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Thursday 5 March 2020

Fulbright Fellow Michael Fahey travels to US to promote better outcomes for Cerebral Palsy

Dr Kruer and Assoc. Prof Michael Fahey
SCS Associate Professor Michael Fahey has spent the past three months at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix as a Fulbright Fellow where he has cultivated relationships with institutions across the U.S. to help advance the work and understanding of cerebral palsy and genetics.

Associate Professor Fahey, who is also head of the Paediatric Neurology Unit at Monash Children’s Hospital was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to work with Michael Kruer, MD, an associate professor of neurology and child health at the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

“Most scholarships you look at are about personal glory,” Associate Professor Fahey said. “The Fulbright Program is about being together and working as a team on a project. It is about making the world a better place and doing something that generates a better outcome.”

Associate Professor Fahey worked in Dr. Kruer’s laboratory integrating phenomic, genomic and model organism data. He also saw patients with genetic forms of cerebral palsy at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with Dr. Kruer, who is director of the Cerebral Palsy and Pediatric Movement Disorders Program at Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Thanks to the Fulbright Fellowship, Associate Professor Fahey is working with Dr. Kruer to combine cutting-edge neuroimaging data from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization with contemporary genomic techniques to better understand complex neurological diseases.

“Associate Professor Fahey is a remarkable leader who has a gift in his ability to cut across boundaries and unite people in pursuit of a greater good,” Dr. Kruer said. “In the space of a few months during his sabbatical here in Phoenix, he has forged lasting friendships and professional ties that are already impacting the field.”

Although most of his time was spent in Phoenix, Associate Professor Fahey travelled to various institutions across the U.S. to spearhead collaborations. A few of these institutions included John’s Hopkins, Columbia, the University of Utah, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the National Institutes of Health.

“This has been a wonderful experience,” Associate Professor. Fahey said. “I felt welcomed instantly by Dr. Kruer and the community. It has been remarkable to not only have access to the labs in Phoenix, but to be welcomed by other institutions as well. The way everyone has welcomed me has surpassed my expectations.”

Associate Professor Fahey said that collaboration and sharing data is critical for advancing patient care in cerebral palsy and genomics. This could lead to a better understanding of cerebral palsy including possible therapies. The partnerships Associate Professor Fahey is building are not just for his benefit. He’s helping create collaborations with American and international institutions that all researchers involved can utilize. This is occurring under the umbrella of the International Cerebral Palsy Genomics Consortium, chaired by Dr. Kruer.

“If you analyze one or two patients, you get interesting results,” Associate Professor Fahey said. “When you analyze a few thousand patients, all of a sudden you start to really unravel the story. We want to bring as many people to the party as possible in the hopes that we discover answers as it relates to genetic results.”

The flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the U.S., the Fulbright Program increases binational research collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Associate Professor. Fahey travelled to Phoenix in November 2019 with his family and returned to Australia mid-February.

“Typically in academics, in order to win, someone has to lose something,” Associate Professor Fahey said. “With the Fulbright Program, it’s a win-win. All parties are better off as a result of this. I enjoyed meeting with people and trying to generate these win-wins in the field. Although, the most important win from this will hopefully be our patients.”

Story credit: University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix

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