School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health researcher—and first woman—receives Excellence in Stroke Award

Professor Amanda Thrift from the Epidemiology and Prevention Division, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health has been recognised for her lifetime contribution to stroke research and overall contribution to the field, receiving the Stroke Society of Australasia’s (SSA) Excellence in Stroke Award.

As part of the Award, Professor Thrift delivered the Excellence in Stroke Oration at the SSA annual scientific meeting in Queenstown, New Zealand last month.

During Professor Thrift’s post-doctoral work, she undertook a large incidence study of stroke in the northern suburbs of Melbourne (the North East Melbourne Stroke Incidence Study: NEMESIS).

“This work resulted in more than 50 publications, contributed to 7 PhD completions and also led to a number of international collaborations, including further work in Iran and Viet Nam, as well as some data pooling studies of individual patient data, one of which included 13 studies in 11 countries,” Professor Thrift said.

In her Stroke Oration, Professor Thrift presented an overview of the work she has led, including the NEMISIS and STANDFIRM (Shared Team-Approach Between Nurses and Doctors For Improved Risk Factor Management) studies.

One of the key focuses of Professor Thrift’s research is stroke and other chronic diseases in under-privileged settings.

“The study I conducted in Iran was a replica of NEMESIS, and demonstrated the enormous burden in that country, with people having their strokes about a decade earlier than in Australia,” Professor Thrift said.

“Aboriginal Australia also suffers a disproportionate burden of stroke—some of the messages from the Aboriginal people we interviewed for our early research studies were very powerful.”

“One man who lived in a remote community, had no access to rehabilitation, and so he devised his own program which involved riding his bicycle about 120 km per week. His resilience, innovation, and determination was truly remarkable.”

Professor Thrift’s oration also included an overview of how improvements in health can be made in settings where resources are limited.

“In India we taught health workers about hypertension (and other risk factors), and provided them with the skills to teach their local communities how to manage their hypertension—to reduce their chances of having stroke or heart disease,” Professor Thrift said.

Professor Thrift said she was overwhelmed by the honour and recognition of the Award. All prior four awardees have been neurologists.

“I’m particularly honoured to be the first woman to receive the Award, and the first epidemiologist!”

“I’ve been very fortunate to have great colleagues, collaborators and PhD students,” she added. “I would like to acknowledge their enormous contribution as, in reality, this award is not mine alone, but is recognition of our combined research efforts.”