Researcher's vision for lifelong wellbeing
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Researcher's vision for lifelong wellbeing

Murdoch Children's Research Institute's (MCRI) Professor Melissa Wake is accustomed to working on large-scale research projects that require her to think innovatively.

As the leader behind recently-finished child health study Child Health CheckPoint, she oversaw a project that involved the organisation of trucks to transport a mobile assessment centre around the country, an ensemble of collaborators, 80 postgraduate students and a few thousand parents and children.

Professor Melissa Wake has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking projects.

Professor Melissa Wake has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking projects.

Photo: Supplied

She says navigating through the project buoyed her optimism about the scale of the research projects she can undertake.

"The lightbulb moment for me was when I realised it is possible to do something really intricate and really interdependent on multiple people," she says. "Seeing how that could work in practice really gave me great hope."

Wake is director of Generation Victoria. The whole-of-state research initiative has been established to capture data from the 160,000-strong cohort of babies to be born in Victoria in 2020 and 2021 and seeks to improve understanding of big health problems such as asthma, obesity, autism, food allergies, mental illness and learning difficulties.

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Wake's role involves developing proposals, addressing study design issues, talking with her team to stay updated on their progress and meeting with other health service providers around the state to discuss how they might contribute to Generation Victoria

"You have all the challenge and fun of thinking, 'Well, okay, this is my vision. This is where I want to get to. How exactly are we going to make this a reality?"'

MCRI's researchers seek to translate their research discoveries into better prevention, intervention and treatment for children.

Wake, who spent her working life as a practicing paediatrician until last year, is also concurrently a group leader at MCRI.

An esteemed researcher, she was awarded the 2009 Australian Health Minister's Prize for Excellence in Health & Medical Research and she was top-ranked research fellow in Australia at the National Health and Medical Research Council Excellence Awards for 2009-12 and 2013-16.

She says one of the big career questions researchers need to answer in the competitive world of medical and health research concerns who they want to be in research and the sequence of steps they need to take to get there.

"We have lots of ideas that don't go forward because we can't see that sequence of steps being realistic or feasible," says Wake.

"With Gen V, we see it's really realistic and feasible – though it's really big."

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