Fulbright scholar aiming for personalised treatment for cerebral palsy

Associate Professor Michael Fahey from Monash University’s School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS), has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to better understand the neurology and genetics in people affected by cerebral palsy.

Five postgraduate student scholarships have also been awarded to Monash University alumni.

Fulbright scholar Associate Professor Michael Fahey

The flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the US, the Fulbright Program increases binational research collaboration and the exchange of ideas.  The Scholarship will enable Professor Fahey to collaborate with the University of Arizona’s Neurogenetic Laboratory to characterise the genetic changes that lead to cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common disability in childhood affecting more than 800,000 Americans and Australians.

Associate Professor Fahey, who is also Head of Paediatric Neurology at Monash Children’s Hospital, said recent studies indicate that about 30% of people with CP have a genetic contribution to their condition.

“For those affected by CP, finding these answers is essential for counselling, surveillance, early detection and for developing precision therapeutic strategies,” Associate Professor Fahey said.

“People affected by neurological disability are looking for a reason why this has happened and what to do about it.”

Thanks to the Fulbright Scholarship, Associate Professor Fahey will work with Professor Kruer at the University of Arizona to combine world-leading neuroimaging data from the CSIRO with contemporary genomic techniques to better understand complex neurological diseases.

“I am ultimately aiming to cure rather than treat those diseases,” Associate Professor Fahey said.

“In the emerging era of precision medicine, where therapies are increasingly tailored to an individual genomic variation, understanding this data will lead to personalised treatment.”

In further Fulbright success, five postgraduate student scholarships have been awarded to Monash University alumni.

2014 Monash Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery graduate Dr William Yan is passionate about global vision impairment and blindness prevention in ophthalmology using data and technology-driven approaches.

As the recipient of the Fulbright Future Scholarship he will have the opportunity to pursue a fully-funded degree at Stanford University as well as a fellowship in ophthalmology and health informatics.

“The Fulbright Future Scholarship will support me to continue this journey at Stanford, where there is a rich tradition of ophthalmic innovation, ideas cross-fertilisation and interdisciplinary collaborations with the technology industry and computer sciences,” Dr Yan said.

Meanwhile, 2017 Monash medical graduate Dr Khoa Cao has been awarded a Fulbright Future Scholarship to specialise in low-resource medical technology, combining the principles of clinical medicine, public health, digital health and biomedical engineering.

“Low-resource medical technology aims to develop cost-efficient technologies of high quality and is becoming exceedingly important in ensuring the sustainability of healthcare systems and the alleviation of health inequity for disadvantaged populations around the world,” Dr Cao said.

Other Monash recipients include alumni Dr Eddie Cliff, Hyab Mehari Abraha and Lance Truong.