MDHS success at Premier’s Awards Celebrate Medical Research Excellence

On Monday 7 December, Victoria’s brightest emerging leaders in health and medical research were honoured at the prestigious 26th annual Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research.

Top honours – the Premier’s Research Excellence Award – went to Dr Simone Park from the University of Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute for her work on local immune protection against cancer and infection.

Dr Park’s research has revealed how local immune cells inhibit cancer and infection, with encouraging evidence for further exploration of tissue-resident memory cells as targets of future cancer therapy and vaccines. Dr Park was awarded $20,000 and a trophy designed by Geelong-based Indigenous art collective Wathaurong Glass.

The Premier’s Awards celebrate the achievements of Victoria’s early-career health and medical researchers and highlight the breadth of work being undertaken in Victoria that can make significant improvements to the lives of people around the world.

The awards were judged by a panel of six experts from the health and medical research sector, with four category winners each receiving $5000.

Congratulations to category winners:


Dr Melissa Lee

University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Clinical Researcher Category

One of the most common heart defect babies can be born with is called coarctation of the aorta, where the main blood vessel from the heart has a narrow area so less blood is pumped round the body than normal. This means the heart must work harder to pump the blood around the body and is often unable to keep up.

It is often treated with surgery but over time people can develop high blood pressure. The cause of the high blood pressure is unknown as it can still develop in people who have no sign of any ongoing narrowing in the main blood vessel.

Dr Lee’s research following up patients after this heart surgery is the largest and longest study in the world. She worked in collaboration with the Royal Brompton Hospital (London UK).


Dr Xinyang Hua

University of Melbourne
Health Services Researcher Category

Chronic diseases cause more than half of the deaths worldwide today and bring a heavy economic burden on both individuals and health systems.

Dr Hua’s research includes 6 individual studies, covering a wide variety of research topics surrounding the theme of health economics and chronic disease.

Using novel research design, rigorous methodology and statistical analysis, Dr Hua has filled a number of gaps in the existing chronic disease literature and made several important contributions as a result.


Dr Jesse Young

University of Melbourne
Public Health Researcher Category

People in prison often have poor health, experience social exclusion and economic disadvantages. Mental health disorders, especially severe mental ill-health, are more common among people in prison compared to the general population. People who are released from prison are at particularly high risk of poor health outcomes, and this risk is increased if there is a pre-existing mental health disorder.

Dr Young’s six globally unique studies show that people with pre-existing mental health disorders experience gaps in transitional service provision and are at increased risk of poor health outcomes compared to those without a mental health disorder after release from prison.