We were privileged to hear from our District’s Global Grant Scholar for 2017-18, Georgia Richards last Thursday.
She was introduced to the club by the District’s Global Grants Committee Chair, Haida Passos. Georgia is from Brisbane and graduated from a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science with First Class Honours in Pharmacology from the University of Queensland in 2015. Her Honours research focused on the management of chronic non-cancer pain which led Georgia to pursue a career in medical research working in the non-for-profit sector. Georgia has now been accepted into the University of Oxford to study for her Doctorate of Philosophy (DPhil/PhD) in Primary Health Care. Her PhD research will focus on evidence-based medicine with the outcome to improve disease prevention and treatment. Georgia will be supervised by Professor Carl Heneghan who is the Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Oxford, a General Practitioner and leading medical researcher in Evidence-Based Medicine. Without the support of the Rotary Global Grant, Georgia would not have had this incredible opportunity.
Georgia told us that

A part-time job in a Pharmacy while I was studying gave me first-hand exposure to the problem of prescription medication misuse and abuse, particularly strong pain medications like opioids.  When I began speaking with patients who would come into the Pharmacy for their pain medications, they would tell me about their chronic pain and how much it was affecting their lives. Initially, I could not understand what they meant by ‘chronic’ pain; I had been in pain before, we all have, but how could their pain just never go away?
This insight became the catalyst for my Honours research project in 2015. Here, I devised and conducted a multi-disciplinary study on people with chronic low-back pain who were taking opioid medications.
After spending three months collecting data at a private hospital in Brisbane with two Pain Specialists, I realised the complexity of this condition. For the one in five Australians who live with chronic pain every day, current treatments are mostly ineffective. I also became bothered by the disparity I saw between the clinical practice of prescribing opioids and the evidence I was reading in scientific literature; this fuelled my interest in the practice of Evidence-Based Medicine. Overall, my Honours study opened my eyes to the silent epidemic of suffering, the need for better prevention and treatment and I was determined to do something about it.
While working as a research assistant for the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation on mental health projects for Australian military veterans, a colleague who knew how determined I was to continue my research, nominated me for the Australian Women’s Weekly and Qantas, Women of the Future Awards.   Surprisingly, I was short-listed and later awarded the overall Judge’s Choice Winner selected by Lucy Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Lisa Wilkinson, among others, for my passion and dedication to help others. The prize money allowed me to attend and present my research findings at the 16th World Congress on Pain in Yokohama Japan, interview face-to-face for my PhD in Oxford, complete a research trainee program at Cochrane UK and travel here this week to meet you all.  A combination of my educational and professional experiences have highlighted the important impact research can have on advancing the health and wellbeing of individuals, the community and globally. I have gained the skills and persisted to receive the opportunities to continue to make an impact. However, without financial support none of this would have be possible.

Undertaking an international PhD at Oxford is an incredible opportunity I will always cherish. However, this privilege comes with an extremely large price tag. I applied for countless scholarships – from the Rhodes, the John Monash and an array of UK Commonwealth scholarships, only to be unsuccessful. Receiving the notification from The Rotary Foundation that I would be financially supported by your District allowed me to confirm my position at Oxford and subsequently receive further funding.

I chose the career of medical research to contribute to finding solutions for the big problems we face in healthcare that will ultimately help others. Now, as a Rotary Scholar, I can continue to make an impact to the health of our local and international community. The future of Australia depends on science, innovation and leaders to inspire the next generation of Australians. This is exactly what I am committed to do.”