More than 170 people gathered at the University of Sydney on July 19 to watch presentations and discussion panels around the theme Aligning Research, Adding Impact.

Keynote speakers were the incoming CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Steve Wesselingh and the Deputy Secretary, Clinical Innovation and Research at the NSW Ministry of Health, Adjunct Professor Jean-Frederic Levesque.

Sydney Health Partners Executive Director Don Nutbeam told the Annual Forum that although undertaking more research in hospitals was challenging, there were multiple benefits including better health outcomes for patients, improved staff and patient satisfaction, and reduced low-value care.

“So, there’s good evidence to say that this is worth doing, and we should try to achieve better integration of our research capabilities with the needs and priorities of our health care system - and have our healthcare system better support the researcher communities that we’re all a part of.”

The Chief Executive of Sydney Local Health District, Dr Teresa Anderson, told a discussion panel that “we can only have truly great health services if we have research, teaching and clinical practice intertwined and integrated.”

“Collaboration has to be fundamental to what we do, and I think that’s where the Research Translation Centres like Sydney Health Partners come to the fore, because they are built on collaboration.”

Director of Research at Chris O’Brien Lighthouse, Professor Lisa Horvath said a wider range of clinicians should be enabled to undertake research.

“We can improve innovation in healthcare by making it easier for people from whatever part of healthcare who have very good ideas to get those ideas to fruition,” she said.

Dr Levesque said the newly established Clinical Innovation and Research Division will continue to foster programs that support the full continuum of research towards translation.

“And that goes from the research ethics and governance work that we’ve been doing, the establishment of clinicaltrialsNSW to be the international front door, the work we’ve done on the clinical trials management system and the rural, regional and remote focus through our MRFF grant,” he said.

The Annual Forum culminated with awards celebrating the achievements of early career clinician researchers.

Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed won the Consumer Involvement in Research Award. Dr Nicole de la Mata won the award for Significant Research Contribution to Women’s Health and Dr Janani Thillainadesan was awarded for Using Research to Change Health Practice.

Dr Thillainadesan, who is a Geriatrician at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, received her award for evaluating a novel model of care for co-management of older vascular surgery inpatients. The research has led to a completely new model of care resulting in fewer patient complications and has generated knowledge adopted by international guidelines.

“I am thrilled to receive the award and recognition of the research, which had the extra challenge of being undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“I think it’s also important that Sydney Health Partners has this initiative for early career researchers like me, and I really appreciate the opportunities SHP provides – especially in terms of connecting with consumers, which is something I’m really interested in.”

Annual Award winners (L-R) Dr Janani Thillainadesan, Dr Nicole De La Mata and Dr Christina Abdel Shaheed