Cooling therapy helps babies survive

Dani Forster’s work is the difference between life and death for some of our most vulnerable babies.

Babies who struggle to breathe shortly after birth are at risk of developing hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which can cause neurological disability or death. The only effective, but extremely risky, treatment is to induce hypothermia.

Dani is an electrical engineering PhD student at the University of Melbourne. Her research received a massive boost in 2015 when she was awarded the Len Stevens Scholarship from the Melbourne School of Engineering.

The scholarship will allow her to travel to the United States to participate in a project to personalise hypothermia treatment for infants suffering from HIE. She also has the opportunity to visit the manufacturers of a Near-Infrared Spectrometer (NIRS), the only NIRS device in the world that allows for absolute measurement of blood in brain tissue.

“This scholarship will allow me to work closely with software developers to create a program that allows better HIE diagnosis through monitoring of data on blood flow and volume to the brain,” said Dani.

This experience will be vital in gaining the information Dani needs to progress her research and reduce the risks for many babies suffering from HIE.

I cannot say thank you enough for this opportunity. I am very excited that this scholarship will have a positive impact on my research into improving outcomes for neonates with HIE.

The scholarship was established in honour of Professor Len Stevens, former Dean of Engineering. More than 200 donors contributed to the fund with gifts ranging from $10 to $16,000.

For Dani, the scholarship means she can be part of the cutting-edge collaborative research across engineering and medicine that makes a real difference to the lives of vulnerable babies, their families, and the medical staff who treat them.