OPENING ADDRESS

Professor John Newnham (AM), The University of Western Australia

Professor John Newnham (AM) is Head of the UWA Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In 1989, he pioneered the Raine Study, which involved recruiting 2900 unborn babies at 18 weeks of pregnancy and then following their health, and that of their family, for life. This was the world’s first pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort study and remains one of the most successful medical research studies to have been conducted in Australia. Professor Newnham is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities in the prevention of preterm birth. His 35+ year contribution to the field of obstetrics has positively impacted and saved the lives of countless women and infants. Prof Newnham’s enduring research interest had been to discover strategies to safely reduce the rate of preterm birth. His studies have spanned the spectrum from laboratory bench through to randomised controlled trials. His lifelong work has made WA one of the world’s best-known and most highly regarded centres for research and clinical excellence in pregnancy and fetal medicine. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Peking University, Beijing, and Honorary Director of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Drum Tower Hospital, Nanjing, China. Most recently, Professor John Newnham was named the 2020 WA Senior Australian of the Year in recognition of a lifetime dedicated to health and medicine.

Professor Donna Geddes, The University of Western Australia

Donna is a lactation scientist and is renowned for her novel work with ultrasound imaging that has revolutionized the understanding of the anatomy of the lactating breast, milk ejection and blood flow, as well as the infant’s sucking technique, suck-swallow-breathe co-ordination, gastric emptying, and body composition of both the term and preterm infant. Her research has expanded to include the synthesis and removal of milk from the breast, the composition of human milk and its impact on the growth and body composition of breastfed infants, the investigation of human milk metabolites and the search for biomarkers that are indicative of breast dysfunction.  Donna runs a holistic research program that endeavours to provide evidence to underpin clinical practice, improve breast milk production and develop diagnostic tests for women experiencing breastfeeding difficulties.

Professor Lars Bode, University of California, San Diego

Dr. Lars Bode is Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Neonatology and the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, the Larsson-Rosenquist Chair of Collaborative Human Milk Research, and the founding Director of the Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence (MOMI CORE) at the University of California, San Diego.   Dr. Bode has been working on human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) for over 20 years. He received both his Master of Science and PhD degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University Giessen, Germany, and completed a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Child Health, University College London, United Kingdom. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California, Dr. Bode joined the University of California, San Diego, where he is leading a research program dedicated to research on breastfeeding and human milk in general and Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) in particular.  Dr. Bode’s main research objectives are to elucidate (i) how milk components are synthesized in the mother’s mammary gland, (ii) how milk composition is affected by external factors such as nutrition, pathogens, or medications, (iii) how milk components affect immediate as well as long-term health and development of infants and mothers, and (iv) how they can serve as natural templates for the development of preventatives, therapeutics, and diagnostics for people of all ages.  Dr. Bode has published over 140 peer-reviewed articles on human milk oligosaccharides, including the 2012 review “Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Every Baby Needs a Sugar Mama”, which has become the most cited research article in the field of human milk oligosaccharides. In 2020, Dr. Bode ranked in the top 2% of most cited scientists in the world in the category “Nutrition and Dietetics”.

Associate Professor Daniel McAullay, Edith Cowan University

Dan is an established researcher with a strong health research track record. My primary research areas of interest include maternal, infant and child health, primary health care, and other health services research. Dan is currently the Acting Dean of Kurongkurl Katitjin and Director, Aboriginal Research at Edith Cowan University. Dan is a Registered Nurse (BSc) with APHRA and has postgraduate qualifications in Epidemiology and Primary Health Care at Master and Doctorate levels. He has considerable experience in governance, policy and practice.

Dr Natalie Strobel, Edith Cowan University

Natalie is a Senior Research Fellow within the Centre for Improving Health Services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families (ISAC), Edith Cowan University. Her research vision is to improve the implementation of evidence-based best practice within health services focusing on primary prevention and early detection, particularly for Aboriginal and disadvantaged children. Her research includes evidence synthesis, statistical epidemiology and child health. To date, her work has had a strong focus on ensuring projects delivered are needs-based and inform policy and practice. 

Dr Alexandra George, The Baker Institute, Melbourne

Dr. Alexandra George joined the Metabolomics Laboratory at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in 2021, shortly after completing her PhD at the University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on the complex human milk lipidome and aims to gain understanding of human milk lipids that protect the infant against obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Alexandra is passionate about promoting human milk research and generating scientific evidence to improve breastfeeding understanding, policy, and healthcare, to give all infants the best start at a healthy life.

Dr Lisa Stinson, The University of Western Australia

Dr Lisa Stinson is a microbial ecologist at The University of Western Australia. Her research interests include the early life microbiome, the human milk microbiome, and the developmental origins of health and disease. She completed her PhD in 2019, with a thesis that was placed on the Dean’s Honourable Mention List. Dr Stinson’s research has received numerous awards and significant media attention. Recently, she was selected as one of the ABC’s Top 5 Scientists of 2020. Dr Stinson is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Human Lactation Research Group at The University of Western Australia, where she aims to understand the microbial and non-microbial factors in human milk that shape infant and lifelong health.

Dr Debbie Palmer, Telethon Kids Institute

Debbie Palmer (BSc, BND, PhD) is a qualified clinical dietitian and mid-career researcher with expertise in nutrition, allergic disease and clinical trials during pregnancy, lactation and infancy. She is head of Childhood Allergy and Immunology Research at the Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, Western Australia. The primary focus for this research group is investigating nutritional strategies for allergy prevention. The research group conducts randomised controlled clinical trials, mechanistic studies, and translatable research activities, all with the goal of reducing the rising burden of allergies within our community.

Dr Sharon Perrella, The University of Western Australia

Sharon Perrella PhD(Dist) is a Research Fellow at the Geddes Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group, UWA. Sharon has a clinical background with extensive experience in neonatal intensive care nursing and has a special interest in preterm breastfeeding and milk production. She has used ultrasound and intraoral vacuum measurement to examine sucking dynamics and suck-swallow-breathe coordination after preterm birth and in dyads experiencing breastfeeding difficulties. Sharon’s current work focuses on the identification and management of women at risk of low milk production and early cessation of breastfeeding, with a particular interest in lactation outcomes after pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes. She is passionate about sharing the science of human lactation with health professionals and families.

Dr Lieke van den Elsen, The University of Western Australia

Dr Lieke van den Elsen is a translational researcher with expertise in the role of early life nutrition in immune development and disease prevention. She completed her PhD project in the laboratory of Professor Johan Garssen at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. This translational project focussed on the impact of fish oil on the prevention of food allergy in infants of the Salmon in Pregnancy Study and animal models. In 2013, Lieke started at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in New Zealand to study the role of the gut microbiota and the beneficial effects of dietary components such as pre- and probiotics in early life for optimal immune development. Since 2018 Lieke is working in the team of Professor Valerie Verhasselt at the University of Western Australia in Perth to investigate the impact of early breastfeeding practice on healthy growth and immune homeostasis in early life. She is also associated as a Research Fellow with the Africa Research & Engagement Centre with her work on malaria antigens in human milk. Her research has resulted in 20 peer-reviewed publications of which 14 as a first author, including publications in leading journals such as JAMA Pediatrics and JACI. Lieke is also a Special Issue Editor for the ‘Early-Life Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders in Later Life’ issue in Nutrients.

Dr Lucy Furfaro, The University of Western Australia

Dr Lucy Furfaro | Forrest Prospect Fellow and Raine/Robson Fellow, University of Western Australia.  Dr Furfaro completed her PhD in 2019 and is currently a Raine/Robson and Forrest Prospect Fellow in the Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Western Australia.  Her research focuses on the prevention and treatment of bacterial infections during pregnancy, such as Group B Streptococcus, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the perinatal period. Lucy leads perinatal phage research at UWA, investigating the role of bacteriophages (natural predators of bacteria) as specific therapeutic agents for mothers and babies.

Professor Yvonne Hauck, Curtin University

Professor Yvonne Hauck was the first Western Australian Professor of Midwifery and held a joint appointment with Curtin University and King Edward Memorial Hospital until her retirement in 2021. With considerable experience spanning three countries (Canada, Australia and Britain). Professor Hauck’s research has focused on breastfeeding, women’s pregnancy and birth experiences and health outcomes across a variety of contexts, hospital-based antenatal care, parent education during pregnancy, and mental health issues. Her collaboration with colleagues at Ngala has resulted in publications on early parenting issues such as sleep and settling and infant feeding practices.

Dr Zoya Gridneva, The University of Western Australia

Zoya Gridneva, PhD is a Research Fellow at the Geddes Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group. She has completed her PhD in the group and graduated in December 2017. Zoya has a biochemical background with emphasis in proteomics and has previously worked in the biomedical field and in different research settings in ophthalmology. She combines established body composition measurement techniques that are used mainly in adults (ultrasound and bioelectrical impedance spectroscopy) to improve the understanding of the effect of human milk components, concentrations and intakes, on the breastfed infant’s body composition, growth and appetite control in order to reduce both childhood and adult obesity rates. Her other interests are the effects of maternal factors on breast anatomy and human milk composition, production and removal.