As the first recipient of the Norman Beischer Research Fellowship, Dr Fiona Brownfoot has the great ambition of developing new technologies to improve outcomes for mothers and their babies. With the Fellowship’s $600,000 in funding, she will head a Fetal Biomedical Engineering Laboratory, with the intention to develop two specific devices to reduce stillbirth and cerebral palsy.
Dr Brownfoot is a clinician academic, a specialist obstetrician at the Mercy Hospital for Women and a Senior Lecturer at The University of Melbourne.
With a strong interest in translational research, during her PhD she identified and led the preclinical investigation, and contributed, to the clinical trials of two potential treatments for preeclampsia, receiving local and international recognition. As a result she received many accolades including the Norman Beischer PhD prize and the Arthur Nyulasy Prize for most outstanding PhDin obstetrics and gynaecology from The University of Melbourne.
With funding from the Norman Beischer Clinical Research Fellowship, Fiona intends to establish a Fetal Biomedical Engineering Laboratory. Her vision is to develop a strong multidisciplinary team of clinicians, engineers and scientists to translate the latest technologies for improving outcomes for mothers and babies.
Over a five-year period, Dr Brownfoot and her team will translate two devices set to revolutionise fetal monitoring. The first is a device to improve the detection of fetal distress in labour so as to reduce cerebral palsy and stillbirth. The second is a device aimed at non-invasively detecting fetal distress during pregnancy to reduce stillbirth. She is very grateful and excited to be progressing this work and hopes to have devices ready for clinical trial by the completion of the Fellowship.
Dr Brownfoot plans to present this work to the scientific community through national and international scientific conferences and papers, and to the general public through media releases.
Along with developing her research portfolio, Dr Brownfoot will continue to have a strong presence in obstetric and gynaecology advocacy roles over the duration of the Fellowship. Currently she is a board member of the Mercy Health Ethics Committee, a founder of the Australian Reproductive Update conference, and the Awards Coordinator and an Executive Committee member for the Society of Reproductive Biology. She is also an advisor and media representative for Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), which includes leading the membership of the RANZCOG examination revision course, which trains the next generation of obstetricians and gynaecologists.
Dr Brownfoot is also an advocate for teaching. She is currently supervising two PhD students; an electrical engineer and an obstetric scientist. She plans to expand this by taking on two more PhD students over the next five years, building the next generation of leaders in obstetric biomedical engineering.
She is based at the Mercy Hospital for Women and believes its support for research and improving obstetric outcomes is fundamental in the development of the planned new devices.
“The Mercy Hospital for Women is a leading tertiary centre with research at its core – a legacy from Professor Beischer,” she says.
“Importantly the doctors and midwives are very excited by these projects, not to mention patients who are already keen to be involved.”
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