PhDs & EMCRs

Dr Ling Zhang PhD, BN (Hons), BH, RN | SOLVE-CHD Research Fellow, The University of Sydney

As a clinical researcher and a practicing registered nurse, Dr Ling Zhang has a strong research interest in understanding and supporting patients who have heart disease throughout their recovery, encouraging and enabling good self-management and reducing cardiac events recurrence through secondary prevention. She is passionate about determining the role of digital technology in supporting disadvantage cardiac patient groups including those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and those with inadequate health literacy.

She will address secondary prevention needs of CALD cardiac patients through a multi-method study combining patient insights, NSW-level cardiac rehabilitation data and assessment of a novel information strategy for SOLVE-CHD project.

Dion Candelaria MN (ClinEd), GradCert (Cardiovasc), BSN, RN | SOLVE-CHD PhD Candidate, The University of Sydney

Mr. Candelaria is a Registered Nurse with extensive clinical experience in cardiothoracic and coronary care nursing. He is currently completing his PhD and his research focuses on understanding health-related quality of life (HRQL) outcomes from different models of cardiac rehabilitation (CR) . His mixed-methods study aims to identify patients at risk of poor HRQL outcomes and explore patient perceptions and experiences of participating in in-person and remotely delivered CR. His research will inform patient-centred quality improvement initiatives for CR programs.

He is an executive board member of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand—Cardiovascular Nursing Council. He was an Associate Lecturer—Clinical Education Specialist at the Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery and more recently, a Research Associate at the Sydney Quality of Life Office at The University of Sydney.

Dr Matthew Hollings PhD, ESSAM AES | SOLVE-CHD Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Sydney

Dr Hollings is an exercise physiologist and sport scientist by training. He completed his PhD at USYD in mid-2020 looking at the clinical application of resistance training in older adults with cardiometabolic disease and has since been embedded within the School of Health Sciences as an education-focused academic. He has particular interest in exercise promotion in CVD, using technology in the monitoring and implementation of cardiac rehabilitation and exercise prescription in special cardiac populations like older adults, women and athletes.

Dr Clara Zwack PhD DPT BSc | SOLVE-CHD Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Sydney

Dr Clara Zwack is a registered Physiotherapist with seven years’ clinical expertise in public and community health, rehabilitation and aged care. She has a keen interest in treating people with chronic disease, and helping her clients regain their physical functioning, confidence, and independence. Clara completed her PhD (2022) at the Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute (Swinburne University), which investigated the cardiometabolic health profile of young adults with intellectual disability. Through clinical research, she has also developed an extensive knowledge about the use of digital technologies in health care environments.

In her current position as Research Fellow at University of Sydney, Clara is keen to investigate the feasibility of a community-led peer support program for people living with heart disease. The Guardian Angel project aims to investigate whether a digital platform for peer-interaction reduces cardiovascular risk, improves clinical and patient reported outcome measures and is cost-effective.

Sarah Gauci BSc BPsych (Hons) | SOLVE-CHD Associate Research Fellow, Deakin University

Sarah Gauci has recently completed her PhD at the Centre of Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology. Her PhD research explored how dietary patterns and cardiometabolic risk factors are related to cognitive performance in middle-aged and older adults. In her current role, she will be focusing on using lifestyle to improve the experience and quality of cardiac rehab for patients with comorbid mental health and cognitive issues. Sarah’s research program for SOLVE will focus on using lifestyle to improve the experience and quality of cardiac rehab for patients with comorbid mental health and cognitive issues. She hopes to conduct a few smaller projects gathering some information about patients’ current experiences with the goal of developing a more detailed codesigned intervention focusing on these at-risk groups.

Rebecca Raeside BBiomedSc, MPH | SOLVE-CHD PhD Candiate, The University of Sydney

Rebecca Raeside is a first-year University of Sydney PhD Candidate in the Engagement and Co-design Research Hub. Her PhD studies revolve around the design, development and effectiveness testing of HEALTH4ME, a 6-month text message intervention for adolescents to improve their physical and mental health. The project aims to strengthen engagement and interactions between young people and primary care services to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), namely poor diet, physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour and sleep.

Two of the crucial elements of secondary prevention of CVD are early diagnosis and risk factor management. In her current position as an PhD Candidate, Rebecca’s study aims to strengthen the connection between young people and primary care services by developing a prevention program to support and improve CVD risk factors from an early age. This will provide young people with opportunities to form strong relationships to primary care services, which can potentially lead to early diagnosis and management of CVD throughout the life course.

Joseph Weddell BSc (Hons), RN, CNS | SOLVE-CHD PhD Candiate, The University of Sydney

Joseph Weddell is a registered nurse with a comprehensive background in intensive care and cardiothoracic surgery. Joe holds 8 years critical care experience, working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in intensive care before transitioning into cardiovascular disease prevention research. He is undertaking his PhD which aims to build on evolving work determining the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment during admission for acute coronary syndrome, and the neurocognitive domains that are typically involved. He is also using qualitative methods to determine the issues people experiencing “brain fog” and their families encounter in receiving cardiovascular secondary prevention education. His research will provide recommendations for change in practice that will empower individuals with cognitive impairment and/or poor health literacy to receive optimal and tailored care following coronary heart disease presentations. He has a keen research interested in preventative cardiology as well as personalised care, treatment optimisation, and patient preference being championed in cardiovascular disease secondary prevention.

Deborah Manandi BSc (MedSci), BAdvStudies (Hons) | SOLVE-CHD PhD Candiate, The University of Sydney

Deborah Manandi is a Medical Science graduate. She completed her Honours evaluating the applicability of the Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle methodology for improving the quality of cardiovascular disease management in general practices. Her PhD will focus on investigating and finding strategies to reduce the socioeconomic disparity in accessing cardiac rehabilitation. Deborah is also involved in the Wellbeing Health & Youth Centre of Research Excellence as a commissioner. She aids in investigating, designing and trialling better ways for young people to be involved in adolescent health research. 

She was recently been awarded the Sydney International Student Award valued at $10,000 p.a (for a deduction of herPhD tuition fee)

Dr Georgia Chaseling | PhD BESS (Hons) | SOLVE-CHD Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Sydney

Dr Chaseling is a cardiovascular and thermal physiologist with over seven years of experience working with clinical populations, such as people with cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries. Dr Chaseling completed her PhD at the University of Sydney in 2018 and has recently returned to Australia after completing her postdoctoral studies at the Montreal Heart Institute, Canada, working with coronary artery disease patients. Dr Chaseling has an interest in researching the negative impacts of environmental extremes on adverse cardiovascular outcomes for people with cardiovascular disease and developing sustainable and effective measures to mitigate health issues that are aggravated by climate change.

Tiffany Ellis | BPhysio (Hons) | SOLVE-CHD Masters of Research Student, The University of Sydney

Tiffany Ellis graduated Physiotherapy with Honours from ACU and following 7 years in the acute hospital setting, has a breadth of experience, working with patients post major surgery and those afflicted by stroke and cardiovascular disease. Her honours project investigated the use of virtual reality and gaming technology to increase repetitions of practice after stroke. She completed a subsequent systematic review into the relationship between strength of the affected leg and walking speed after stroke. Her current area of interest is in assisting patients transition back to the community following percutaneous coronary intervention. She aims to examine in-hospital strategies for early risk factor modification in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.