Issue #4, March 26th, 2018

News Headlines

OPUS New Year Media


OPUS Lead Chief Investigator Professor Peter Choong was in the media focus early this year along with Rob Anderson, the new CEO for MOVE Australia. "Thousands of Australians are benefiting from knee and hip replacements each year. However, research has identified that up to 15-20% may not be responding to surgery as intended” says Professor Choong. “A new Model of Care for osteoarthritis has been developed that looks at improving the health of patients with osteoarthritis while holding back the need for joint replacement surgery."

Professor Choong spoke on the same topic on Sydney radio show Talking Lifestyle with George and Paul and has also been featured as an invited guest speaker for the new HeyOA! podcast this month, run by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI). These are great illustrations of OPUS research engagement with the community.

Chief Investigators Appear on Triple R’s “Einstein a Go Go”

Chief Investigators Appear on Triple R’s “Einstein a Go Go”

What a show to kick off 2018! Triple R's Einstein a Go Go Sunday radio show was happy to host Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor Peter Choong and General Practitioner Professor Jane Gunn in February. They were the first guests on the show for the year which included an extended Q&A session regarding chronic healthcare management and osteoarthritis advanced care and clinical research in Australia.

Osteoarthritis effects almost the entire community in one way or another. Professor Peter Choong performs 200 total joint replacements annually to aid in osteoarthritis treatment, but that pales in comparison to the 100,000 hip and knee total joint replacements performed nationally each year. The total direct and indirect hospital cost involved with that number of surgeries is estimated to be $2 billion.

The show was recorded on Sunday the 4th of February, 2018. You can listen to it here or view the OPUS website for more information: medicine.unimelb.edu.au/surgery/opus


Much More Than a MoC Launch


Early this February the University of Melbourne and St Vincent’s Hospital were happy to host the launch of the new Victorian Model of Care (MoC) framework for osteoarthritis management, alongside Medibank Better Health Foundation and MOVE – Muscle, Bone and Joint Health Australia. The MoC was compiled by a number of key health professionals from over 25 health organisations from around the state and further abroad. Professor Andrew Briggs was the main facilitator of the work and also spoke on its behalf, how it should be used and the appropriateness for a National framework for the management of osteoarthritis.

“The issue of osteoarthritis is a crucial one for our health system; these conditions take up to 10% of the total health budget and consume 48% in hospital service costs. The challenge is for governments and health systems to allocate available resources effectively. And the challenge for research is to identify cost-effective care while maintaining and improving quality of life.”

The more interesting aspects of the report go against some of the current mainstream dogma for recommendations, diagnosis, management and treatment for osteoarthritis. They are that:

  • The use of MRI is not an endorsed method for diagnosing osteoarthritis;
  • Arthroscopic surgery is not recommended for patients exhibiting symptomatic osteoarthritis, where one method of non-operative management should be considered prior to surgical referral.
  • Osteoarthritis can be successfully treated in many cases without surgery;
  • Joint replacement should only be a treatment of last resort.

“Osteoarthritis is not an inevitable part of ageing. There are simple and effective strategies we can all take note of to reduce our dependence on surgery. Exercise, movement and stretching are proven ways to relieve pain.”

In 2016, nearly 100,000 Australians received joint replacements to treat osteoarthritis of the hip or knee at an estimated cost of over $2 billion. The suitability and appropriateness of total joint replacement use must be managed better nationally and internationally. You can find the full Model of Care report here.

Awards and Funding

Flipping High Risk Healthcare with $70,000 Seed Funding

In keeping with our cross-disciplinary collaborations, OPUS has partnered with Swinburne University of Technology through which an Interdisciplinary Seed Funding grant worth $70,000 has been awarded. The project is called “Flipping high risk healthcare: A design-led service blueprint for surgical pathways”.

Swinburne University of Technology is partnering with the University of Melbourne and Stryker on this project with Lead Investigator and Director of the Design Factory Melbourne Professor Anita Kocsis. Other collaborators include St Vincent’s Health Australia. Chief Investigators on this project include Professor Peter Choong, Associate Professor Michelle Dowsey and Dr Shaun Britton. The result of this work will inform larger scale project applications through the NHMRC, ARC and other related public, private or international funding schemes.

seed plant
hands in

Congratulations: Further Centre Success and Increased Capacity

On the back of Professor Philip Clark’s recent promotion, we also had a few other changes within our Centre. Congratulations Nardia-Rose Klem for successfully receiving a competitive Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship. This is a great tribute to Nardia’s PhD work. Nardia is currently undertaking research in Melbourne for 6 weeks as part of her PhD studies. The visit has provided Nardia with a great opportunity to get to know staff and students within the Centre.

A new PhD student, Jay-Shian Tan has also commenced a PhD with Professors Anne Smith and Peter O’Sullivan. As a qualified Physiotherapist working for Flex Physiotherapy, his PhD will build on his practical knowledge and field experience, with a project revolving around a new complex single case series starting in April and involving wearable motion sensor to track movement.

Finally, we have a new Professor within our Centre. Professor Anne Smith was officially endowed with her promotion on the 1st of December 2017 by Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AO. She has been servicing the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science at Curtin University for over 11 years. This is a great tribute to the excellent contribution she has made to Curtin University and OPUS, with many more great things to come.

In the Spotlight

PhD Candidate and Physiotherapist Nardia-Rose Klem

Contact: n.klem@postgrad.curtin.edu.au

Organisation: Curtin School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science and Life Care Thomson’s Lake Physiotherapy

Location: Perth

Career summary

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in 2015 Nardia worked as a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist in both Perth and Bunbury (2 hours south of Perth). Her Honours studies focused on the effects of external ankle support on lower limb biomechanics in basketball players, while her clinical interests include lower limb biomechanics and rehabilitation as well as chronic pain disorders.  She has two publications and is now a full time OPUS student with part time Physiotherapy commitments.

Awards and Achievements

Runner-up best oral presentation (sports science) at the Exercise and Sports Science Australia conference 2016 and 2018 APA scholarship recipient.


OPUS Role/Current Research

Nardia’s current PhD candidature involves a collaboration between Curtin University and Melbourne University under Professor Anne Smith, Professor Peter O’Sullivan, Associate Professor Michelle Dowsey, Associate Professor Peter Kent, and Dr Sam Bunzli. Her project will focus on conceptualising and understanding success after total knee replacement surgery. The first stage of her data collection involved traveling to Melbourne and doing qualitative research under Dr Sam Bunzli guidance. Throughout a 6-week period she interviewed numerous patients who had received a total knee replacement 12-month’s prior at St Vincent’s Hospital.


Nardia enjoys a lot of sport related activities, particularly open water swimming, running, and cycling. She also really enjoys spending time at the beaches south of Perth in Dunsborough and Bunbury where she grew up. In her down time, she likes watching movies of the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety or going out to music festivals/live music events. Drinking wine and eating cheese also rates highly.

Senior OPUS Researcher Professor Anne Smith

Role: Biostatistician and Principal Research Fellow at the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science

Organisation: Curtin University, Western Australia

Location: Perth

OPUS Connection: Professor Anne Smith co-leads Workplan 3 and supervises PhD candidates Nardia Klem, JP Caneiro and Jay-Shian Tan. Professor Smith brings to OPUS a wealth of experience in arthritis, advanced statistics and clinical research

Career High Notes

Professor Smith has a dual role as both a Biostatistician and musculoskeletal researcher, positioning her to be a key leader and enabler of a broad range of research across disciplines at a school, university, state, national and international level. Anne’s skills in biostatistics provide much needed sophistication of analyses in the rapidly evolving field of musculoskeletal health both for her own research team and her other research collaborations.

A Smith

Anne has achieved nationally competitive grant success, through NHMRC Project Grant and Fellowship funding of $5.6m as CI, international funding of $0.8m and $0.5m in other funding. Anne has 146 career publications, with over 80% of these in quartile 1 ranked journals in their field. She has collaborations with national and international leaders in musculoskeletal research. Anne has successfully supervised 9 PhD, 2 Masters and 9 Honours students to completion, and is currently supervising 7 PhDs and 1 clinical doctorate student, with all projects being cross-disciplinary involving collaboration with psychologists, surgeons and/or pain scientists


Anything that involves being active in or near the ocean; swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddle-boarding, surfing (only if the waves are very small). Cycling. Running with my Border Collie, and sometimes my husband, even though I can’t keep up with him.


  • Seven Category 1 grants, the most relevant being a $650,000 NHMRC project grant investigating the use of shoe inserts reduce the burden of kneecap osteoarthritis.
  • One international grant for $800,000 from the Norwegian Physical Therapy Research Fund for Classification-based cognitive functional therapy for patients with long-lasting non-specific low back pain.
  • Four Category 2 and 3 industry and government grants, the most relevant being $75,000 from the Department of Health WA/Curtin University to fund investigative studies into regarding Lumbar pathology.

Other Skills

Avoiding sharks and stingers. Reasonably competent mother and dog-owner.

piggy banks

Professor Philip Clarke Extends OPUS Reach to Oxford

Money Forum

OPUS is excited to announce that Chief Investigator Philip Clarke, Head of the Health Economics Unit at the Melbourne School of Population and global Health (MSPGH) within the University of Melbourne has been offered a permanent Professorship in Health Economics at the University of Oxford, England. He will be stepping down as Director at MSPGH in June this year, but will retain a fractional employment with the Health Economics Centre until at least 2020, and will continue his role within the OPUS. Philip will continue to visit Melbourne on a regular basis, enabling time to be spent working with many stakeholders on both sides of the globe including OPUS.

While most might think his work would be winding down for now, that couldn’t be further from the truth with a Health Data Forum being planned in May for MSPGH related personnel. A large aspect of the Beyond 2018 Strategic Plan within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Heath Sciences is dedicated to figuring out how to leverage health data records for research purposes. The purpose of the Forum is to identify current examples of data registry use, linkage and publication of said data by local researchers as a means of effecting government views on access to public health data and associated policy reform. Professor Peter Choong and Associate Professor Michelle Dowsey have been invited to the Forum to showcase the SMART registry.

We look forward to what the future holds for Philip and OPUS given these new opportunities further abroad.

Forum Planning Underway

Planning for the first OPUS Forum has officially begun with the first Forum slated for March 2019. OPUS speaks to healthcare cost efficiency and equity, aspects we intend to highlight within our first Forum. Entitled “OPUS, Redesigning Healthcare: Osteoarthritis,” there will be a mix of staff and student presentations across the relevant disciplines, covering health economics, policy, clinical research and consumer aspects relating to late stage osteoarthritis care. The Forum is also planned for a Saturday to enable healthcare and allied professional to attend.

If you would like to know more about data registries, quantitative and qualitative outcomes research, Better Care Community initiatives, GLA:D physiotherapy management frameworks, evidenced based OPUS research or surgical decision aid use in total joint replacement, definitively come along! Expect some big names, great debates and an interesting day of in-depth conversation revolving around national and international osteoarthritis care.

Forum plan

Your feedback on any aspect of our project is always welcome. You can send us a message through Twitter @unimelbOPUS, contact our Centre Manager directly of join our mailing list https://lists.unimelb.edu.au/signoff/opus-cretjr-community

Dale Baum: dmbaum@unimelb.edu.au

T: +61 3 9231 2553

Department of Surgery, Melbourne Medical School, St. Vincent’s Hospital