Six innovative health stories out of the Gold Coast

June 2017

The Gold Coast is evolving as an elite healthcare city following significant investment in leading research and allied medical facilities.

The city is home to the 200-hectare Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) – a unique global business location for high-tech industry development, research collaboration and jobs of the future. Supported by $5 billion in health, education and transport infrastructure, the Precinct is set to employ more than 26,000 people – 11 per cent of current Gold Coast jobs – generating gross economic value of $2.9 billion.

In addition to this evolving Precinct, the Gold Coast is home to an array of leading public and private hospitals that employ leading health care professionals who are at the forefront of innovation and research.

To support this thriving industry, We Are Gold Coast has compiled a list of some of the top stories that show of the city’s health and medical industry…

Curing blindness with a tooth transplant

Patients who have been blind for decades are now seeing their families for the first time thanks to a Gold Coast doctor.

Gold Coast oral and maxillofacial surgeon Shannon Webber is restoring eyesight using a tooth transplant that is stitched to the front of the eye.

Two patients, who have collectively been blind for 50 years, are now able to see after they underwent the two-stage procedure, called Osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (OOKP).

OOKP is used to restore the vision of those who are blind due to scarring of the cornea from a burn, auto-immune disease or splash injury.

Read the full story: Curing blindness with a tooth transplant.

Cutting-edge technology drives city’s medico

Only four women in Australia are interventional neurovascular specialists, trained to perform risky but lifesaving procedures on the brain, and the Gold Coast is honoured to be home to one of them.

Doctor Laetitia de Villiers says while the stakes were high, with people’s lives at risk, it was exciting to be using cutting edge technology. With incredible precision she’s able to help stroke patients by removing large blood clots from inside the brain without operating through the skull.

Of course it’s not as simple as it sounds, with Dr de Villiers and colleague Dr Hal Rice often working together using high-tech computer imaging and sophisticated clot-removing devices to access blood vessels on the brain through the femoral artery.

The medical duo, who take turns being on-call at Gold Coast University Hospital (located within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct), also use similar endovascular techniques to treat life-threatening brain aneurysms and vascular malformations in the brain.

Read the full story: Cutting-edge technology drives city’s medico.

Five life-saving technologies used in Gold Coast hospitals

From space-aged robots to seemingly low-fi snorkels, Gold Coast hospitals are implementing innovative technologies to improve patient health and quality of life.

Patients are receiving extra protection at Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) thanks to new technology, Gold Coast Private is at the forefront of robotic surgical systems and state of the art incubators for premature babies, and Pindara Private Hospital technology is revealing the secrets of the small intestine.

Read the full story: Five life-saving technologies used in Gold Coast hospitals.

The man behind the medicine: Dr Hal Rice

It’s no exaggeration to say that Gold Coast doctor Hal Rice is responsible for helping to change the lives of nearly 500,000 people every year. Although his modesty may mean he might not see it this way.

Dr Rice is one of just seven interventional neurovascular specialists in Queensland who use top notch medical imaging and computer software to save lives or improve stroke victims’ quality of life.

But it’s not just his work in the operation theatre that saves lives; he does this indirectly through his business Qscan Radiology Clinics. Dr Rice is one of the city’s largest private employers with about 320 staff across 22 practices in south east Queensland. Across the board the clinics provide services to 430,000 people every year.

His clinics provide everyday Gold Coasters with the latest in cutting-edge diagnostic equipment to detect diseases as early as possible so as to give patients early treatment options. This achievement should not be understated, for what Dr Rice did 10 years ago was groundbreaking.

“I wanted to come back to the Gold Coast; I had faith and the belief in the future of the Gold Coast. Even back then I was passionate about what the city has to offer,” he says.

It’s this steadfast determination that helped him ignore critics who made negative comments and who looked down on his decision to snub the already established medical fraternity in Sydney or Melbourne and set up his medical roots on the Gold Coast.

But if the naysayers achieved anything it was in spurring Dr Rice on to establish a service that the city was missing and desperately needed.

“People asked how on earth I was going to get it up and running and suggested I just join an established clinic. But I could see the need here and I love the city and I believed in it. And we got that service going.”

Read the full story: The man behind the medicine: Dr Hal Rice

Malaria vaccine closer to reality

Gold Coast scientists, led by Professor Michael Good AO at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, have the scourge of malaria firmly in their sights, with a world-first vaccine proving successful in a pilot human trial.

Such is the faith of Professor Good in the vaccine that could save million of lives that he was the first human guinea pig, being injected with the vaccine by Gold Coast Health Director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Dr John Gerrard.

Researchers have shown the world-first whole blood-stage malaria parasite vaccine PlasProtecT®, tested in collaboration with the Gold Coast University Hospital, is safe and induces an immune response in humans.

The project has been years in the making for researchers Professor Good who heads the Institute for Glycomics Laboratory of Vaccines for the Developing World, and Dr Danielle Stanisic who first started clinical trials in 2013 working with medical staff at Gold Coast University Hospital.

“We see Malaria regularly at the Gold Coast University Hospital and the idea that we would have a vaccine to prevent this terrible disease is extraordinary.”

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites and transmitted by certain species of mosquito found in tropical and sub-tropical regions. In 2015, there were approximately 214 million cases of malaria in the world and 438,000 deaths.

Read the full story: Malaria vaccine closer to reality

Health and Knowledge Precinct to transform the city

New research reveals just how much of an impact the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) will have on the city.

Ernst & Young has revealed the 200-hectare site will inject $2.9 billion into the local economy, while having the capacity to employ up to 26,000 people.

City of Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate calls it a game-changer for the Gold Coast.

“It will change the economic focus of the city to where the jobs of the future will be in health and technology,” says Tate.

The site currently employs close to 10,000 people and caters to around 20,000 students.

Meanwhile, Griffith University Deputy Vice Chancellor Ned Pankhurst sees a “perfect storm” of innovation ahead.

Read the full story: Health and Knowledge Precinct to transform the city 

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