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Professor Susan Sawyer
Professor Susan Sawyer AM MBBS MD FRACP holds the Geoff and Helen Hanbury chair of adolescent health at The University of Melbourne and is director of the RCH Centre for Adolescent Health, a WHO collaborating centre for adolescent health. Her early training as a respiratory paediatrician led to wider interest in adolescent health following her appreciation of how much she was learning from her adolescent patients with cystic fibrosis and asthma. Susan has helped build the field of Adolescent Health and Medicine in Australia, and increasingly internationally. Her current interests revolve around health services for adolescents, including the development and evaluation of innovative models of clinical services for adolescents in primary care and specialist settings; approaches to building a multidisciplinary workforce in adolescent health; and research at the interface of health and education.
Professor Sawyer is active in global adolescent health, a field that she and her colleague Professor George Patton has virtually defined. She co-led two series on Adolescent Health for the Lancet in 2007 and 2012, and was a lead commissioner on the 2016 Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Well-being. She recently led a 2-year body of research that culminated in the first global standards for health promoting schools for WHO and UNESCO. She is a chief investigator on two current NHMRC funded Centres for Research Excellence, one on driving global investment in adolescent health and the other on adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy.
- Director, Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital
- Geoff and Helen Handbury Chair of Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne
- Co-director (with George Patton), WHO collaborating Centre for Adolescent Health
- Co-director (with Julian Gold), Australian Network of WHO Collaborating Centres
- Nossal Institute for Global Health
- Burnet Institute
- President, International Association for Adolescent Health
- Director, Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital
- Chair of Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne
- Associate Dean International, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
2020: Member (AM), Order of Australia
2018: University of Melbourne, Department of Paediatrics, Engagement Award (in recognition of sustained community engagement, policy impact and/or public advocacy in health)
2016: Women’s Mentorship Scholarship, Victorian State Government, Leadership Victoria
2014: NPS MedicineWise Award for Excellence in e-Health Resources
2013: Victorian Women’s Honour Roll, Victorian Government
Professor Sawyer and her group have undertaken research that includes:
- Clinical trials have included interventions to improve outcomes from eating disorders (Family Based Treatment), obesity (bariatric surgery, e-health community based interventions), asthma (adherence reminders, training general practitioners) and interventions to improve the quality of primary care delivered to adolescents.
- Descriptive and evaluation studies have described new clinical phenomena (such as the dramatic increase in adolescents with what is now known as atypical anorexia nervosa) and new interventions (such as more aggressive approaches to refeeding malnourished patients with anorexia nervosa, the first clinical trial of bariatric surgery in obese adolescents, and testing the effect of clinical reminders to improve adherence in patients with asthma).
- Evaluation of innovative clinical services for adolescents with health conditions that sit at the interface of medicine and mental health (eg somatic symptom disorder, eating disorders, gender dysphoria)
- Studies of adolescent friendly practices include studies of transition to adult health care, cluster randomised trials of the effectiveness of promoting youth friendly primary healthcare, and studies that measure the adolescent friendliness of specialist services.
Eating disorder research
This includes a large randomised controlled trial that is testing two different forms of Family Based Treatment for adolescents with eating disorders and various descriptive studies, including those that describe the growing prevalence of atypical anorexia nervosa.
Youth Friendly Cancer Care
This is a national study funded by Cancer Australia and Redkite that involves qualitative and quantitative data from young people with cancer and their parents with the goal of informing new clinical models of care
Quality care for adolescents
This includes the Adolescent Friendly Children’s Hospital research program, which has focussed on developing and validating indicators and survey tools that can be used to assess the ‘Adolescent Friendliness’ of hospitals; randomised controlled trials within primary care of more youth friendly practices; randomised controlled trials of adherence reminders for adolescents and adults with asthma; and qualitative studies addressing parent perspectives of adolescent friendly health care.
We are developing a new research program that will be embedded within the new RCH gender dysphoria service, which has seen a dramatic upswing in the number of referrals over the past 5 years.
Frayman K, Sawyer SM. Sexual and Reproductive Health in Cystic Fibrosis: A Lifecourse Perspective. Lancet Respiratory Medicine 2015;3(1):70-86.
Sawyer SM, Ambresin AE, Bennett KE, Patton GC. A measurement framework for quality healthcare for adolescents in hospitals. Journal of Adolescent Health 2014;55(4):484-90
Foster JM, Usherwood T, Smith L, Sawyer SM, Xuan Wei, Rand CS, Reddel HK. Inhaler reminders improve adherence with controller treatment in primary care asthma patients. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2014;134:1260-8.
Ambresin AE, Bennett K, Patton GC, Sanci LA, Sawyer SM. Assessment of youth-friendly health care: a systematic review of indicators drawn from young people's perspectives. Journal of Adolescent Health 2013;52(6):670-81.
Hughes EK, Le Grange D, Court A, Yeo MSM, Campbell S, Allen A, Crosby RD, Loeb KL, Sawyer SM. Parent-focused treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa: a study protocol of a randomised controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry 2014;14:105.
Hughes E, Le Grange D, Court A, Yeo M, Campbell S, Whitelaw M, Aitkins L, Sawyer SM. Implementation of Family-Based Treatment for adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Journal of Pediatric Health Care 2014;28:322-330
Sawyer SM, Afifi RA, Bearinger LH, Blakemore SJ, Dick B, Ezay A, Patton GC. Adolescence: a foundation for future health. The Lancet 2012;379 (9826):1630-1640.
O’Brien P, Sawyer SM, Laurie C, Veit FCM, Brown W, Skinner S, Paul E, Bailey M, McGrice M, Anderson M, Dixon J. Severe obesity in adolescents: a randomized trial comparing laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding with a medical weight loss program. JAMA 2010; 303:519-526.
Patton GC, Coffey C, Sawyer SM, Viner RM, Haller D, Bose K, Vos T, Fergussan J, Mathers CD. Global patterns of mortality in young people: a systematic analysis of population health data. Lancet 2009;374:881-92.
Duncan R, Drew S, Hodgson J, Sawyer SM. Is My Mum Going to Hear This? Methodological and Ethical Challenges in Qualitative Research with Young People. Social Science and Medicine 2009;69:1691-1699.
- Australian Rotary Health
- Baker Foundation
- Cancer Australia