This time last year, eight exceptional, research-minded health practitioners began their MACH-Track orientation and their first steps towards becoming future leaders of healthcare.

In the lead up to the 2024 cohort announcement, three of the current MACH-Track Fellows share their first-hand experience at how this structured, mentored and fully funded pathway is developing their clinical research careers.

Dr Rochelle Sleaby, General Practice Registrar

A headshot of Dr Rochelle Sleaby. She has long black hair and is wearing a blue shirt.

Dr Sleaby is undertaking an academic post with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners alongside her first year of MACH-Track at the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Melbourne.

Through her experiences, she’s developed a keen interest in preventative medicine and women’s health.

“My first mini project was assisting a trial looking at GPs’ perspectives on linked data systems to improve prevention of type two diabetes in mothers with gestational diabetes,” Dr Sleaby says.

She says collaborating with teams using different research methodologies has changed her PhD focus.

“I’m now looking at applying precision medicine to diabetes in general practice.”

Dr Sleaby says she’s lucky to have already learnt from a few key mentors.

“With Professor Dougie Boyle, I’ve learnt about the OMOP Common Data Model, which enables international collaboration using large de-identified data sets in secure research environments to quickly answer research questions.

“And Associate Professor Jo-Anne Manski-Nankervis has given a clinician-researcher perspective and opportunities for growth through collaboration and GP advocacy.”

Dr Sleaby says the first year of MACH-Track is a “springboard into your PhD”.

“You’ve already started to think about what research exists out there: What methods are people using? Who could be my supervisors?”

For GPs considering a clinician-researcher pathway, Dr Sleaby says MACH-Track is “an excellent opportunity” recognising the benefits of doing research and clinical work side by side.

“It’s great to have that exposure so early in your career.”

Dr Roshan Karri, Ophthalmology Registrar

A headshot of Dr Roshan Karri. He has medium length black hir and is wearing glasses and a blue jumper over a blue collared shirt

Dr Karri embarked on his RANZCO Ophthalmology Vocational Training Pathway at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 2023, alongside his MACH-Track Fellowship at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA).

He says collaborating with Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden’s Ophthalmic Neuroscience team on their hyperspectral camera projects is an exciting space to work in.

“The camera is a low-cost alternative to traditional retinal imaging, providing far more intricate information than existing imaging technologies,” says Dr Karri.

A self-taught data scientist with an interest in machine learning, Dr Karri’s PhD focus is developing new AI applications using the hyperspectral camera’s rich imaging data.

“Our hope is through developing novel diagnostic tools, using AI and hyperspectral imaging, we can impact a wide range of diseases like diabetic retinopathy.”

Dr Karri says MACH-Track has given him access to senior networks, collaborating with implementation science experts like Associate Professor Manski-Nankervis.

“We’ve drafted a protocol about studying the implementation of new ophthalmic devices like the hyperspectral camera in day-to-day practice.

“I’d never have thought to collaborate outside of CERA unless it was encouraged in this streamlined way.”

Dr Karri says he’s also gained insights from other MACH-Track Fellows who come from a wide range of specialties and experiences.

“MACH-Track sets you up with an incredible network of fellow researchers, both peers and seniors. I can’t think of a better starting point for a clinical science career.

Talia Clohessy, Physiotherapist

A headshot of Talia Clohessy. She has shoulder length dark hair, and is wearing a tan blazer over a black shirt.

Ms Clohessy is an acute physiotherapist with respiratory interest, and experience working within the Victorian Respiratory Support Service and Victorian Spinal Cord Service at the Austin Hospital. Her research interests involve novel therapies such as acute intermittent hypoxia, which she says has potential for improving neuroplasticity.

“We’re investigating ways of making the therapy medically relevant to patients with spinal cord injury to see if we can regain motor and respiratory function.

“It involves the patient breathing room air, alternating with short periods of very low oxygen.”

Through these first-year mini projects, Ms Clohessy has narrowed the focus of her upcoming PhD research project.

“After some experiments, I’m now looking at phase one or two clinical trials.”

Ms Clohessy’s says MACH Track Co-Director and University of Melbourne Chair in Physiotherapy at Austin Health, Professor David Berlowitz, “has been instrumental as a mentor” and will be her primary PhD supervisor.

“Through assisting his spinal cord and ventilation projects, I realised this is the clinical and research area I want to pursue.”

Ms Clohessy says there is a lack of pathways to becoming a clinical researcher in allied health.

“After university, you either go down the clinician pathway or become an academic.

“MACH-Track is giving me a pretty incredible pathway of coming out of the program as a clinician researcher with advanced training and a PhD.”