31 Mar 2023

PhD student receives Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award

Congratulations to Dr Douglas Tjandra for receiving the Gustav Nossal Postgraduate Scholarship Award from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Dr Tjandra is undertaking a PhD with Prof Alex Boussioutas and Dr Rita Busuttil in the Gastroenterology Department at the Central Clinical School and Alfred Hospital. His PhD has a dual focus on a condition called gastric intestinal metaplasia (a precursor lesion to gastric cancer) and genetic conditions which predispose to both gastric and colorectal cancers.

He will look at the clinical, molecular, genetic and immunological features which affect the level of risk, and how our healthcare systems can be optimised in screening and follow-up to improve outcomes for patients and reduce associated healthcare burdens.

“It has been an enormous honour to be awarded the NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship and Gustav Nossal Award,” Dr Tjandra said. “I’m grateful to have this support as I pursue my interest in the prevention of gastrointestinal cancers in those who are at higher than average risk. It is an area of personal significance to me as my father passed away from colorectal cancer. I owe a lot to Prof Boussioutas and Dr Busuttil, my previous mentors Professors David Huang, Finlay Macrae and Britt Christensen, and of course, my family. It makes me feel very motivated to try my hardest with the opportunity.”

The scholarship award is named to honour Sir Gustav Nossal AC CBE FRS and his pioneering work in the field of immunology. Sir Gustav is a distinguished research biologist who is noted for his contributions to the fields of antibody formation and immunological tolerance. This award is given to the highest ranked recipient of an NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship in the Clinical Medicine and Science research category.

Dr Tjandra hopes to follow in Prof Boussioutas's footsteps as a clinician and researcher in the gastro-oncology field, with a focus on prevention: “I would like to bring forward advances in science into clinical practice, and my particular interest is in how we can better personalise risk assessments for patients. I think this can improve patient outcomes by reducing cancers, while also avoiding unnecessary procedures and over-surveillance, which is burdensome both for patients and the healthcare system. I also hope to continue practising clinically as I find the interactions with patients and my colleagues, as well as the process of immediate decision-making and reassessment, to be very rewarding.” 

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