Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Dr Melissa Lee has won a Victorian Premier’s Award for her research that’s leading to better health outcomes for heart disease patients.
The 2020 Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research recognise the exceptional contributions made by early career health and medical researchers in their PhD studies.
Dr Lee said she was honoured to win the clinical researcher category for her research into improving outcomes after surgery for patients with a common congenital heart disease condition.
“One of the most common heart defect babies can be born with is called coarctation of the aorta, where the main blood vessel from the heart has a narrow area so less blood is pumped round the body than normal,” she said. “This means the heart must work harder to pump the blood around the body and is often unable to keep up.”
“It is often treated with surgery but over time people can develop high blood pressure. The cause of the high blood pressure is unknown as it can still develop in people who have no sign of any ongoing narrowing in the main blood vessel.”
Dr Lee’s research following up patients after this heart surgery is the largest and longest study in the world. She worked in collaboration with the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.
Dr Lee said her research found that these patients had three times the risk of early death due to the side effects of having higher blood pressure than the average person.
The findings have led to a change in how this heart surgery is performed and improvement in the long term follow up of these patients leading to better outcomes. Her research has been incorporated into international guidelines for the diagnosis and management of hypertension.