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Research claims Chloe’s heart

Published:  22 June 2020

An insatiable curiosity, a passion for giving back to her community and a desire to care at the bedside are three of the qualities driving Townsville Hospital and Health Service research assistant Chloe Sobieralski in her health career.

Chloe, a Kuku Yalanji woman who is also in her second year of nursing at James Cook University, said when she saw an advertisement for research assistant to neonatologist Dr Yoga Kandasamy and his four-year study into kidney growth in premature babies she jumped at the chance. 

“This research project looks at how a mother’s health can impact on a baby’s kidney function into adulthood,” Chloe said.

“Being Indigenous myself I want to give back to my community and kidney disease is such a big thing for my people; being able to contribute to research that may help prevent kidney failure would be incredible.

“One of my projects was setting up a database so we can enter all the data that has been collected in the antenatal clinics and at the one-and-two-year follow-up appointments and link it directly to the mum.

“I also assist the nurses with postnatal clinic appointments where I can interact with our mums and take retinal images which are later analysed.

“I’m learning so much and it’s great to work alongside health care workers to see what’s on the other side of my nursing degree.”

Chloe said her role had also changed her perspective and broadened her career options.

“When I was 13, I had a baby sister who was born prematurely and was looked after by some of the neonatal nurses I’m now lucky enough to work alongside,” Chloe said.

“Unfortunately, my sister didn’t make it and I was fairly traumatised; I was adamant that I didn’t want to work with babies after that.

“However, working with the neonatal team has given me more of an appreciation for the neonatal unit and completely changed my perspective.

“While my passion lies in bones and my dream job is to work in orthopaedics, I can actually see myself possibly working in the neonatal unit or in renal care.”

Chloe said working as a research assistant had started a life-long passion for research.

“I completed a year and a half of medicine before I realised that being a doctor wasn’t where my heart lay,” Chloe said.

“Though I hope to go back to medicine at some point in my career, for now I know I want to be a nurse, caring at the bedside.

“I’m a really curious person and love to know how things work so I know whatever road I take I will definitely continue to research.

 Dr Kandasamy said the neonatal unit was thrilled to have Chloe as part of the research team.

“The focus of the project is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, but the study is open to everybody,” Dr Kandasamy said.

“I am hoping to recruit around 400 mothers and babies - equal numbers Indigenous and non-Indigenous - and enrolments are now open.

“Chloe is passionate about research and about making a difference for her people and I’m beyond delighted to have her on board.”

Dr Kandasamy said the babies would be followed up for two years to see if there were any early signs of kidney injury.

“In addition to helping inform the research findings, we know that early intervention can improve or delay worsening of kidney function.”

Dr Kandasamy said the project would focus on kidneys because of the high local incidence of renal disease, particularly in the Indigenous population.

“Around 30 per cent of the 900 babies admitted to our neonatal unit each year are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander,” he said.

 Dr Kandasamy said Chloe’s recruitment was also part of a strong focus on building capacity in Indigenous research.

“It’s so important that we create opportunities and support Indigenous researchers; their passion and cultural perspective is invaluable especially in those areas where we are working toward closing the gap in health outcomes.”

Dr Kandasamy’s research has been funded by a $1.55 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The project is open to pregnant women who are booked in to birth at Townsville University Hospital.

To learn more about the project or to enroll please email KandasamyNHMRCgrant@health.qld.gov.au or call (07) 4433 5320.

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