New equipment enables Skin-2-Skin time for newborn babies

16 December 2014

With the support of funding from Westmead Medical Research Foundation (WMRF), the Birthing Unit at Westmead Hospital was able to purchase a crucial Panda Warmer machine for newborn babies.

Situated within the operating suite at Westmead, the Panda Warmer enables babies to remain with their Mums during the very special time immediately after a Caesarian section. Without the benefit of this equipment, new Mums previously have had their babies moved into a new room straight after birth to enable the newborn to be kept warm and stabilised. 

As Florence Ong of the Women's and Newborn Health Department at Westmead said, having this equipment available within the operating suites has significant value for new Mums.

“A direct result of having the new Panda Warmer unit installed in the maternity unit is that new program Skin-2-Skin has been implemented” Florence explained.

“This program involves providing mothers with previously unavailable access to their new born baby for skin to skin contact immediately after birth. Now caesarean born babies are placed on the Panda units for observation and assessment then returned to the mother while her operation is being finalised”.

Florence detailed some of the tangible benefits for newborn babies, brought about by having the Panda Warmer unit available.

“Immediate benefits of direct skin contact after birth include normalisation of body temperature, heart and breathing rates by the baby. When possible, breastfeeding is also attempted allowing the baby to obtain needed sugars naturally from the mother”.

Acting CEO of WMRF Belinda Szafraniec added how significant this additional equipment was for a public hospital.

“We’re very proud that the Mums of Western Sydney who give birth by C-section here at Westmead can now experience that special time straight after birth together with their new baby” Belinda said.

“It’s a practical example of our belief that the people of Western Sydney deserve the best possible health care available”.

To support the work of WMRF, donate today.


Bench-to-Bedside: One Woman's Story

12 December 2014


For almost 40 years, Ruth Cummock lived with the burden of the chronic debilitating disease of type 1 diabetes.

Suffering from a relatively rare form of type 1 diabetes, involving what is called hypoglycaemia unawareness, Ruth’s blood sugar level would sometimes fall without her realising – a situation that could potentially trigger seizures, loss of consciousness, brain damage or even death.

Today this grandmother from the New South Wales Central Coast no longer fears the worst effects of her diabetes – all thanks to taking part in a pioneering clinical trial.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease which destroys the body’s insulin producing cells. About 10 per cent of sufferers are affected by hypoglycaemia unawareness.

Searching for a better way to control the disease, scientists at WMI and Westmead Hospital established Australia’s first successful trial of a relatively non-invasive procedure in which insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells are taken from donor organs and transplanted into a recipient’s liver.

Ruth was a perfect candidate for the trial. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 20, she had spent most of her adult life undergoing twice-daily insulin injections. Although she managed to work and have a family life, her illness had worsened and Ruth lost much of her eyesight.

In 2007, at Westmead Hospital, she underwent a single islet transplant followed by a double islet transplant - in which islet cells were isolated from two donor organs and transplanted in the one procedure.

The result of the operations was remarkable. For the past five years, Ruth has not needed to take a single insulin injection - nor suffered a hypoglycaemia unawareness episode.

“It has had a hugely positive impact on the quality of my life,” says Ruth. “I wasn’t worried about the possible risks involved in the trial, I was just happy to have a chance to lead a normal life.

“Without the transplants I probably would be totally blind today and if I’d had a really bad episode of hypoglycaemia unawareness, I might not be alive.”

Although Ruth must still watch her diet and monitor sugar intake, she now leads an active healthy life.

And husband John - who so often needed to call an ambulance or help her through a hypoglycaemic episode - no longer needs to be constantly vigilant about Ruth’s health.”

It's a great success story and a powerful example of the positive human impact of medical research. For Ruth Cummock, the concept of bench-to-bedside medicine us very real. 

For more information about the life-saving research being done at the Westmead Millennium Institute, visit

NEWS: Important changes at WMRF

08 December 2014

The Board of the Westmead Medical Research Foundation (WMRF) announces significant changes to the people that drive our organisation today.

Firstly, Executive Director Mr Eric d’Indy will finish with WMRF at the end of December 2014. Eric has led the WMRF for six and a half years, during which time he has produced lasting results for the organisation. His contribution has been fundamental to developing a culture in which professionalism, respect for donors and their wishes has been paramount. He has hired and built a very professional team which will continue to build on his strong legacy. Eric’s personal integrity, leadership and empathy has enabled him to forge a remarkable team, committed to the goals of the Foundation, to its stakeholders and to each other.  

Whilst disappointed to see Eric go, the Board thank him for his significant contribution to the organisation, the Westmead precinct and ultimately the people of Western Sydney. Eric feels he has achieved all he set out to at WMRF and has decided that at this time, he would like to pursue other opportunities.

The Board has appointed current General Manager Belinda Szafraniec as Interim CEO effective January 1st 2015. The Board is confident that Belinda is well placed to guide the organisation through the immediate future, continuing the professionalism for which the WMRF is known. Eric’s official end with the WMRF is Wednesday 31st December. The Board wishes Eric the best for his future and sincerely thanks him for his significant contribution to the WMRF.

In addition, WMRF wish to thank outgoing Director and Board President Mr Patrick Wilde AM for more than 16 years of service. Mr Wilde has served the people of Western Sydney via his role on the WMRF Board since 1998, becoming President in 2005. During this time, Mr Wilde’s dedication to creating an environment at Westmead where world-class research and life-saving health care can occur has been remarkable. A much loved figure on the Westmead Campus and beyond, Mr Wilde leaves a great legacy of leadership at WMRF and will always be a cherished member of the community.

Mr Wilde’s departure from the Board on 26th November 2014 enabled the elevation of current Director Mr Joe Rizk to the role of Board President. Mr Rizk is a respected Sydney business leader who is well known to the community as Managing Director and CEO of Arab Bank Australia. Mr Rizk has served on the WMRF Board since 2007, has been Vice President since 2009 and will bring a great deal of experience to the role of Board President as the organisation enters an exciting new phase.

Media enquiries:

Mick Garnett

Marketing and Communications Manager


My Westmead Happy Snaps

13 December 2011

Did you take a Happy Snap at friday night's Christmas Carnival?  A few staff and volunteers from the Foundation got in on the fun as you can see here. 

Check out all the photos and see if you can find yours!  View photos >>


My Westmead Christmas Carnival

12 December 2011

End of year Christmas celebrations are all around and it was no different here at Westmead!

On Friday night, staff from Westmead Hospital and Westmead Millennium Institute were treated to a 'Christmas Carnival' of food, drinks, music, entertainment, carnival games, snacks and of course, the highly anticipated 'DUNK THE EXEC'!

'DUNK THE EXEC' was sponsored by Zouki and drew the crowd with executives from Westmead Hospital and Westmead Millennium Institute volunteering to be dunked for the Foundation that supports them.  Guests at the carnival lined up to get their chance to hit the bullseye!

WMRF Executive Director Eric d'Indy having his turn on the Dunk Tank and WMI Executive Director Professor Tony Cunningham AO taking his shot!

Big thanks to our DUNKEES who were great sports with multiple dips in and out of the freezing water (courtesy of maintenance and their additions of ice).  WMI DUNKEES: Professor Tony Cunningham AO (Executive Director), Simon Officer (Chief Financial Officer), Sean Blasdall (Operations Manager) and Dr Andrew Johnston (IT Manager) and Westmead Hospital DUNKEES: David Beard (Acting General Manager), Matthew Noone (Facilities Manager) and Danko Grubisic (Security Manager) and the Foundation's very own Executive Director Eric d'Indy.

Simon Officer (WMI Chief Financial Officer) having his turn on the Dunk Tank

All guests received tickets that entitled them to pies, donated by Sargents, drinks, donated by Coca Cola Amatil, and a BBQ generously run by Granville Rotary Club.
Bright colours, carnival games and fundraising filled the hospital cafeteria as a multitude of activities made the room buzz with people trying their luck on the...

My Westmead Dollar Grab: sponsored by Arab Bank, guests tried their skills at collecting as much 'my Westmead cash' as they could to be in the running for some great prizes.

My Westmead Happy Snaps: the photo booth was full of laughs and fun all night with group after group dressing up in props and piling into the booth for their snap

With so much entertainment and so many activities on the night - The 'My Westmead Wonder Wheel', carnival snacks, a raffle, celebrity eyes guessing competition and 'The My Westmead heart toss' -- nobody could escape enjoying themselves.

The My Westmead Dollar Grab

The night ended with fabulous irish dancers from 'The Piper School of Irish Dance' performing for the crowd.  The irish dancers really impressed and entertained everyone  and received an encore!

A big thank you to all our sponsors for making the carnival possible and also our guests for being part of the celebration and fundraising for our cause.

Donate today to medical research and care at Westmead and be part of the search for cures and better treatments >>

WMI Awards Night 2011

01 December 2011

On the 14 of November, staff and special guests of the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research (WMI) gathered to celebrate the exciting milestone for WMI's '15 years of research excellence!'  President of Westmead Medical Research Foundation Mr Patrick Wilde AM, together with the Foundation's Executive Director Eric d'Indy and team members Sarah, Belinda, Nicole, Joseph and Raphaelle attended the event in the Westmead Hospital cafeteria.

Guests were treated to drinks and canapés while awards were handed out to a range of researchers for their commitment and achievements.  Awards included the WMI Science Prizes, WMRF Research Fellowships, Senior Scientist Support Grants, Bridging Grants and WMRF Initiating Grants and Top up awards.

Julie Owens MP, Member for Parramatta (representing Federal Health Minister)

Special guests on the night included Senator Doug Cameron, Senator for New South Wales, Julie Owens MP, Member for Parramatta (representing Federal Health Minister), Ray Williams MP, Member for Hawkesbury (representing the Premier), David Elliot MP, Member for Baulkham Hills, Andrew Rohan MP, Member for Smithfield, Geoff Lee MP, Member for Parramatta, Mary O'Dea (representing Senator Marise Payne) and key note speaker Professor John Shine, Executive Director, Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

Ms Julie Owens MP addressed the audience on her continued support of WMI and its commitment life saving medical research while key note speaker, Professor John Shine shared the value and importance of continue medical research and the promise it holds for all of society.

In his speech, Mr Patrick Wilde AM expressed the strong belief of the Foundation, that supporting researchers is an important investment, not only in their own futures, but in the future of Australia as a whole. 
Patrick made a special mention to members of our community -- men and women, businesses, and community groups -- who have donated to make these grants possible.

The Foundation team is proud to support the Institute, as the men and women on this campus make such valuable contributions to global medical research.

Some of these contributions have included:

  • The discovery of a cluster of genes that increase the risk of melanoma.
  • Found candidate genes linked to ovarian cancer that may modify women's risk of developing the disease.
  • Identified the major common genetic variants that contribute to the cause of the devastating neurologic disease, multiple sclerosis (MS)

WMRF Executive Director Eric d'Indy presenting a top up grant to Calvin Fong

It is at this event that we and our donors get to see, all in one place, the researchers' that the Foundation support and honour them with the WMRF fellowships and grants.  A total of 46 researchers were awarded research grants on the night.

The grants that the Foundation fund enable researchers to continue their search for cures and better treatments, giving the researcher practical support, in some cases being able to focus on their research without searching for a second income.  The Foundation is proud to support WMI in this practical way.

Handmade Christmas

21 December 2010

Once again, we have reason to thank our lovely volunteer Chris. This week, she dropped by with handmade Christmas decorations for everyone on staff, to hang on our trees. 

Don't you wish you had a friend like Chris? 

Top honours for WMRF Director

14 December 2010

Professor Jeremy Chapman, OAM, is Director of Acute Interventional Medicine and Renal Services at Westmead Hospital.

He is also a Director on Westmead Medical Research Foundation's Board, and holder of the prestigious David Hume Award for 2011

The David Hume Award was created in memory of one of the most distinguished members of the US National Kidney Foundation.

The Hume Award is the highest honour given to a distinguished scientist-clinician in the field of kidney and urologic diseases. It is given to a scientist who demonstrates the high ideals of scholarship and humanitarianism in an outstanding manner. 

This Award is a wonderful testament to Professor Chapman's outstanding achievements across a number of areas, and particularly as President of the Transplantation Society.

Living with dementia

14 December 2010

Please join us in celebrating the generosity and foresight of The Mason Foundation, and the dedication and talent of the researchers at Westmead.

One of the leading research scientists at the Westmead Millennium Institute's Centre for Virus Research, Dr Nitin Saksena, is leading a new project that he hopes will change the way we understand Alzheimers Disease, and improve the treatments for people living with all types of dementia. This is possible through the support of The Mason Foundation.

L-R: David Stewart (Relationship Manager, ANZ Trustees); Professor Tony Cunningham AO (Director, Westmead Millennium Institute); Dr Nitin Saksena (Head, Retroviral Genetics Laboratory, Westmead Millennium Institute)

Understanding dementia

Dementia is not one particular disease, but a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. Alzheimers Disease is one of the most common types of dementia. Others are Huntingons Disease, Parkinsons Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease and Vascular Dementia.

What is the study?

Dr Sakensa and his team are examining gene expression techniques to explore the disease 'pathways' for Alzheimers and other neuro-degenerative disorders.

They will look at the way blood vessels respond to low oxygen levels, called 'oxidative stress,' and determine the impact of oxidative stress on the central nervous system as well as neuro-degenerative and other brain disorders.

They are exploring the role of proteins related to oxidative stress and glycolsis in Alzheimers Disease and neuro-degeneration.

In particular, they will examine the links between people who are living with HIV and dementia, and the overlap with those who are impacted by Alzheimers or Parkinsons Diseases, in cases where exposure to a viral infection or pathogen is unknown.

Why does it matter?

More than 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and a further 4.6 million cases are diagnosed each year.

Today, dementia is mainly a disease that impacts developed countries. However, by 2050 more than 115 million people worldwide will have the disease, and more than two thirds of those will be living in developing countries.

How is the study possible?

Dr Sakensa's study is of global significance, and it is possible through the kindness and generosity of The Mason Foundation.

The Mason Foundation's goal is to achieve enduring, positive change in the areas of chronic fatigue syndrome and Alzheimers disease by funding medical research that seeks to prevent or cure these diseases.

Managed by ANZ Trustees, The Mason Foundation honours Harold Stannett Williams, the father of Judith Jane Mason. Harold Williams studied medicine in the early 20th Century before he moved to Asia to pursue his passion in Chinese and Japanese writing and eventually became a silk merchant.

Cupcakes for Christmas

14 December 2010

This afternoon we welcomed a visit from Giles and Samantha from Whiteclick.

They are helping us set up social media profiles (like Twitter and Facebook), and generally improving our search engine results so that more people can find us when they want to donate money to a great cause (if we do say so ourselves).

Alongside great advice, Giles and Sam came bearing even sweeter gifts: cupcakes with a special Christmas theme, courtesy of their local baker!

These cupcakes looked so amazing we just couldn't resist showing them off to our friends and supporters before we gobbled them up.

    Please help us in our mission to reduce suffering and save lives. You can make an immediate and positive difference today.