In Papua New Guinea, 1500+ women die every year from childbirth-related causes – 80 times higher than in Australia. And these deaths are, mostly, preventable.
Burnet Institute Deputy Program Director, Healthy Ageing (Expansion Program), Dr Anna Hearps has been acknowledged for her outstanding and diverse body of HIV research with the prestigious 2018 Gust-McKenzie Medal.
Named in honour of the founding Directors of the Burnet and Austin Research Institutes, Professor Ian Gust AO and Emeritus Professor Ian McKenzie AM, the award is presented annually to an outstanding mid-career Burnet staff member in recognition of excellence in research and/or public health.
In more than a decade at Burnet, Dr Hearps has researched HIV from many different perspectives with a special focus on what’s going to inform patient outcomes.
In her interactions and collaborations with researchers and clinicians from across the Institute, her first question always is - how will this work help people living with HIV?
“If the last 10 years at Burnet has taught me anything, it’s not only the virus that’s evolved rapidly, but the way we deal with the virus has changed phenomenally,” Dr Hearps said.
“There are clinicians at Burnet who were here right at the very start when there were no drugs for HIV, and they’ve played important roles in taking HIV from a death sentence to being a chronic manageable disease.”
Dr Hearps’ impressive body of work includes creating assays to help diagnose HIV drug resistance; investigating agents to help protect women from HIV infection; and researching the development of age-related diseases generally, and cardiovascular disease in particular, in people who are HIV-positive but now living longer thanks to improved treatments.
“They represent the diversity of things that I’ve worked on, but also they’re quite indicative of what Burnet is and what Burnet stands for, which is the ability to collaborate with people with different expertise, the ability to work overseas, to take scientific projects and translate them through to clinical outcomes,” she said.
“Isn’t that what’s wonderful about Burnet, having the ability to work in these diverse areas? You really couldn’t ask a for a more diverse, challenging and stimulating workplace."
Dr Hearps said she was excited by the future of HIV research, and the way that HIV has taught her about much more than HIV.
“I started off an HIV project that has evolved to also look at age-related changes, so what we’ve learned in HIV we’ve been able to use to help inform our understanding of immune ageing, and the development cardiovascular disease,” Dr Hearps said.
“So there’s been lots of overlaps with diseases outside the realm of HIV, which looking forward, is one of the directions we might head towards.”
Dr Hearps said she was surprised, flattered and overwhelmed to be awarded the Gust-McKenzie Medal.
“There’s a very impressive list of previous recipients, so I’m really chuffed,” she said.
For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:
Deputy Program Director, Healthy Ageing (Expansion Program)