This year’s award for the Mid-Career Distinguished Investigator was presented at the closing ceremony of our 11th Biennial Conference to Associate Professor Rachael Morton MScClinEpi(Hons), PhD, Director Health Economics, NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney. Rachael is an academic health economist and methodologist, whose research spans many clinical areas.
On completing her PhD in 2011 A/Professor Morton won an NHMRC Sidney Sax Overseas Fellowship (2013-2016) to the University of Oxford. She returned to Sydney in August 2015, as Principal Research Fellow and Director of Health Economics, building a new team of 16 Health Services Researchers at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre.
In 2017 she was awarded an NHMRC TRIP Fellowship and in 2018 a prestigious Robinson Fellowship (2019-2022). A/Prof Morton demonstrates an exceptional trajectory in research outputs and translation for her stage of career; and outstanding teaching, governance, and leadership in Health Services Research.
A/Prof Morton has 140 peer-reviewed publications in applied health economics and health services research, Her h-index is 34 and she has been cited over 3700 times. (Google Scholar). She has also co-authored several health technology assessment monographs for the Australian Government’s Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) evaluating new diagnostic tests. She has secured >$50M in competitive research funding (career total) from national and international bodies, due to her leadership in economic evaluation and translation, critical for government policy making.
A/Prof Morton has been invited to speak at 21 international meetings including: Health Services Research UK, International Society for Quality of Life (ISOQOL) research Mexico, & World Congress of Public Health.
Research Translation: A/Prof Morton’s research has led to changes in clinical practice and health policy in 3 key areas:
Her pioneering research in patient and carer preferences for treatment of end-stage kidney disease (ESKD), highlighted the importance of conservative (non-dialysis) care as a new treatment option for patients and their families. Her work saw a sustained drop in the number of older people commencing dialysis, and an increase in conservative care service provision from hospitals in Australia. International guidelines such as Choosing Wisely (2012), US Medicare ESRD Program (2014).
A/Prof Morton co-led a consortium of 36 countries to develop critical evidence reviews on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of screening migrants to the European Union (EU) for infectious diseases (2016-2018). This high-profile work was commissioned by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). The findings highlighted affordable and cost-effective strategies, (policy released 2018) being implemented for refugees.
A/Prof Morton’s research into cost-effective cancer follow up, has challenged the frequency and efficacy of diagnostic imaging in asymptomatic patients, a rising cost burden to Medicare, and a cause of patient ‘scanxiety’. A/Prof Morton now leads a Cancer Australia-funded project to model the costs and benefits of new imaging technologies to inform the MBS review.
Contribution to Health Services Research: A/Prof Morton has taught post-graduate HSR and policy at the University of Sydney and University of Oxford since 2008 to over 700 students. She has attracted, supervised and mentored 9 HSR PhD candidates She enjoys mentoring staff, as evidenced by the 28 ECRs, MCRs and professional staff mentored to date, through the University and professional bodies including HSRAANZ. A/Prof Morton collaborates with >100 national and international clinicians, hospital managers, consumers, policy makers and other HSRs, through positions on national committees (e.g. Dialysis Advisory Committee, Cancer and Kidney registries, Gender Equity), and her large number of collaborative grants, including 2 NHMRC Partnerships, 1 NHMRC CRE, 1 Program grant and several project grants. (See CV for further details)
A/Prof Morton is the current President of HSRAANZ, (elected 2018), and was Treasurer from 2016 to 2018. She facilitated convened a novel workshop on patient reported measures (PROMs and PREMs). Her leadership in HSR continues to grow as the new Co-Chair of the Australian Health Research Alliance (AHRA) HSR Working Group (appointed 2019).