The generosity of Foundation donors is securing the future of paediatric health in WA through the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation Paediatric Trainee Development Fellowship program. The focus of the program is training and fostering the development of the next generation of leaders in paediatric medicine.
Dr Nick Gottardo, Head of the Department of Clinical Haematology and Oncology at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), was the inaugural recipient of a Foundation Fellowship in Oncology, and is a wonderful example of how Fellowships can enhance the care and treatment that children from throughout WA receive at PMH.
Dr Gottardo was awarded a Foundation Fellowship in 2000 which enabled him to complete the clinical training necessary to specialise in paediatric haematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation. It also provided the basis for Dr Gottardo to secure a ‘Laura and Greg Norman National Children’s Cancer Foundation Fellowship’, the first time this Fellowship was given to a clinician outside of North America.
“I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that original Foundation Fellowship provided me,” explains Dr Gottardo.
While completing my Fellowship, it became apparent that leukaemia research had transformed a disease that half a century ago was essentially fatal, to one where now up to 80 percent of children are cured.
“However the same cannot be said for brain tumours, with many remaining incurable and the children that we can cure are often left with numerous significant long term side effects as a result of current therapies. So, childhood brain tumours appeared to me to be an under-researched area and one in which I could make a difference if I was equipped with the necessary skills.
“This led me to undertake post-Fellowship training at the internationally acclaimed St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, USA. After three years of training at St Jude I returned to Perth and PMH in 2008 to apply what I had learnt to discover new therapies and novel ways of trying to cure more children with brain tumours with reduced side effects.”
Over the past decade, WA has experienced unprecedented population growth. During this time there has also been a marked increase in the number of cases of childhood cancer in the state, with up to 100 new cases diagnosed each year.
PMH is the only centre for treatment of children with cancer in WA. Foundation Fellowships are a key part of the hospital’s strategy to grow its capacity to manage its increasing caseload. Fellowships provide funding for 36 months and allow recipients to focus on clinical training, while also being afforded time to participate in clinical and laboratory research.
At the end of 2016, three Foundation Fellowships were advertised in Paediatric Haematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant. Interest was high with over 15 applicants received from doctors based here in WA and internationally. Fellowships have been awarded to Dr Denny Miranova and Dr Eliska Furlong who are already based locally, and Dr Michaela Seng who will relocate from Singapore to join the program.
The ultimate beneficiaries of the Fellowship program are children living with childhood cancer. Like six year old Stephanie who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2016 and is currently receiving treatment at PMH under Dr Gottardo’s care. You can read Stephanie’s full story here.
Preventing childhood diseases
In addition to the three Paediatric Haematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Fellowships, two Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation Disease Prevention Fellowships are also being funded.
Dr Barbara King, Director of Medicine at PMH, explains the importance of the Fellowship Program.
The ongoing support of Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation and their donors has proved invaluable for doctors training in paediatric medicine in WA. The funds provided for these important development positions attract high quality trainees to WA and encourage our own high calibre trainees to remain.
“Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation Fellowship give junior doctors an extraordinary opportunity to craft specialised programs to expand and consolidate their learning and to become involved in the innovation and research pivotal to the continuing improvement of the health outcomes for children throughout WA.
“Thousands of children will benefit from the skills developed and discoveries made because of the program.”