MARC Students

MARC PhD Network

The Monash Addiction Research Centre (MARC) PhD network aims to bring together Monash PhD students, from across various disciplines, departments and faculties, who have an interest in or are undertaking addiction-related research. The network will connect students with other students doing research in similar areas, encourage future collaborations, and promote student's work, as well as provide opportunities to participate in addiction-related research events, professional development, workshops and networking opportunities.

Being a member of the MARC PhD network is free and you can be as involved as much or little as you like – from simply receiving our monthly newsletters to attending or speaking at our events or applying for funding opportunities. If you would like to become a member of the MARC PhD Network, click on this link and complete this short form here.

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MARC PhD Network: Useful resources for PhD students

Meet our PhD network members - Jodie Matar

Our ‘Meet our PhD network members’ series aims to showcase the breadth of research across the MARC PhD network. This month we feature Jodie Matar to find out more about her work.

Jodie was awarded a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship and is currently completing a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy at Monash University.

1. What is your PhD about?

In 2021, the World Health Organisation reported that 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury related to mental health concerns in adolescents. This crisis has been magnified by the current global pandemic, increasing the vulnerability of adolescents. Approximately half of the lifelong mental and substance misuse disorders start by 14 years of age and 75 percent by 18 years of age. In terms of prevention and early intervention, understanding mental health help-seeking behaviours among adolescents can play a pivotal role in informing the necessary pathways to reduce barriers as well as inform policy development on how to address the issue of mental health during adolescence.

International studies have shown adolescents in high socioeconomic households may experience high levels of mental health and substance misuse challenges compared to similar aged peers with other SES backgrounds. Recently in Australia, the estimated number of young people aged 11 and 17 in the fourth and fifth (highest) socio-economic households were shown to have the highest prevalence of major depressive disorder compared to the lowest, second and third socio-economic households. Yet concerningly, they may utilise less health and school services and have lower rates of 12-month service use compared to young people from other socioeconomic households. Therefore, my PhD focuses on a subset of adolescents in high socioeconomic households in Australia and explores their help-seeking behaviour for mental health concerns. I am incredibly grateful to be under the excellent supervision of Dr Stella Laletas, Professor Dan Lubman and Dr Michael Savic.

2. How far into your PhD are you and what are you currently working on?

I recently completed my mid-candidature milestone and am currently in my final year of the PhD. Data collection has been completed and analysis is commencing shortly. A cross-sectional study was conducted with questionnaires disseminated via social media to adolescents aged 15 to 19 years to investigate their mental health concerns and help-seeking behaviours (N = 1,241). A qualitative study was also conducted exploring the lived experiences and perspectives of adolescents in high socioeconomic contexts about their help-seeking behaviours for mental health concerns using semi-structured interviews (N = 12). I am currently working on completing a manuscript.

3. Can you share with us some preliminary findings from your research?

The analysis is commencing soon so watch this space! Potential implications are to inform adolescents (as peers), parents, schools and organisations of the current challenges experienced by this subgroup and how they wish to be supported for mental health concerns.

4. What have you found most rewarding/interesting about your PhD experience so far?

The most rewarding part of my PhD experience so far has been conducting qualitative interviews with teens about their views on seeking help for mental health concerns. I loved hearing their views on how they would like to seek help and what changes they would like to see. It has also been really rewarding being under the guidance and supervision of Stella, Dan and Michael. Individually and collectively, they bring a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge to my PhD and development as a researcher. I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to be mentored by them as I embark on my journey as a researcher.

Happy holidays from the MARC PhD Network

The MARC PhD Network committee would like to take this opportunity to wish all PhD students a wonderful holiday season and a happy 2022. We look forward to a number of events planned for next year and hope we can continue to bring together students across all faculties at Monash. If you, or someone you know, is yet to join the PhD network, or if you would like more information about the network, email

Meet our PhD network members - Helena Cangadis-Douglass

Our ‘Meet our PhD network members’ series aims to showcase the breadth of research across the MARC PhD network. In October 2021 we featured Helena Cangadis-Douglass to find out more about her work.

Helena was awarded the inaugural Monash Addiction Research Centre (MARC) - Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) Scholarship for PhD research in 2020, focussing on safe and effective opioid use in Australia. Helena completed her Biomedical Science (Hons.) program at Monash Health researching lung aeration at birth prior to completing Monash’s Graduate Entry Pharmacy program. Most recently, Helena worked at the Austin hospital as a clinical pharmacist, and as a Research Officer at CMUS investigating trajectories of benzodiazepine use.

1. What is your PhD about?

Australia has one of the highest levels of opioid utilisation globally, with approximately 1.9 million Australian adults initiating opioids each year. In response to the harms associated with prescription opioids, key regulatory and other policy strategies have been developed, which include rescheduling of codeine and more recently, regulatory changes reducing pack size and availability of opioids. Half of all pharmaceutical opioid prescriptions are initiated in general practice (GP) each year, so it’s vital to better understand opioid use in this setting. My PhD will focus on evaluating the impact of recent Australian policies on opioid prescribing in general, and among key clinical populations in general practice. I’m lucky to have an incredible supervisory team guiding me through this journey, including Associate Professor Suzanne Nielsen, Dr Ting Xia, and Professor Simon Bell.

2. How far into your PhD are you and what are you currently working on?

I’ve recently completed my confirmation milestone - so that’s a huge weight off my shoulders! I’m currently working on three manuscripts, all focussing on different aspects of safe and effective opioid use. This includes reviewing Australia’s policy response to prescription opioid use and misuse over the last decade, identifying a research agenda with a focus on prescribing of opioids in general practice, and writing a protocol paper outlining the projects which will utilise the Population Level Analysis and Reporting (POLAR) Tool; a large primary care dataset which I will be predominantly using throughout my work.

3. Can you share with us some preliminary findings from your research?

I’ve recently co-authored a manuscript with fellow PhD candidate Monica Jung; a stakeholder workshop to establish research priorities related to the safe and effective use of prescription opioids in general practice. Key stakeholders generated 26 consolidated priorities in three domains: (1) consumer-related priorities, (2) clinician and practice-related priorities, and (3) system and policy-related priorities. Research into consumer characteristics that influence opioid prescribing and outcomes, opioid deprescribing strategies, and the impact of regulations that restrict opioid supply were ranked highest in each domain. The work identifies a comprehensive list of research areas deemed as priorities for further investigation, highlight the major research gaps, and inform the direction and focus of future opioid research studies. We hope to publish by the end of the year! Watch this space!

4. What have you found most rewarding/interesting about your PhD experience so far?

Working closely with other PhD candidates – it has gotten me through some challenging PhD moments. I’m also very humbled working with my supervisory team; they are leaders in the field and I’m incredibly lucky to be learning from them!

June 2021 - Welcome MARC PhD Student - Jenna Yang

We are pleased to welcome a new PhD candidate, Jenna Yang, who has been awarded a Monash University-CSC Joint Scholarship. Jenna will be working on a project looking at the prevalence of chronic pain among people experiencing opioid use disorder in order to provide insights into best practice clinical management. Her project will be supervised by MARC members Dr Melita Giumarra (SPHPM) and A/Prof Suzanne Nielsen (MARC).

“Knowing that I have been awarded a Monash University-CSC Joint Scholarship which covers international tuition fee and living stipend, I can better focus on my future research.” - Jenna Yang

March 2021 - ‘Implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs: Measuring the intended and unintended outcomes of identifying high-risk opioid use’

Louisa Picco is a current NHMRC Postgraduate and MARC PhD Top Up Scholarship holder. She is also a Research Assistant at MARC and is based at the Monash Peninsula Campus. Her mixed methods PhD is exploring the impact of prescription drug monitoring programs and their influence on clinical care for high-risk opioid use. One aspect of this research involves observations and a series of interviews with local pharmacists practicing in the Frankston-Mornington Peninsula to better understand their experiences of implementing and utilising Victoria’s prescription drug monitoring program, ‘SafeScript’. Louisa is currently analysing these results and intends to share these findings with pharmacists and local stakeholders in the Frankston-Mornington Peninsula.

November 2020 - EHCS Summer students at the Monash Addiction Research Centre 

Last week MARC welcomed two EHCS Summer Scholarship students; Surina Butler and Lucas Neumaier. Over the next eight weeks, Lucas and Surina will be working on a systematic review project titled ‘Do we need tailored opioid prevention strategies for women?’. The project will investigate whether the prevalence and characteristics of fatal and non-fatal opioid overdoses differ for women, and look to identify subpopulations with an increased risk or unique needs.Dr Tina Lam, A/Prof Suzanne Nielsen and Dr Anna Olsen will be supervising the project along with a peer mentor and past MARC EHCS scholarship recipient Mr Wai Chung Tse.

September 2020 - Monica Jung and Helena Cangadis-Douglass awarded MARC-CMUS PhD Scholarships to address the global priority of opioid misuse

Monash Health pharmacist Monica Jung and Austin Health pharmacist Helena Cangadis-Douglass have been awarded the inaugural Monash Addiction Research Centre (MARC) - Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) Scholarships for PhD research into safe and effective opioid use.

Both Monica and Helena completed Monash’s Graduate Entry Pharmacy program. Prior to studying pharmacy, Monica completed a degree in biochemistry at the University of Rochester, New York, and worked in adverse drug event monitoring at Seoul St Mary’s Hospital, Korea. Helena completed her Biomedical Science (Hons.) program at Monash Health researching lung aeration at birth. Most recently, Helena worked as a Research Officer at CMUS investigating trajectories of benzodiazepine use.

Monica and Helena will analyse linked health data from Victoria and New South Wales through Outcome Health’s Population Level Analysis and Reporting (POLAR) Tool. The PhD program will involve training in health data analytics and advanced epidemiological methods, and collaborating with leading national and international clinical and policy partners.

Centre for Medicine Use and Safety Director Professor Simon Bell said, “As outstanding pharmacists, Monica and Helena are well-positioned to take advantage of the rapid advances in the availability of electronic medical record data to generate new evidence for medication safety.”

Monica and Helena’s PhD research will be supervised by a team that includes Associate Professor Nielsen, Dr Jenni Ilomaki and Professor Bell.

August 2019 - MARC Interdisciplinary Research Support Funding Scheme: 2019

PhD Top-up Scholarships Awardees

Dr Pallavi Prathivadi

‘Improving opioid prescribing in Australian general practice’                

This study aims to determine the self-reported opioid prescribing practices and concerns of Australian GPs and GP registrars.


Michael Curtis

‘Understanding the impact of opioid substitution therapy programs on drug use, health service utilisation, morbidity and mortality among young people who inject drugs following release from prison’

The primary objective of this research program is to inform policy and practice to optimise opioid substitution therapy (OST) program delivery by determining the role of OST provided in prison and post-prison release in reducing harm associated with injecting drug users (IDU).


Louisa Picco

‘Implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs:  Measuring the intended and unintended outcomes of identifying high-risk opioid use’

The proposed objectives of this mixed-methods PhD are to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of prescription drug monitoring program implementation has on the identification and treatment of prescription opioid use disorders. To generate insights into the clinical processes and pathways for, and identify a range of intended and unintended outcomes of prescription drug monitoring program implementation.

May 2019 - EHCS 2019 Winter Research Scholarship Program student – Wai Chung Tse

Over the last month, we have had the pleasure of hosting our first Winter Research Scholarship student Wai Chung Tse. Wai Chung has been working on his project “Changes in Australian Naloxone Supply and Dispensing Following Naloxone Rescheduling”.

The scholarship program was a five-week-long research-intensive with Professor Suzanne Nielsen to investigate the effects of naloxone rescheduling from prescription-only to over the counter medication. This project analysed whether there were any changes in supply following this rescheduling and describe supply trends in relation to Australia's naloxone policies.