Research translation celebrated at Sydney Showcase
Sydney Showcase hosts and presenters (from left): Associate Professor Natalie Taylor, Professor Luke Wolfenden, Dr Heather Shepherd, Professor Sandy Middleton, Clinical Associate Professor Merran Findlay, Adjunct Professor Andrew Milat.

Some of Australia’s leaders in research translation have come together at Sydney Showcase, an event co-hosted by the Sax Institute as part of the NHMRC Research Translation Long Weekend.

Held on November 17 at Sydney University and jointly hosted by the Sax Institute along with Sydney Health Partners and Maridulu Budyari Gumal (SPHERE), the in-person event brought together a community of researchers, clinicians, and administrators to celebrate successful research translation.

Professor Sandy Middleton from Australian Catholic University launched the event’s morning of presentations with a discussion of the successful rollout of the Quality in Acute Stroke Care program across Australia and Europe. The program, which involves nurses trained to monitor a patient’s temperature, blood-sugar levels and ability to swallow immediately after a stroke, has been shown to reduce the risk of death and disability by up to 16%.

Professor Middleton said researchers need to be mindful of the minimum intervention required to be effective. “It’s easy to over-egg the pudding when it comes to implementation science,” she said. “We need to think of implementation like a drug trial – what’s the lowest dose of intervention that will be enough?”

The idea of making intervention as simple as possible, while still being effective, was echoed in the presentation by Professor Luke Wolfenden from the University of Newcastle. He discussed his team’s work on the school lunchbox education program, SWAP IT, and how it was simplified as it evolved from a pilot study to an Australia-wide program.

Professor Wolfenden said the process of scaling up the program showed the value of having a financial partner who is a stakeholder in the research. “Having skin in the game is important,” he said. “Unless you have partners, you’ll never have translation.”

Clinical Associate Professor Merran Findlay from the University of Sydney, an expert innutrition support for people with cancer, spoke about her involvement in creating new clinical guidelines and then implementing them in hospitals. “It’s a challenging process – the sands often shift beneath your feet,” she said. “You need to be prepared to adapt.”

She emphasised the importance of interviewing patients, carers and clinicians before and after the intervention, to give “everyone a voice” and to ensure that the intervention was suitable for patients.

The importance of scalability in research translation was further explored by Adjunct Professor Andrew Milat, Director of Evidence and Evaluation at the NSW Ministry of Health. Adjunct Professor Milat offered an insightful summary of NSW Health’s Covid-19 response and the lessons learnt from it. “It’s an amazing example of how quickly research translation can occur,” he said. He also cited the Translational Research Framework, which was developed by the Sax Institute, as a great resource for early-career researchers.

Following their presentations, all four experts took part in an interesting panel discussion on the factors contributing to successful research translation, such as embedding researchers into health service organisations and developing research partnerships and funding.

The event continued with networking sessions that reflected the ‘Embracing Diversity’ theme of the NHMRC Research Translation Long Weekend. Sessions focused on rural and remote communities, people living with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

Sydney Showcase was an in-person satellite event of the NHMRC Research Translation Long Weekend online symposium, held from November 17 to 22.