16 November 2021

Dr Michala Short

UniSA radiation therapist Dr Michala Short has been named South Australia’s Unsung Hero of Science for 2021, acknowledging her 20-year career helping to improve the lives of cancer patients, alongside her work to support the establishment of Australia’s first proton therapy centre.

The UniSA lecturer and researcher was awarded the honour last night by the Chief Scientist of South Australia, Professor Caroline McMillen, at a special ceremony at Pridham Hall.

Dr Short is one of only three South Australian radiation therapists with a PhD, and her contribution to scientific research in South Australia has not only helped cancer patients but has trained and inspired a new generation of researchers.

The young scientist is involved in key research in collaboration with the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research,  the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere to treat paediatric, adolescent and young adult patients and those with rare cancers. It is due to open in 2025.

In 2018, Dr Short, along with a handful of other scientists and radiation oncologists, advised the Federal Government on the introduction of proton beam therapy. Compared to conventional x-ray (photon) therapy, proton beam therapy more effectively targets tumours and cancer cells, delivering optimal radiation doses to the tumour while limiting the effects on the surrounding healthy tissues.

Proton therapy will particularly help children and young people living with cancer because their cells and brains are at a sensitive stage of development and highly susceptible. The Bragg Centre is expected to treat up to 700 patients a year.

“Dr Short has been instrumental in raising the profile of medical radiation science across Australia and has paved the way for others, especially young women, to pursue scientific research in this discipline,” according to the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS) who hosted the awards.

 “It’s a real honour to receive recognition for my career across the clinical, academic and research spheres,” Dr Short says. “It also gives kudos to the medical radiation science community, which is so important in the treatment of cancer.”

“We’re fortunate in Australia to have world-class radiation therapy facilities and it makes a big difference to people’s lives that are affected by cancer.

“The soon-to-be opened Bragg Centre makes this an exciting time for our field but also for cancer patients who may previously have had to travel overseas to get treatment or missed out on having radiation therapy at all. It’s wonderful that patients will soon be able to benefit from this life-saving treatment.”

South Australia’s 10 Young Tall Poppies of Science for 2021 – including Dr Brenton Hordacre and Dr Vitomir Kovanovic  – were publicly honoured at the ceremony last night, with biomedical researcher Dr Hannah Wardill from the University of Adelaide taking out the Tallest Poppy of the Year award.

Media contact: Candy Gibson T: +61 8 8302 0961 M: +61 434 605 142
E: candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au

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