Dr Malindu ‘Mal’ Fernando’s research career began at the AITHM’s second doctoral cohort program to be offered at JCU, and now he is making international connections to improve solutions for Australians with diabetes-related foot disease. Dr Fernando is dual trained in podiatry and medicine and is an adjunct post-doctoral research fellow at JCU.
Dr Fernando said 30,000 Australians were admitted to hospital with diabetes-related foot disease each year, with many at high risk of limb loss, recurrence and death but he has found an absence of effective secondary prevention programs.
“Providing a scalable alternative to acute hospital-based models of care for diabetes-related foot disease is of critical importance to the future viability of Australia’s health care system, he said.
“Estimates show a well-resourced and effective prevention program can reduce diabetes-related foot disease complications by at least 20% resulting each year in: approximately 6000 hospitalisations avoided; 1000 amputations prevented, $400 million in healthcare costs saved, and 400 deaths avoided in Australia.
“I believe medical technology is a potential method by which these outcomes can be achieved for Australians living with diabetes-related foot disease, and I hope that collaborative work will lead to greater access to these technologies in Australia.”
Dr Fernando obtained his PhD in the biomechanical evaluation of the diabetic foot, in 2017, under the supervision of JCU’s Head of Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease, Distinguished Professor Jonathan Golledge. Professor Golledge continues to mentor Mal in his postdoctoral work.
He has since been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Futures Scholarship for international collaborative work related to foot disease, working with two world leaders Professor David Armstrong and Professor Bijan Najfi in the USA. He has authored more than 30 peer reviewed scientific publications related to diabetic foot disease, and two book chapters for which he was awarded national and international prizes.
Dr Fernando is currently a junior medical officer and conjoint lecturer at the University of Newcastle, but he has returned to his research roots at the JCU Doctoral Program as a professional mentor to its HDR students, offering peer review assistance, and providing talks on research methods and publications.
“I am very thankful to the Head of the cohort doctoral program Associate Professor Melissa Crowe, and the past and present leaders of the cohort program for the opportunity to be a part of this program, as it really launched my academic career and provided me with a solid foundation including experienced mentors and a valuable peer network who I remain close to even today,” he said.
“Over the years, I have learned that teamwork triumphs over individual achievement as it generates new ideas, new concepts and leads to novel discoveries and approaches.”
“The next stage of my academic career is focused on expanding on international collaboration -specifically with our collaborators in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California.”
Dr Fernando said the future of Australian clinical research is in multidisciplinary collaboration and in the sharing of resources to be able to achieve better, tangible outcomes and in generating big data through collaborative work.