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Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, today I wish to speak about an inspirational, innovative and community-focused organisation in Launceston, the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust.

Founded in 1992, the Trust was named after the late Dr Clifford Craig, a distinguished surgeon, administrator, radiologist and medical historian. Dr Craig was a revered and outstanding contributor to the Launceston General Hospital during his 40 years there. He started there in 1926 as Surgeon Superintendent, was an Honorary Surgeon from 1931-41 and Surgeon Superintendent from 1941-1949. Dr Craig became Director of Surgery in 1949 and served in that role for two years but had to retire from that role for health reasons in 1951. He was a radiologist from 1952-1961 and served on the hospital's Board of Management from 1947-1950 and 1957-1966.

The Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust was set up as an independent organisation focussed on the health needs of the local community. Its aim is to support medical research which improves the understanding and treatment of key health conditions affecting northern Tasmania, particularly diabetes, heart disease, cancer and age related conditions such as dementia. A key intention from the outset has been to attract specialists to the Launceston General Hospital by providing them with strong support to do medical research locally.

The Trust has been very successful in its aim of attracting top medical specialists to northern Tasmania and one such example is Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr Katie Flanagan. Dr Flanagan did her medical training in London and worked for seven years in West Africa running an infant immunology research program. A desire for a lifestyle change and the opportunity to do medical research via the Trust saw her relocate to Launceston.

At the Launceston General Hospital, Dr Flanagan advises on how to treat tricky infections as well as antibiotic use in the haematology and oncology departments. Dr Flanagan's research workload is considerable: she is co-leading a study of 1500 babies which looks at the benefits of BCG vaccination for asthma, allergies and the immune system and a separate study about vaccine mechanisms. Further to that, Dr Flanagan is supervising several PHD students.

The Trust's medical research is even more impressive when you consider that it does not get any government money to do its work. Funding is sourced in a variety of ways; including community activities, fundraising donations, bequests and grants. Since 1992, the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust has funded six and a half-million dollars of medical research. The projects that have been supported are inspiring. Associate Professor George Razay's research into a potentially treatable form of dementia called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) is generating a lot of excitement in the international medical community. The condition is treatable but difficult to diagnose.

Patients with NPH have problems with balance and walking, urinary incontinence and dementia. The treatment involves a shunt being inserted to drain excess fluid from the patient's brain. 400 Tasmanians with memory problems are currently being assessed as part of this project to help improve the diagnosis of NPH as there currently isn't a clear set of diagnostic criteria. At present, it's often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. There are currently 230-thousand Australians with dementia and with those rates projected to rise in the next 30 years; the importance of this research cannot be overstated.

In 2007, Launceston General Hospital gastroenterologist, Professor Shan Rajendra successfully applied to the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust to study the biopsies of Launceston General Hospital patients with oesophageal conditions to see if there was evidence of the Human Papillomavirus, known as H-P-V. The research, which has been underway for several years, has identified a strong link between HPV, Barrett's dysplastic tissue and a form of oesophageal cancer. This is extremely significant as the incidence of this type of cancer has grown 600 per cent in the past 40 years.

Dr Jonathan Mulford is currently researching long term outcomes for patients who've had a joint replacement. A database will collect information about people who have hip and knee replacements in Launceston, taking in pre and post operation periods and tracking their progress for at least two years after surgery. In a second study, Dr Mulford is exploring whether a steroid called dexamethasone can help improve recovery time for patients who've had a joint replacement by reducing inflammation resulting from the procedure.

Other research projects currently underway include improving the treatment of acute pancreatitis, a study aiming to reduce the incidence of post pregnancy diabetes and two research projects on the eye disease, glaucoma.

The Chief Executive of the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust, Peter Milne makes a valid point when he says the research they support ensures that northern Tasmanians get access to the very best specialist care available. It is for this reason Mr President that I urge everyone to donate what they can to its important work. We are blessed beyond measure to have an organisation that gives so much to its community as the Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust does. To the entire team at the Trust, we are very grateful for and proud of your contribution to northern Tasmania. Thank you.

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