Monash researchers win scholarships for research into tackling road toll

Two Monash University researchers have been announced as winners of the RACV Sir Edmund Herring Memorial Scholarships for their studies aimed at preventing road trauma and improving the quality of care delivered to road trauma victims.

Dr Rene Stolwyk from Monash’s School of Psychological Sciences received the scholarship for his work in utilising simulator technology to enhance driver rehabilitation following Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Road trauma is one of the leading causes of TBI in younger people and   it not only compromises quality of life and caregiver health, but is   also associated with significant economic burden, estimated at $8.6 billion annually across Australia.

According to Dr Stolwyk, those with traumatic brain injury who are unable to return to driving are at higher risk of unemployment and exclusion from social networks. “Return to driving is a common rehabilitation goal and is a significant facilitator of functional recovery and community reintegration,”  he said.

Currently the most successful and common way to getting people with TBI back behind the driving wheel is on-road rehabilitation, with the help of a specialist occupational therapy driving clinician. However, on-road rehabilitation for people with TBI can be expensive and due to a   range of  cognitive and mood issues, many people with TBI are overwhelmed by the prospect of on-road driving rehabilitation.

According to Dr Stolwyk, driving simulators have the advantage of being relatively low cost and also avoid on-road safety issues. He and his colleagues will be using the RACV scholarship to conduct a randomised controlled trial comparing standard on-road driving rehabilitation with combined simulated/on-road  driving rehabilitation, along with detailed economic evaluation, to determine any potential gains associated with simulated driving rehabilitation.

The other recipient of the scholarship is Damien Dambrosi, a lecturer   in Monash University’s Department of Community Health and Paramedic   Practice. Damien is also a practicing Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance   (MICA) Paramedic for Ambulance Victoria. Damien is  looking at the   potential efficacy and safety of using ketamine as an analgesic by all   Victorian MICA paramedics. Currently, ketamine is only used as a   pre-hospital analgesic by MICA flight paramedics.  Ketamine is particularly useful in assisting patients  with multiple and extensive painful injuries, so the study will look at how effective ketamine is as an analgesic, and the dosages required.

Damien’s study will also look at the incidence of side effects and other adverse events in a cohort of patients treated with ketamine as an   analgesic by MICA flight paramedics between November 2010 and September   2014. “The intention is to give an idea, based on dose,  what can be   expected, and what is rare. Given the unique and sometimes uncontrolled   environment in the pre-hospital field, it is a great thing to know the   nature and likelihood of something going wrong - especially in the case   of a new drug,” he said.