Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre’s prestigious Lea Medal is this year awarded to both Dr Jacqui Frowen and Dr Lorey Smith.

The Lea Medal, now in its fifth year, recognises exceptional female leaders in their early to mid-career and provides support for their ongoing career development.

Named after the Latin word for “Lioness”, this Peter Mac initiative responds to historic gender imbalances in senior ranks of health and science.

This is the first year that two Lea Medals have been awarded, to recognise female leaders in categories of dedicated researcher and clinician-researcher fields.

As the latest awardees were announced today, Peter Mac Mac chief executive Professor Shelley Dolan acknowledged the “March 4 Justice” which saw thousands of women and men take to the streets this week.

“Yesterday many of our colleagues from Peter Mac and across the precinct marched in solidarity and remembrance  ... can I ask us not to forget this clarion call and let’s use the energy from yesterday to inform everything we do,” Professor Dolan said.

“Today is about congratulating and celebrating those women in science who have found their voice”.

Lea Medal awardees receive financial support ($40,000) to pursue career development opportunities, extend their research and attend national and global conferences.

Hear from our latest awardees:

Dr Lorey Smith – Post Doctoral Researcher

Dr Smith’s research is focussed on understanding how melanomas change during treatment so patients stop responding to latest targeted drugs.

Her discovery of novel RNA pathway as led to a potential drug now in early development, and attracted support including a $300K Cancer Council grant.

“My research on melanoma serves as a “blue-print” for other cancers currently treated with targeted therapies, including colorectal and lung cancer,” Dr Smith says.

“My vision is that by understanding mechanisms underpinning therapy-induced adaptation and plasticity, we will pave the way for new therapeutic strategies that prevent this process and thereby achieve more cures for more cancer patients.”

Dr Smith will use her Lea Medal funding on RNA sequencing to further this research, and also attend international and national scientific meetings.

Dr Jacqui Frowen – Clinical Lead Speech Pathologist

Dr Frowen is a speech pathology clinician with a research focus on swallowing difficulties (dysphagia) that can be a side-effect of radiotherapy.

Her early work led to improved patient management and models of care for head and neck cancer patients at Peter Mac.

She will use the Lea Medal funding to develop a validated tool to measure dysphagia in non-head and neck cancer patients.

“My previous research on swallowing outcomes after radiotherapy for lung cancer identified a discrepancy between actual / objective dysphagia and patient-reported dysphagia,” Dr Frowen says.

“Implementing these findings to improve routine clinical care of patients is difficult in the absence of appropriate measures for identifying dysphagia in this population.”

Peter Mac’s Lea Medals are generously funded by the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation and Peter Mac’s research executive.

The Lea Medal was launched in 2017 and a highly-commended category ($10K support) was awarded from 2018-2020.

All recipients are:

  • 2017 – Dr Kylie Gorringe (Sole recipient)
  • 2018 – Marliese Alexander (Highly commended: Dr Elaine Sanij)
  • 2019 – Dr Laura Forrest (Highly commended: Dr Elizabeth Christie)
  • 2020 – Dr Anna Trigos (Highly commended: Dr Pilar Dominguez)
  • 2021 – Dr Lorey Smith and Dr Jacqui Frowen (Dual recipients)