Dr Amanda McCullough, Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher 2017

Bond University Research Fellow Dr Amanda McCullough was announced as the recipient of the Emerging Health Researcher Award for 2017, at an awards breakfast in Sydney on Friday, 16 March.

The $25,000 prize will go towards furthering Dr McCullough’s research career, and help drive her crucial work that aims to stop the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria by reducing antibiotic prescription among general practitioners (GPs).

Annette Schmiede, Bupa Health Foundation Executive Leader said that the potential impact of Dr McCullough’s work was huge.

“Dr McCullough’s contribution in this area of research could be far reaching, and help us address a global health challenge. Ultimately, finding strategies to overcome antibiotic resistance can save lives – in Australia and around the world.”

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria can resist being killed by antibiotics – medications that are used to help the body fight off bacterial infection.

“By 2050, around 10 million people each year could be dying because of antibiotic resistance” said Dr McCullough.

The more antibiotics are used unnecessarily, the faster the world will be overcome by bacteria that no longer responds to our medicines.

Her research has shown that Australian GPs prescribe nearly 6 million antibiotics annually, which Dr McCullough has demonstrated is 4 to 9 times higher than what is recommended by Australian guidelines.

As part of her research, Dr McCullough has been reviewing the evidence on why GPs and members of the public use antibiotics, and how this could be reduced for common conditions such as coughs, colds, flus and ear infections.

To help change prescribing behaviour, she is also involving a psychologist in her work.

“It’s different to what’s often done in these things. So, I guess that is where my work is quite different in that I’ve set the benchmark, and now I’m trying to close the gap.”

Dr Chris Del Mar, Professor of Public Health at Bond University, nominated Dr McCullough for a Bupa Health Foundation Emerging Health Researcher Award in recognition of her driving ambition, hard focus and potential.

Professor Del Mar said the importance of Dr McCullough’s research lies in the seriousness of antibiotic resistance, and the potential harm it could cause people all around the world.

“If we can’t be sure that antibiotic cover is effective then all of our lifesaving treatments- hip replacements, chemotherapy for cancer, stents in the heart – will be too dangerous to do. Medicine will be retreating back to the 1930s,” said Professor Del Mar.

The prize money from this prestigious award will allow Dr McCullough to expand her work to change antibiotic prescribing practices nationally.

“To my mind, there is actually no point of doing research if you can’t get it into practise so that it improves health. So, that’s really my driving force, I guess,” adds Dr McCullough.

“The Bupa Health Foundation is proud to recognise the work of early career researchers who are not only doing important research, but are also focused on translating the results to ensure improvement in the wellbeing of the community”, said Ms Schmiede.

In addition to Dr McCullough, five additional outstanding health researchers have been acknowledged as finalists and have been awarded $5,000 to continue their research that is driving changes in health policy and practice in Australia.

Watch her post-win interview with Bupa below.