$500k for research - donations fund medical grant

No bitter pill to swallow:Medical research gave Cheryl Pirreca her life back. Picture: John Veage.
No bitter pill to swallow:Medical research gave Cheryl Pirreca her life back. Picture: John Veage.

THE St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation has announced a record $500,000 in new grants to researchers at St George and Sutherland hospitals.

It is the foundation’s biggest move yet in helping position itself as a world-class research organisation.

Up to $300,000 will also be offered to increase the capacity of research at the hospitals, taking the total research funding pool in 2014-15 to close to $1 million.

Foundation's work changes lives

Funding from the St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation has been applauded by hospital staff and patients, such as Cheryl Pirreca.

Mrs Pirreca, 65, of Cronulla (pictured above), was diagnosed with stage four nasopharyngeal (head and neck cancer) in 2011 and developed severe dysphagia (swallow dysfunction) as a result of radiation treatment.

The grandmother of four underwent two years of dilation treatment and speech pathology at St George Hospital’s Swallow Centre.

She no longer requires a feeding tube and credits her recovery to medical research.

The Swallow Centre is run by gastroenterologist Professor Ian Cook who chairs the research foundation’s scientific advisory committee.

Last year his team was given a grant worth more than $300,000 to help identify those cancer patients most at risk of developing dysphagia and to provide evidence on how radiation doses affect swallow function.

‘‘You have to understand that I could not go anywhere, especially overseas, because my food was in a can,’’ Mrs Pirreca said. ‘‘But I was able to go to Paris last year in May.

‘‘[Professor Cook] is a kind, kind, man.’’

Donations fund medical grants

The St George and Sutherland Medical Research Foundation was established in 2007 with the financial support of St George Bank.

Foundation chairman Professor John Edmonds said its vision statement was to enrich the community’s healthcare through research.

The foundation supports the varied work of the medical staff and researchers at the region’s public hospitals, which have a tradition of successful research projects.

Chief executive Peter Christopher said the foundation one day hoped to fund professorial research grants and establish a research institute.

Record: Peter Christopher. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

Record: Peter Christopher. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

"That sort of stuff changes the nature of the hospital and changes perception of the hospital," Mr Christopher said.

"We have internationally renowned doctors and what we need now is to have an internationally renowned research institute."

Mr Christopher said the foundation raised funds through both public and corporate donations, as well as community events such as the St George Beachside Dash. The 2014 dash will be held at Sans Souci on Sunday, October 12.

Have you, or someone you know, been benefitted from medical research?

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