Two researchers from The University of Western Australia have received WA Young Tall Poppy Science Awards for their work in vaccination attitudes and policies and for making anaesthesia safer for children.
The Australian Institute of Policy and Science selected seven recipients across WA for the awards, which acknowledge excellence in research as well as enthusiasm for communicating science beyond the walls of the laboratory.
Image: Associate Professor Katie Attwell and Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg
Associate Professor Katie Attwell, head of VaxPolLab at UWA’s School of Social Sciences and a leading expert on mandatory vaccination, was awarded for her research into what motivates or deters people from vaccinating as well as government policies and strategies employed to increase vaccine uptake.
An Honorary Fellow of the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute, Associate Professor Attwell is currently leading a team researching COVID-19 vaccination attitudes among different population groups in WA.
“People refusing or hesitating about vaccination is an issue of public interest, but the design and functioning of vaccination systems is equally important for reaching people who face access barriers and might otherwise miss out,” she said.
Professor Britta Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg – who has created a hub for paediatric anaesthesia research in WA – is the foundation Chair of Paediatric Anaesthesia at UWA, leader of the Perioperative Medicine Team at Telethon Kids Institute and a specialist paediatric anaesthetist at Perth Children’s Hospital.
Together with her multi-disciplinary team, she has generated knowledge that has led to significant changes in global practice and, consequently, a reduction in complications among children undergoing surgery. One of her key goals is to ensure paediatric anaesthesia is designed specifically for the unique needs of children.
“Paediatric anaesthesia is a high-risk specialty which can lead to long-lasting harm, including death,” Professor Regli-von Ungern-Sternberg said.
“Children, particularly neonates and young infants, cannot be considered as small adults – research in adults cannot simply be downscaled to paediatric care.”
In congratulating the recipients, UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Anna Nowak said they were fantastic examples of researchers making a tangible difference to people’s lives.
“UWA is delighted to see two of our outstanding researchers awarded as WA Tall Poppies,” Professor Nowak said. “We have all seen the critical importance of vaccination policy over the last two years; and families of children undergoing anaesthesia need to be confident of its safety. I congratulate Katie and Britta on their achievements.”
Western Australian Tall Poppies awardees will be recognised at a ceremony in September, where the WA Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year will also be announced.