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UC’s Tall Poppy sights set on stroke

Marcus Butler

24 October 2017: Helping prevent people who’ve had a stroke to avoid further health complications and improve recovery has earned the University of Canberra’s Niru Mahendran a 2017 Young Tall Poppy Science Award.

The Clinical Assistant Professor of Physiotherapy was honoured as an outstanding young researcher at the Australian Academy of Sciences today.

Her work explores the concept of physical activity as ‘medicine’ to benefit people with stroke by boosting recovery, overcome related health complications and reduce their risk of chronic diseases.

“One of the effects of a stroke can be reduced mobility, strength and energy levels, so being active becomes harder,” Dr Mahendran said. “But stopping exercise and becoming less active can lead to further complications, such as increased fatigue, heart disease, having a second stroke, or early mortality.

“While we know that physical activity can be beneficial for people with neurological conditions, like stroke, we still don’t understand how to put this into practice and how hard we really need to push these individuals to see benefits.

“I’ve been working to find a better way to treat people with neurological conditions, including stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. I think exercise and physical activity is pivotal in promoting recovery and preventing further decline in these groups.”

Dr Mahendran said she was honoured to be a recipient of the ACT Tall Poppy Award and is very grateful for having her work acknowledged. She is looking forward to helping inspire future young scientists, as she too has been inspired by many great scientists throughout her life.

“Young Tall Poppies are nominated by their colleagues and seniors and I was thrilled to even have my work considered, but to receive the award, it’s just amazing,” she said.

“I hope it will help spread my work from the lab out into physiotherapy and health settings, and prompt other clinicians to prescribe physical activity as a way for people with neurological conditions to keep themselves healthier, have better outcomes and maintain their independence for as long as possible.”

The Tall Poppy Awards are run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science recognising excellent examples of cutting edge research being undertaken by early career researchers who have under ten years post-doctoral experience.

As part of the Young Tall Poppy program, award winners will spend a year sharing their knowledge and experience with school students, teachers and the broader community through workshops, seminars and public lectures.