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.

Dr Verdicchio is an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP) and clinician-researcher with extensive clinical, research and tertiary teaching experience in exercise physiology, cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias and heart failure. His research interests have focussed on assessing cardiopulmonary exercise testing and exercise interventions in patients with complex cardiovascular disease, and
the physiological mechanisms promoting cardiac arrhythmias in endurance athletes. He completed his
PhD in Medicine at the University of Adelaide under the supervision of Prof Prash Sanders and was awarded Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence for his PhD. Dr Verdicchio is now Manager of the Heart Wellness Program and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Macquarie Health Corporation overseeing all business and operational facets of the program across the company’s 12-privately owned hospitals between Sydney and Melbourne. 

Dr Christian Verdicchio 

BAppSci, GradDip, BhlthSci (Hons), PhD, AEP

SOLVE-CHD  Clinical Senior Lecturer, The University of Sydney 

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 Postdoc 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 Postdoc Research Fellow, The University of Sydney

Dr Zwack is a registered Physiotherapist with six 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.  Recently, Clara completed her PhD at the Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute (Swinburne University of Technology), 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 Virtual Reality and other digital technologies in health care environments. In her current position as Research Fellow at University of Sydney, Clara is keen to investigate the future role of Virtual Reality in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.    

Sarah Gauci BSc, BPsych (hons)

SOLVE-CHD Associate Research Fellow, Deakin University 

Sarah Gauci is currently completing her PhD at the Centre of Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University of Technology. Her PhD investigates how different dietary patterns and cardio-metabolic risk factors impact cognitive performance in both middle-aged and older adults. Sarah has a background in psychology. Her research interests include exploring the relationship between the heart and the mind and how lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of age-associated disorders. In her current position as an Associate Research Fellow at Deakin University, Sarah hopes to investigate the role lifestyle has in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease.