trials. During this time one of his major roles was to oversee the daily running of the ANZ0501 LATER trial, a multicenter randomised controlled trial that demonstrated a reduction in breast cancer recurrence with reintroduction of endocrine therapy for early stage breast cancer.

Project: Optimising the use of Neoadjuvant Systemic Therapy for operable breast cancer

Description: The research combines an interest in pre-operative (neoadjuvant) treatment of early stage breast cancer, with the goal of increasing the number of cancer patients who have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. His PhD project, which is currently recruiting participants, is a study to evaluate a decision aid for women who have been offered neoadjuvant systemic therapy for operable breast cancer. This will tie into a series of projects as part of his HNE Fellowship that will investigate methods to improve clinical trial recruitment, along with implementation strategies for neoadjuvant systemic therapy.

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Dr Carmel Smart

Doctor of Philosophy – Nutrition and dietetics Postgraduate Certificate in Paediatric Nutrition Postgraduate Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics Bachelor of Science (Biochem)

Dr Carmel Smart  has worked with children and families as a Paediatric Diabetes Dietitian at the John Hunter Children's Hospital for over twenty years.  During this time she began clinical research to seek to answer questions posed by her patients and diabetes health professionals in daily practice. Carmel's involvement in national and international diabetes clinical care guidelines further supported the need for more scientific evidence to guide diabetes management. With A/Prof Bruce King, Carmel supervises a growing team of multi-disciplinary researchers and one of the aims of her Fellowship is to build this team to ensure excellence in clinical care and research go closely together, and one informs the other. The main aim of her fellowship project is to examine ways to optimise blood glucose control after meals to prevent the long-term complications of diabetes.
Project: Reducing blood glucose excursions after meals in children and adolescents with Type 1 Diabetes to improve health outcomes

Description: The aim of this project is to determine the amount of insulin required for protein and fat in meals and to develop a novel insulin dosing algorithm for mixed meals. An app will then be developed to translate these additional insulin needs into a patient friendly tool to guide insulin dosing at meal-times. Long-term aims are to trial these algorithms in the artificial pancreas being developed in collaboration with Engineers at the University of Newcastle.


Dr Chris Williams

Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Physiotherapy, Bachelor Applied Science (Exercise and Sports Science)

Dr Chris Williams is a physiotherapist, research fellow and program lead of Musculoskeletal Health Program at the Population Health Research Group. He completed his PhD in 2013 at The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney Medical School before moving back to Newcastle with a young family. His work relates to the management of musculoskeletal conditions, particularly back pain, and their interaction with health risk behaviours (e.g. weight gain, inactivity, poor diet, alcohol misuse and smoking) and chronic disease. Dr Williams work also involves pragmatic research designs to test setting based implementation strategies aiming to improve evidence-based health care.
Project: Optimal management of low back pain and health risk factors – integrated care to improve patient outcomes and reduce unnecessary care

Description: The broad aims of the fellowship research is to improve the quality of care for people with musculoskeletal conditions and associated risk factor factors for chronic disease. The work involves systems thinking to develop support strategies for the management of patients in primary care, and reduce the impact of these conditions on tertiary services.

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Meghan Finch

Research Higher Degree PHD Candidate, Master of Public Health, Bachelor of Health Science

Meghan Finch is a Dietitian and Program manager working in Population Health. She is passionate about improving the health of children within HNE through the delivery of high quality programs that are effective in reducing behavioural risk factors for the development of childhood obesity. Meghan has a Masters of Public Health and will submit her PhD in 2016 which has focused on the supporting the implementation of physical activity promoting practices in childcare. She is an experienced practitioner with a career that spans policy, practice, and research. Her career has been focused on developing, and evaluating large implementation interventions that support system-wide practice change in the childcare setting.  Meghan's research focuses on developing and evaluating strategies to build the capacity of childcare services to routinely adopt evidence based service delivery programs and practices that improve the diet and physical activity behaviours of young children.  
Project: A randomised controlled trial of a large scale intervention to improve the system-wide implementation of food service nutrition guidelines by centre based childcare services

Description:  This study will test a method for translating population based nutrition guidelines into routine practice of childcare centres. If effective the intervention has the potential to improve the dietary intake of the 10 thousand children that attend a food service childcare centre in HNE. This study will be the largest randomised controlled trial of its kind internationally and will recruit 60 long day care services that will be randomised to receive a theoretically based, multi-component implementation intervention. Findings will identify a potential model of changing organisational systems in childcare services to achieve improve health outcomes for children.

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