Dr Melissa Lee is a Royal Melbourne Hospital veteran who started her career at the hospital as a medical student in 2011, and a medical intern in 2014.
Her passion for cardiovascular health and congenital heart disease led her to completing her PhD. Recognised for her extensive studies and research, Dr Lee is the recipient of the Clinical Research category for the 2020 Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research.
“My research looked at improving long-term outcomes after surgery for coarctation of the aorta,” Royal Melbourne Cardiology Registrar Dr Lee says.
One of five award winners, Dr Lee's research was performed through the University of Melbourne and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
“Coarctation of the aorta is a narrowing of the aorta – the main blood vessel coming from the heart to supply blood to the rest of the body. It’s one of the most common heart defects that babies can be born with.
“Coarctation was long considered a benign condition cured by surgery at birth. This is no longer the case as many patients go on to develop hypertension and other complications down the track, even with a perfect surgical repair,” Dr Lee says.
Dr Lee’s research has led to the improvement of follow up on these patients providing better outcomes.
Through collaboration with the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, United Kingdom her research has also resulted in the largest and longest follow-up study of patients with repaired coarctation in the world.
“I am honoured to have received the Premier’s Award, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to continue my research into coarctation and improve the lives of those living with this condition,” Dr Lee adds.
The annual Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research recognises the contribution and capabilities of Victoria’s early career researchers in their PhD studies.