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The David Prast Leadership Program

Spinal Cord Injury Australia and SpinalCure Australia are delighted to offer RACP Fellows and trainees keen to undertake investigative research in the field of spinal injury an opportunity to apply for funding for 2016 and beyond.

The funding offered is targeted at specific career stages and one or more Scholarships and Fellowships may be offered in one or more categories.  Applications will be considered on merit and with relevance to career stage.


Applications for the following Awards are now open.

The David Prast Research Entry Fellowship

The David Prast Research Establishment Fellowship

The David Prast Career Development Fellowship


About David Prast

David Prast was a leader and inspirational thinker whose determination led to major improvements for those, like him, who experienced a spinal cord injury. An afternoon dip in a calm ocean at Perth's Cottesloe Beach had left him with tetraplegia - with little movement from the neck down. In a freak moment, David, a charismatic and successful businessman, became trapped and desperate to get out of a wheelchair. Yet he used his drive and determination to become a major advocate for people with spinal injuries, focusing campaigning on the need for better initiatives, particularly in medical research, until his death in November 2011. David often said that the work he was doing was to benefit others, rather than himself.
His achievements included establishing the first state government Neurotrauma Research Program in Western Australia, which became the first of many. He helped promote the potential importance of stem cell research. He pioneered a global campaign to cure paralysis (International Campaign to Cure Paralysis), which resulted in greater awareness and improved funding for this under-researched condition, and developed clinical trials methodologies that are currently used for clinical trials in spinal cord injury repair and protection. David also helped establish the Spinal Cord Injury Network in Australia to further his goal of bringing together all of the sectors involved in spinal cord injury. His vision was to ensure that the latest scientific and medical developments from around the world were made available to people in Australia as soon as possible.

In accordance with his vision of gaining practical outcomes for people with a spinal cord injury, one of his most important accomplishments was the successful Walk On facility, now running nationally, to provide people with intensive exercise therapy after an accident.

Walk On is an individually tailored, intensive activity-based rehabilitation program designed to assist a person with a spinal cord injury to improve and maximise their functional ability and to lead a more independent life. The program involves intense, dynamic weight-bearing exercises, all performed out of the wheelchair one-on-one with a qualified Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist. Walk On is a community-based rehabilitation program available to people following their discharge from hospital. Walk On clients regularly report significant functional improvements from their involvement in the program and a positive impact upon their quality of life.

David was a Director of both Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and SpinalCure Australia, and these organisations have generously offered to invest funding to provide opportunities to:
• Improve the outcomes of those living with a spinal cord injury
• Promote practical, translatable research into spinal cord injuries.
• Invest in and develop future leaders in clinical research.
• Promote exchange of international knowledge towards the goal of achieving better outcomes for people with spinal cord injuries

The Award is open to applications for research in all areas, providing that the research outcomes will demonstrably improve functional outcomes for people living with spinal cord injury in the long term.
The  Award will therefore be of interest to RACP physicians and trainees in a wide range of areas of medicine.

It is likely that the candidate may need to spend part of the time of this research study working with leaders in the field internationally, with a view to bringing the technologies back to Australia.

Further links:
BBC News Release: Epidural Electrical Stimulators
Reuters: Epidural Electrical Stimulators
Summary of Electrical Stimulation
Latest Epidural Trials
"The Paralyzed Rat"
Epidural Stimulation (Lancet)