Palliative Care Director receives prestigious international award

Director of Palliative Care at Braeside Hospital, Associate Professor Meera Agar, has won a prestigious international award for her research of delirium.

HammondCare's Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Judd, congratulated A/Prof Agar on the award, which he said was internationally recognised and was awarded to the best emerging program of palliative care research being led by an early career researcher in the world in the past year. The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) has chosen A/Prof Agar from an international field to receive its Early Researcher Award, to be presented at its 13th World Congress in Prague in May, at which she will also give an address in the opening plenary session.

"It's a significant award and well-deserved recognition for Meera's contribution to palliative care through clinical practice and especially in her dedication to research," Dr Judd said.

"Not only does she serve Sydney's vast south western region as Director of Palliative Care at our Braeside Hospital, but she is a major contributor to conferences and publications across the nation and beyond, as well as having a special commitment to palliative care training in Asia."

Maximum impact on care

In nominating A/Prof Agar for the award, Professor David Currow of Flinders University said, "Her research directly helps to inform the quality of clinical care in a way that is rigorous and carefully designed to minimise impact on participants and to maximise the impact... of her findings to clinical care and policy.

"Clinically, Meera now leads a service that spans some of the most resource-challenged areas of her state together with a large population... This means that she has had to develop a clinical service that uses new and innovative methods of health service delivery. Each time she has taken a new direction, she has applied for research money to critically evaluate the program ..." Prof Currow said.

While A/Prof Agar's research interests inform clinical care across palliative care, a main focus of research has been delirium, which is common in palliative care patients and has a substantial impact on their quality of life.

Her upcoming major clinical trial of the management of delirium with anti-psychotics, as part of her doctoral studies, is described by Prof Currow as a "landmark study internationally" which is a "visionary" first in its capacity to inform clinical practice, putting "Meera at an international level of leadership."

Doing better for people with delirium

"This award recognises the importance of delirium, and how it negatively impacts on people living with life-limiting illness and their caregivers," A/Prof Agar said.A/Prof Agar said she was honoured to receive the award and pleased that Australia was leading in so many crucial areas of palliative care research including clinical trials through government funded initiatives such as the Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC).

"I think it is a testament to the palliative care community knowing we need to do better in prevention and caring for people with delirium."

Apart from her role with HammondCare, A/Prof Agar holds academic appointments at Flinders University and University of NSW, leads the NSW Improving Palliative Care through Clinical Trials research collaborative and chairs the national Trial Management Committee for PaCCSC.

Standard of applicants 'very high'

EAPC, which presents the Early Researcher Award, has individual members from 47 nations across the world, and collective members from 54 National Associations in 32 European Countries, representing a movement of many thousands of health and social care workers and volunteers contributing to palliative care.

In announcing A/Prof Agar's receipt of the award, an EAPC statement said, "The standard of applications was very high, with a small group of outstanding candidates. Applications were assessed on the published criteria; namely evidence of sustained engagement with research in palliative care, evidence of emerging grant capture, an increasing portfolio of published research papers and other factors that indicate international esteem..."