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Dietician leads ground-breaking diabetes research

Between five and 10 per cent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes.

It’s a statistic Sunshine Coast Clinical Dietitian Nina Meloncelli hopes to better understand and have a role in managing.

The PhD candidate is at the forefront of research into the condition which occurs during pregnancy and can lead to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in later life.

Wishlist Research Higher Degree recipient Nina Meloncelli.

Wishlist Research Higher Degree recipient Nina Meloncelli.

Ms Meloncelli is studying a Doctor of Philosophy in Nutrition and Dietetics after being awarded a Wishlist Research Higher Degree Scholarship, worth more than $49,000.

“I first started this journey over eight years ago when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with my daughter, Abby,” she said.

“I was living in Cairns at the time and the nutrition education I was given during my pregnancy was very limited, but it made me realise what impact nutrition can have on various health conditions.”

Ms Meloncelli said Queensland Health introduced new clinical guidelines for gestational diabetes last year which became the researcher’s “perfect opportunity” to improve consistency of care in the management of expectant mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).

During her four-year study, the 36-year-old will delve into best-practice models and find evidence to best manage the form of diabetes.

“I have started the very early stages of planning the research,” she said.

“Ultimately, the aim is to work with key members of the multidisciplinary team involved in gestational diabetes management to develop a method of care that is based on best evidence to pilot within the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service.

“Hopefully it will deliver better outcomes for mothers and their babies, and we can implement this method of care state-wide so there is consistency.”

Gestational diabetes graphicThe dietitian is planning a pilot study involving all new cases of gestational diabetes within a six to nine month period across the Sunshine Coast.

“I feel like I have come full circle now that I am starting my research in GDM.

“Winning this grant was so important to ensure I can still provide for my family while accelerating my position as a clinical researcher, which has been my professional goal for several years. Without this grant I wouldn’t be able to dedicate three days per week to my PhD. This is pretty massive!”

Wishlist is the Sunshine Coast’s hospital foundation and has directed more than $440,000 towards medical research and staff education in the past year.

Chairman of the Wishlist Board Mike Kelly said the foundation’s commitment to research was of substantial benefit to the local region, and also contributed to national and international knowledge.

“The annual Wishlist Research Grants have funded medical projects of major significance in the past, and it ensures the Sunshine Coast is put on the map in the field of ground-breaking medical studies.”

100 per cent of donations to Wishlist go directly to benefitting Sunshine Coast’s public patients. Wishlist’s operational costs are covered by Nambour General Hospital’s multi-level carpark.

Can you help? Donate now by selecting the ‘donate’ tab at www.wishlist.org.au.