HealtheX 2012 – bigger and better than ever

14 September 2012

Research and techniques pioneered at what many consider the forerunner to the medical school at The University of Auckland formed the basis of the winning presentation at HealtheX 2012 held at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences on Friday 7 September.

Nearly 50 years ago, Sir William Liley, working from the Postgraduate School of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital, performed the first in utero fetal blood transfusion. The technique was developed to treat babies with anaemia caused by rhesus disease, and babies who received this treatment formed the subject group of the winning research presentation which examined whether early anaemia alters heart development and function. When 95 of these individuals were compared to their non-anaemic siblings, findings suggested that heart growth is impaired by fetal anaemia, leading to reduced cardiac mass and smaller cardiac chambers in adulthood.

Dr Alexandra Wallace, a paediatrician conducting the research at the Liggins Institute for her PhD, won first place in the Biomedical and Pharmaceutical (Doctoral category) for her Oral presentation:

Fetal Anaemia Impairs Heart Growth and Increases Indices of Cardiovascular Risk in Adult Survivors of Intrauterine Transfusion.

The presentation also won the major prize at HealtheX, the Auckland Medical Research Foundation Emerging Researcher Award which each year carries a travel grant of $5,000 to enable the overall HealtheX winner the chance to present their research internationally. Dr Wallace’s research was supervised by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at The University of Auckland, Professor Jane Harding, and paediatrician Dr Stuart Dalziel, and was funded by grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the New Zealand Lottery Grant Board.

First place in the Applied and Clinical Science (Doctoral category) went to Giriraj Singh Shekhawat who is undertaking his PhD in the Department of Audiology under the supervision of Dr Grant Searchfield.  Giriraj’s paper

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) intensity and duration effects on Tinnitus suppression

outlined that tCDS did provide transient suppression of tinnitus among the majority of chronic tinnitus sufferers tested and over 40% of participants experienced some long term improvement of tinnitus symptoms, pointing to the potential of tCDS as a possible clinical tool in this area.

The top Oral presentation in the non-doctoral category of HealtheX 2012 was given by Tom Kai Ming Wang who presented on the review he and fellow researchers conducted into the characteristics and outcomes of surgical Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) in elderly patients. His project,

Isolated Aortic Valve Replacement in over 80 year olds in 2007-2011: Age Trends and Mortality

was conducted under the supervision of Auckland cardiologist Dr Peter Ruygrok who was appointed as honorary Professor with the faculty last year.

HealtheX featured twenty Poster presentations on the day in addition to the 70 Oral presentations delivered, and the award for the best poster went to Prutha Redey from the Department of Anatomy with Radiology. Prutha’s research project,

Understanding the mechanosensitive response to osmotic loading in cell sub-populations within the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral

disc was supervised by Dr Susan McGlashan.

HealtheX is a FMHS student researcher-driven conference, with students comprising the committee and organising all aspects of the day. HealtheX 2012 Chair, PhD student Simon Fung, told the more than 200 guests at the prize giving ceremony that the event is designed to encourage and develop professionalism in the distillation and communication of the health research students are undertaking at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. This was the sixth staging of HealtheX and the conference was now firmly established as one of the highlights of the annual research calendar for students at or associated with the faculty.

“It is very important to recognise the support HealtheX receives from  by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation and from the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust,” Simon Fong said. “Without this support and encouragement, HealtheX would not have the impact and appeal it enjoys, and we hope to be able to count on this assistance in the years to come. We are delighted too that we have been able to stage the first HealtheX in the redeveloped Grafton Campus where the facilities and atrium enabled the day to run so smoothly.”

Congratulations to the following winners of HealtheX 2012!

Oral presentation - Doctoral category

Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Science

  • First Place: Alexandra Wallace
Department: Liggins Institute Supervisor: Professor Jane Harding Project: Fetal anaemia impairs heart growth and increases indices of cardiovascular risk in adult survivors of intrauterine transfusion
  • Runner Up: Ankita Umapathy
Department: Optometry and Vision Science Supervisor: Dr Julie Lim Project: Characterising GSH efflux pathways in the rat lens: evidence for inter tissue exchange of glutathione

Applied and Clinical Science

  • First Place: Giriraj Singh Shekhawat
Department: Audiology Supervisor: Dr Grant Searchfield Project: Transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) intensity and duration effects on tinnitus suppression
  • Runner Up: Derryn Gargiulo
Department: Anaesthesiology Supervisor: Professor Alan Merry Project: Microbial validation of a commercial filter unit: the V-bugs study

Oral presentation - Pre-doctoral categor y

  • First Place: Tom Kai Ming Wang
Department: Medicine Supervisor: Professor Peter Ruygrok Project: Isolated aortic valve replacement in over 80 year olds in 2007-2011: Age trends and mortality
  • Runner Up: Zaid Aqrawe
Department: Pharmacy Supervisor: Dr Darren Svirskis Project: The preparation and characterisation of polypyrrole particles for tunable drug delivery

Poster presentation

  • First Place: Prutha Redey
Department: Anatomy with Radiology Supervisor: Dr Susan McGlashan Project: Understanding the mechanosensitive response to osmotic loading in cell sub-populations within the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc
  • Runner Up: Junru Song
Department: Anatomy with Radiology, Centre for Brain Research Supervisor: Dr Henry WaldvogelProject: Heterogeneous GABAA receptor localisation in the human amygdala

AMRF Emerging Researcher Award

Congratualtions to

Alexandra Wallace

, winner of the Doctoral Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Science Oral Presentation category, for receiving the AMRF Emerging Researcher Award which grants $5,000 towards travel to share her research with the wider scientific community.