Meet the 2019 SSMRF Research Recipients

On Thursday 27 June 2019, the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation (SSMRF) hosted the 2019 SSMRF Research Grant Announcement, awarding just over $200,000.00 in research grant funding to researchers at St George and Sutherland hospitals.

We are proud to announce the award of five new grants which will enable researchers, including a couple of early career researchers, to commence their exciting projects. Research projects that have the possibilities to improve health outcomes for you, the people you love, our communities…and beyond.


Dr Megan Gow

“Does exposure to pre-eclampsia in utero contribute to cardiovascular disease risk and ageing in early childhood?
Funding received: $49,907.00

Dr Megan Gow is a dietitian and NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow (2019-2022). Megan’s research interests include nutrition, dietary interventions, obesity, and cardiovascular disease as they relate to the life stages of childhood, adolescence and pregnancy. In particular, Megan’s PhD focused on reversal of type 2 diabetes in adolescence implementing a very low calorie dietary intervention. This year, with the commencement of her NHMRC Early Career Fellowship, Megan’s research focus has shifted to the life stage of pregnancy and early childhood including trials aiming to optimise the health of infants born to mothers who experience a complicated pregnancy.


Professor Marissa Lassere

“The gut microbiome in inflammatory arthritis.”

Funding received: $34,599.10

Professor Lassere has been a Staff Specialist Rheumatologist at St George Hospital since 2000. In 2002 she co-founded the national Australian Rheumatology Association Database (ARAD), an on-going long-term registry of effectiveness and safety of biologic and targeted treatments for rheumatic conditions. She has expertise in statistics, clinical epidemiology, patient-reported and laboratory measures, clinical trials and health information technology. She has published 146 papers and this work has led to over 7000 citations. She is excited by the opportunity to work with the Microbiome Research Centre team on a new project evaluating the gut microbiome in inflammatory arthritis. She has been a member of International Biometric Society, International Society for Bayesian Analysis, International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research, Health Informatics Society of Australia, American Medical Informatics Society, Society for Clinical Trials, the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, as well as the Australian Rheumatology Association and is an international member of the American College of Rheumatology. She lives locally and is often seen shopping in Hurstville by her colleagues and patients.


Dr Jose Perdomo

“The role of neutrophils in the pathology of immune thrombocytopenia”

Funding received: $49,554.40

Dr Jose Perdomo is a Senior Research Associate at the Haematology Research Unit, St George & Sutherland Clinical School, UNSW, Kogarah. Dr Perdomo completed his PhD at the University of Sydney conducting research in the area of transcriptional regulation of erythroid cells. In 2006 he was awarded a Vice Chancellor’s Fellowship from the University of New South Wales to work on gene regulation of cardiac cells. His broad research areas are in: haematology and stem cells, vascular biology and thrombosis, antibody engineering, cell biology and gene regulation. His work on the mechanisms that lead to immune thrombocytopenia (a bleeding disorder characterised by low platelet counts) has found that the antibodies that destroy circulating platelets in these patients also prevent formation of platelets in the first place. Recently he published work demonstrating the crucial involvement of neutrophils, a type of white cell, in a clotting condition caused by heparin administration. These findings are likely to change existing treatment options for this serious disease. His current work is focusing on the involvement of neutrophils in the progression of immune thrombocytopenia. Dr Perdomo’s research has been presented at international and national conferences and published in prestigious scientific journals.


Dr Michal Szczesniak

“Validation of SPECT/CT to assess airway clearance in chronic aspirators for a trial of Expiratory Muscle Strength Training (EMST) in reduction of radiation-related aspiration”.

Funding received: $35,730.00

Michal begun his career as a research assistant at St George Hospital in 2001 after graduating from biomedical science degree at Newcastle University.  He was awarded a PhD for thesis on neurophysiology of the oesophagus and the implications in disorders such as reflux and regurgitation. Since then Michal has been involved in Clinical Motility Service at Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and has worked on a number of research projects ranging from mapping colonic motility patterns as important functional biomarkers of constipation syndromes, to adapting impedance and manometry measurement for assessment of oropharyngeal swallow dysfunction.

Currently, as part of the St George Swallow Centre team, Michal’s research is focused on improving and mitigating swallow dysfunction associated with head and neck cancer therapies to ensure cancer survivors are able to participate in society, maintain quality of life and to live well following treatment. He is currently leading a pilot randomised controlled trial targeting fibrosis and formation of strictures after head and neck radiotherapy.


Dr Betty Wu

“Building Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Research Capacity – The St George and Sutherland IBD Project”

Funding received: $36,020.00

Dr Wu is a gastroenterologist and long-term resident of the St George and Sutherland Shire. Her interest is in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). She graduated from the University of New South Wales in 2011 with first class honours. She completed her specialist training at St George, Sutherland and Liverpool hospitals. In 2019, she joined the MRC family to commence her PhD to better understand role of microbiome in IBD.