Student profiles

Find out about some of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology student experiences and pathways from their profiles below.

Elizabeth Cutting | Dr Neville J Fields | Hope Newman | Madeleine Smith

Elizabeth Cutting

Elizabeth Cutting photo

Project Title: What are the factors associated with patients with recurrent implantation failure?

Supervisors: Professor Ben Mol, Dr Sally Catt, Dr Fabrizzio Horta and Prof Beverley Vollenhoven

Experience in the Department: Second year PhD, I have had a big year and a half of learning and adapting to our new "normal". New projects exploring the impacts of COVID-19 and adaptations to my main project to overcome COVID restrictions. Happy to be in the faculty and department and have enjoyed my research and environment so far!

Dr Neville J Fields

Neville Fields Headshot

Project Title: Investigating the novel therapeutic sulforaphane in the management of preeclampsia

Supervisors: Dr Sarah Marshall, Dr Kirsten Palmer, Dr Daniel Rolnik and Prof Euan Wallace

Experience in the Department: Studying at Monash University and undertaking my PhD studies during my clinical training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology has been a wonderful experience thus far. My time here has broadened my perspective in a multitude of ways and has been improving my ability to work and practice as a clinician. I have been fortunate to work with a number of wonderful people and been exposed to a world outside of the labour ward and clinic within medicine that is truly inspiring and so exciting to be a part of. To be able to research preeclampsia and investigate novel and potentially revolutionary therapeutics combines translational and clinical research together all within the same location based at The Ritchie Centre at Monash Medical Centre Clayton. To be able to combine research, teaching and clinical work is a really wonderful opportunity and one that I couldn't recommend highly enough.

Hope Newman

Project Title: Oocyte DNA repair capacity as a novel marker for idiopathic infertility in assisted reproductive technologies

Supervisors: Dr. Fabrizzio Horta, Dr Sally Catt, Dr. Mulyoto Pengestu and Prof. Beverley Vollenhoven

Experience in the Department: I transferred to Monash University to pursue a Graduate Diploma in Reproductive Sciences, where I developed an interest in reproductive ageing and embryology. As couples push their childbearing years later and later, the need for ongoing research into the age-related decline in reproductive capacity becomes more pressing. DNA damage, and specifically the eggs' ability to respond and repair to DNA damage, is thought to be an important factor in reproductive ageing.

My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underlying the decline in egg quality with age. I'm researching DNA repair proteins and the metabolism of eggs and early embryos from young and old mice. This will have significant implications for our understanding of reproductive ageing and may lead to the development of therapeutics to boost this repair capacity, ultimately aiding older females to have a better chance of having a child.

Madeleine Smith

Madeleine Smith Headshot

Project Title: Neural stem cell therapy for perinatal brain injury

Supervisors: Dr Courtney McDonald, Prof Suzie Miller, Dr Madison Paton, Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson and Prof Michael Fahey

Experience in the Department: My research aims to optimise neural stem cell therapy for babies with brain injury, specifically perinatal stroke. Perinatal stroke is a stroke event that occurs in babies around the time of birth, which can lead to long term motor and cognitive deficits including cerebral palsy which has no known cure. My PhD combines lab-based research and consumer engagement through an online survey which will determine the opinions and attitudes that are held in the cerebral palsy community towards neural stem cells therapy. I hope that my PhD will answer questions to further optimise neural stem cell therapy and help to develop a clinically relevant therapy to treat cerebral palsy.

Fira Azzahra | Kaarthikayinie Thirugnanasundralingam | Vinitha Narasimhan | Morgan Peel

Fira Azzahra

Fira Azzahra Headshot

Project Title: Impact of Pandemic on IVF Patient Numbers in IVF Clinic in Jakarta

Supervisors: Dr. Mulyoto Pangestu

Experience in the Department: I am currently undertaking a BMedSc Honours project with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. My project is about the impact of the pandemic on demographics and patient numbers in several IVF clinics in Jakarta. I chose this project since it offers insights into the effects of the pandemic on IVF service that is often considered as non-essential and non-critical, along with acknowledging the clinic preparedness to face the effects of the pandemic. Therefore, I believe this project can investigate and develop new protocols for use in the IVF clinics.

I chose to undertake my project as I am extremely interested in the topic and think it would be an excellent career path. In addition to that, it lets me do the project in my home country. To be more specific, I chose SCS because it is well organized and provides support for the students, which lets me have an amazing environment to do an Honours year.

Kaarthikayinie Thirugnanasundralingam

Kaarthikayinie Thirugnanasundralingam Headshot

Project Title: Telehealth Integrated Antenatal Care - 12 Months on

Supervisors: Dr Kirsten Palmer and A/Prof Ryan Hodges

Experience in the Department: Pregnant mothers represent one of the most vulnerable cohorts when considering COVID-19. Not only are they at increased risk of adverse outcomes following infection compared to age-matched non-pregnant counterparts, but so too are their unborn babies. In order to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19 to both pregnant women and their dedicated healthcare workers, Victoria’s largest maternity service implemented telehealth integrated antenatal care. This hybrid schedule sought to deliver at least 50% of antenatal appointments for both low- and high-risk care models through video-conference. 12 months on, I am investigating how this widespread change in practice has influenced the detection and management of key pregnancy outcomes, particularly those which are contingent on physical examination such as pre-eclampsia.

I have really enjoyed working on this project which is both incredibly fascinating and topical. The opportunity to contribute towards a project that could inform clinical practice has also been really exciting.

I have been fortunate enough to complete my BMedSc Honours with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The department is bustling with energy, cutting-edge research, and there is no shortage of inspiration! The weekly O+G departmental meetings are a great way to foray into the wide world of obstetrics and represent a unique opportunity to learn directly from leaders in the field about their research. The mentorship from my Supervisor has been invaluable, and something which I am beyond grateful for. Everyone is really friendly and supportive, and you will undoubtedly find your place here.

Vinitha Narasimhan

Vinitha Narasimhan Headshot

Project Title: Quality of care in ovarian cancer surgery

Supervisors: Dr Wentao Li, Prof Ben W Mol and Dr. Sara Yeoh

Experience in the Department: As a BMedSc(Hons) student, I had the privilege of working with the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (O&G) at Monash Health. I chose a project with the department as I am interested in women’s health and there were plenty of interesting projects to choose from. The O&G department also has many honours students and there is an abundance of peer-support.

The incredible support and guidance of my supervisors and the department of gynae-oncology made this year an overall rewarding experience. We specifically looked at measuring quality of care in ovarian cancer as a first step in quality assessment to improve patient outcomes. I was able to follow the team and build my knowledge in gynae-oncology whilst learning valuable research skills. Being given the responsibility to lead your own project is a fantastic opportunity to develop critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills in an encouraging environment.

I will complete my final year of medicine next year and I am excited to continue learning about research in the future.

Morgan Peel

Morgan Peel Headshot

Project Title: Analysing methods for cervical ripening

Supervisors: Prof Ben W Mol, Dr Kirsten Palmer and Dr Wentao Li

Experience in the Department: I completed my BMedSc(Hons) in 2021 with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Monash Medical Centre. With the assistance of my supervisors, I conducted two separate individual patient data meta-analyses. These compared foley catheter and low dose misoprostol with low dose misoprostol alone and single balloon catheter with double balloon catheter. My projects placed a particular focus on assessing the efficacy and safety profiles of these labour induction methods.

I loved every moment of my honours year. Thanks to my amazing supervisors, I was challenged and supported to delve into the world of research. Not only was I taught how to conduct a meta-analysis but I was also guided through all of the additional and unexpected findings of my project that often occurs with research. These include data unavailability and the detection of suspected data fraud. I chose to research with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology due to my interest in the area, the supportive and friendly environment and I treasure every moment of my time with the department.

Dr Benjamin Amberg | Dr Molly Johnston | Dr Aidan Kashyap | Dr Madison Paton

Dr Benjamin Amberg

Ben Amberg Headshot

Project Title: The physiological effects of amniotic insufflation

Supervisors: Prof Stuart Hooper, A/Prof Ryan Hodges, Dr Kelly Crossley and Dr Philip DeKoninck

Experience in the Department: After 4 years of undergraduate medicine I decided to dip my toes into the world of research by undertaking a Bachelor of Medical Science (hons) at SCS and the Hudson Institute. Going into this year, I had absolutely no intention of pursuing research any further than my honours project however, within 6 months I knew I was hooked. From there, I completed my honours and continued my research for another 3 years as part of a PhD. During this time, I was lucky enough to achieve many of the stereotypical highlights of research i.e. conferences, prizes, papers, references, funding etc. However, the most important thing I take away from my PhD are the relationships I developed with the people I worked with. Research is really hard and it never works the way you hypothesise. This makes choosing a research group that will support you and help you develop all the more important. There is absolutely no way I would have made it through PhD without my team from SCS.

Since PhD, I returned to complete my 5th and final year of undergraduate medicine and will finally leave student life behind and start my internship at Monash Health in 2021.

Dr Molly Johnston

Molly Johnston Headshot

Project Title: A Critical Review of Access to Egg Freezing in Victoria, Australia

Supervisors: Dr Sally Catt, A/Prof Giuliana Fuscaldo and Dr Nadine Richings

Experience in the Department: After completing the Graduate Diploma of Reproductive Science, I commenced a Masters by research but later upgraded to the PhD program. Despite having a background in science, I aspired to step out of the lab and pursue a project that analysed reproductive technologies through a different lens. My research group supported me in this venture and provided me the fortunate opportunity to work on a multi-disciplinary project. Grounded in reproductive science and technology, my project drew from clinical and social science, bioethics, and health policy analysis to investigate access to egg freezing. Not only did this give me the opportunity to hone a diverse range of skills but it entrenched an interest in applying methodologies from a range of disciplines to approach and better understand complex social issues. My time spent in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has given me the fundamentals to build an engaging and rewarding career.

I am now working as an assistant lecturer and postdoctoral research associate in the Monash Bioethics Centre at Monash University.

Dr Aidan Kashyap

Aidan K

Project Title: Fetal therapies and improved perinatal stabilisation to prevent pulmonary hypertension in infants with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia

Supervisors: Prof Stuart HooperA/Prof Ryan Hodges, Dr Kelly Crossley and Dr Philip DeKoninck

Experience in the Department: In 2016 I took an intermission from medical school to complete a Bachelor of Medical Science Honours year with Dr Ryan Hodges, Dr Kelly Crossley and Dr Philip DeKoninck at The Ritchie Centre, part of both the Hudson Institute of Medical Research and the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash University. My project aimed to assess the effects of a novel antenatal therapy for babies affected by the condition Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). While there were many setbacks to this project, my experience working alongside such brilliant and devoted people within such a supportive environment was a key contributor to my decision to continue my research in a PhD, bringing onboard Professor Stuart Hooper to my supervising team. This turned out to be a wonderful decision, as we were able to build upon the work I had already completed during my BMedSc Hons and conduct a series of thoughtfully designed studies that have made a significant impact in our field. This research would not have been possible without the infrastructure that The Ritchie Centre and School of Clinical Sciences have established.

I am particularly grateful for the wonderful students and staff I worked alongside during my research. I think that the culture at SCS will continue to attract and nurture these people so it will continue to be a great place to study and work. There is a strong student society at the Hudson Institute that includes SCS students and provides not only social opportunities to bring students together such as a mixed netball team, dumpling nights and a Christmas Party, but also provides a strong voice of advocacy for students. The Ritchie Centre, SCS and Hudson Institute also support their students with travel grants and support in applying for external funding; during my PhD I was fortunate enough to present my work and visit collaborating laboratories across Europe, America and Asia. The quality and impact of our research was recognised with awards at many of these international conferences, fellowships including the veski Victoria Fellowship and PSANZ Mont Liggins Fellowship, and with the Mollie Holman Medal for best doctoral thesis in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

I am currently working as a junior doctor in Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Monash Health, and I am continuing to explore my research interests as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at SCS, working closely with the team at The Ritchie Centre and international collaborators I had the opportunity to meet during my PhD.

Dr Madison Paton

Project Title: Stem cell therapies for preterm brain injury and inflammation

Supervisors: Prof Suzanne Miller, Dr Courtney McDonald, Dr Beth Allison, Dr Michael Fahey and Prof Graham Jenkin

Experience in the Department: I completed my PhD at the Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute in 2018. Here, I investigated how we could harness stem cell therapies from the placenta to protect the developing brain from inflammation and injury. This work encouraged me to develop a range of skills in preclinical large animal, clinical and laboratory environments. I also had the opportunity to complete my PhD as part of the new Translational Research model, helping me upskill in Good Clinical Practice, commercialisation, communication and translation. Along the way I was encouraged to present my work broadly and was awarded over 15 prizes and collaborative grants for my PhD research.

My PhD gave me the skills to thrive as an independent researcher and helped grow my interest for translational research. I knew that after finishing my PhD I wanted to continue contributing to the exciting world of stem and cell therapies. Research into cerebral palsy and the ways we can help treat brain injury using novel therapies will always be my passion. We can make a big impact by helping to answer real-world problems and improve the lives of people at-risk or with a disability.

I am now a Research Fellow in the Regeneration Theme at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, University of Sydney. I have transitioned from the lab into helping design clinical trials that drive translation of cell therapies for the treatment and prevention of cerebral palsy. I am also a passionate science communicator and love sharing the latest research evidence with my community and network.

Sarah Butler | Suwandi Dewapura | Katherine Wyatt

Sarah Butler

Sarah Butler Headshot

Project Title: The relationship between induction of labour and Caesarean section - Do we really have all the answers?

Supervisors: Dr Mary-Ann Davey and Prof Euan Wallace

Experience in the Department: I am a final year medical student who undertook an Honours year in 2020 in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. My research centred around induction of labour and the potential consequences that inducing labour without a valid medical indication (elective induction of labour) may have on the mother and baby. We were fortunate to be able to perform a retrospective cohort study on all Victorian births between 2010 and 2018, examining the relationship between elective induction of labour and caesarean birth as a primary outcome. We also examined secondary outcomes including perinatal morality, assisted vaginal birth, NICU/SCN admission and 3rd and 4th degree tears. Our work aims to improve upon several limitations that exist in the literature and shed new light on a prominent question in the obstetric field.

I had a wonderful experience completing an honours year in 2020. Despite largely working from home, I felt like I was part of a broad supportive team, and greatly looked forward to our weekly lab meetings to hear about the different projects that were being undertaken by fellow colleagues. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn among an incredible team of clinicians and researchers who have kindly supported my work and shared their knowledge.

I am currently in my final year of Medicine, and have continued to work on a few projects alongside my studies. I am excited to continue to build on my Honours year as a future clinician-researcher.

Suwandi Dewapura

Suwandi Dewapura

Project Title: Perinatal Mortality: Identifying Targets For Improvement

Supervisors: Prof Euan Wallace and Dr Mary-Ann Davey

Experience in the Department: I completed my BMedSc(Hons) in 2020, with the Monash Health Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, as well as a secondment at Safer Care Victoria. I was able to get involved in several projects across the year, focusing on areas including perinatal mortality outcomes, causes of stillbirth and neonatal respiratory morbidities.

For my BMedSc(Hons) project, I utilised the Victorian Perinatal Data Collection to investigate causes of variation in perinatal mortality outcomes across Victoria’s Level 6 maternity services. I compared perinatal mortality profiles across the three maternity services in relation to gestation, type of death (stillbirth or neonatal death) and cause of death, in order to understand and explain the differences in perinatal mortality outcomes between these three health services. The results of this project are being used to determine the extent to which differences in care could be associated with each service and variation in perinatal mortality outcomes.

I greatly enjoyed the year, and left with a new set of skills and knowledge that will assist me greatly with future research endeavours. The department was a supportive environment to learn about research, and it was great to work with a group of enthusiastic and passionate researchers and research students.

I have now returned to complete my final year of medical school in 2021. We are presently in the process of producing and finalising manuscripts from the BMedSc(Hons) year for publication. In 2022, I am excited to return to Monash Health, where I will be working as an intern.

Katherine Wyatt

Project Title: Exploring the Potential of Menstrual Fluid as a Minimally Invasive Assessment of Endometrial Health and Fertility

Supervisors: Dr Caitlin Filby, Dr Jemma Evans and Prof Caroline Gargett

Experience in the Department

I completed my honours degree in 2019 with the Gargett Laboratory at the Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute of Medical Research. My project was focused on investigating the potential of menstrual fluid as a minimally-invasive biosample for assessing endometrial health and fertility. In particular, my project aimed to determine the variation of key endometrial cells and related proteins in menstrual fluid across consecutive menstrual cycles. This research is important in identifying the reliability of menstrual fluid as a diagnostic tool for various endometrial disorders. My honours project was challenging but rewarding. I was provided with the resources to learn many advanced and invaluable techniques, as well as significantly expand my knowledge in the field of reproductive health and endometrial research. My supervisors worked tirelessly to ensure my honours project was a positive experience and trained me in best practice science so that my efforts would yield scientifically sound research. As a result of their guidance, I achieved first-class honours and a first-author publication in Human Reproduction. I was also lucky to have shared my honours experience with a large group of like-minded peers who were studying a wide-range of research projects at the Ritchie Centre.

At the conclusion of my honours degree I was offered a position as a research assistant at the Ritchie Centre. As an RA with the Gargett laboratory, I worked on an internationally funded research project focused on the pathogenesis of endometriosis for two years. I am currently working at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute on a research project called Generation Victoria (GenV). GenV is a state-wide initiative designed to support a wide-range of research into children and adult health. My role in GenV is as a research assistant for design and governance, in which I contribute to participant reach, retention and engagement, ethics and governance, and the development of standard operating procedures and participant information.