Our steering committee
Our Steering Committee consists of a consortium of congenital heart disease researchers from Australia and New Zealand and includes the following clinical experts:
Professor David Celermajer
AO MBBS MSc PhD DSc FRACP FAHA FCSANZ FHKCC FAA
Scandrett Professor of Cardiology, University of Sydney; Clinical Director, Heart Research Institute.
Director of Research and Director of Adult Congenital Heart Services, and Co-Director of Pulmonary Hypertension Services, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
David Celermajer is the Scandrett Professor of Cardiology at The University of Sydney and Director of Research in the Cardiology Department at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, as well as Staff Cardiologist at the Children's Hospital in Westmead. He has been Group Leader of the Clinical Research Group of the Heart Research Institute since 1994, and in 2003 was appointed as its Clinical Director. He is currently a Board Member of HeartKids Australia and is on the Editorial Board of many of the world’s leading cardiology journals. Since 2006 he has been a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Dux of Sydney Grammar School, Rhodes Scholar for NSW 1983, University Medallist, USyd Medicine, 1984 World Debating and Public Speaking Champion 1984, Winner of RT Hall Prize and Eric Susman Medal for Research, 1998; Winner of Commonwealth Health Minister's Award for Health Research 2002; Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science 2018; inaugural winner of the Charles Blackburn Medal for Clinical Research 2019.
Professor Geoff Strange
PhD FCSANZ FPHSANZ
Geoff is a professor at the University of Notre Dame, Faculty of Medicine with research interests in Registries, Echocardiography, Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) and Pulmonary Hypertension. Geoff has established the world’s largest registry on Pulmonary Hypertension, registries in CHD and cardiovascular medicine. Geoff is part of the CHD Research team at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Geoff is currently the Co-Principal Investigator for the National Echocardiographic Database of Australia (NEDA) study, the world’s largest Echo database. Geoff is leading the CHAANZ initiative along with Prof Celermajer. He is also the Director of Mozaic Solutions.
Dr Nelson Alphonso
MBBS FRCS FRCSI FRACS
Deputy Director, Paediatric Cardiac Surgery
Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Service
Queensland Children’s Hospital, Brisbane QLD
Dr Alphonso is currently the Deputy Director of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at the Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Service at the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, Queensland. After his initial surgery training at the University of Mumbai in India, Dr Alphonso completed his surgical training in New York. He completed his adult and paediatric cardiac surgery training at Guys and St Thomas Hospital NHS Trust in London, Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and UCSF Children's Hospital in San Francisco. He was the Director of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool, UK before taking up the position of Director of Cardiac Surgery of the Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Service at the Mater Children’s Hospital and subsequently at the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. He has a strong interest in neonatal cardiac surgery, extracorporeal life support and the repair of chest wall deformities. He is the Co-Director of the Queensland Paediatric Cardiac Research Division at the Center for Children’s Health Research in Brisbane and has a large experience in teaching and research in the field of paediatric cardiac surgery.
A/Professor Julian Ayer
BSc(Med) MBBS MIPH FRACP PhD
Paediatric Cardiologist, The Heart Centre for Children,
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Sydney
A/Prof Ayer is a paediatric cardiologist and conjoint Senior Lecturer within the University of Sydney. His interests are in general paediatric cardiology, cardiac MRI, echocardiography, adolescent/adult congenital heart disease and preventative cardiology. He undertook training in both Sydney and London at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.
Professor Christian Brizard
Consultant Cardiac Surgeon
Director - Cardiac Surgery Unit, The Royal Children's Hospital
Senior Research Fellow, CCN - Murdoch Children’s Research Institute
Associate Professor - Department of Pediatrics, The University of Melbourne
Born in France and trained in Paris, Boston and Melbourne, Dr Brizard is the Director of the Cardiac Surgery Department at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne since 2000, the largest paediatric cardiac centre in Australia. The department has 2 Nationally Funded Centres (Paediatric Heart Transplant and HLHS). An Honorary Research Fellow at MCRI, his research interests include Fontan Physiology, Stem Cells, Pericardial Cross-linking and DCD Donors. Dr Brizard is an Associate Professor of the University of Melbourne, Department of Paediatrics and is associated with Cardiac Centres in Vietnam, Lebanon and Hong Kong. Dr Brizard has published 13 Book chapters, 156 articles in international journals with 70 in the past 5 years.
Professor Michael Cheung
BSc MBChB MRCP
Director, Paediatric Cardiology, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne
Heart Research Group Leader, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Principal Fellow, University of Melbourne
Michael Cheung is Director of Paediatric Cardiology at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne (Australia) and Leader of the Heart Research Group at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (Melbourne, Australia). He trained in paediatric cardiology at Grantham Hospital (Hong Kong), Great Ormond Street Hospital (London, UK), Royal Brompton Hospital (London, UK), and the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada). He has co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed papers and nine book chapters. His research includes assessment techniques for blood flow, vascular function in congenital and acquired heart disease, functional outcomes following treatment of congenital heart disease, novel indices of ventricular function, and ischaemic preconditioning for induction of organ protection.
A/Professor Rachael Cordina
MBBS (Hons) PhD FRACP
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Dr Rachael Cordina is an Adult Cardiologist who specialises in Congenital Heart Disease, Pulmonary Hypertension, Maternal Cardiology and Exercise Physiology. She is based at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and University of Sydney. Rachael's earlier PhD and ongoing research is focused on the pathophysiology that affects adults with complex congenital heart disease. She was based in the United Kingdom for 2 years whilst undertaking clinical and echocardiography fellowships at UCLH and Royal Brompton Hospital and has European Accreditation in Congenital Heart Disease Echocardiography. She is Vice-Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Fontan Registry.
Dr Patrick Disney
MBBS FRACP FCSANZ
Department of Cardiology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, SA
Patrick graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1996. He completed his internship, physician training and advanced cardiology training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He then pursued his interest in echocardiography by moving to Toronto, Canada for a 2 year clinical fellowship.
Following his time in Canada he pursued his other interest in adult congenital heart disease by spending 2004 at the Birmingham Grown Up Congenital Heart Unit. On returning to Adelaide, Patrick has taken a central role in running the echocardiography laboratory at Adelaide Cardiology. He has established an adult congenital heart disease clinic at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and has also worked closely with the Cardiology Department at the Women's and Children's Hospital to set up a transition clinic for adolescent patients. Patrick divides his time between the Women's and Children's and Royal Adelaide Hospitals, as well as private practice with Adelaide Cardiology.
CEO Heart Kids Ltd
Lesley joined HeartKids in January 2023, and has significant executive experience across government, for-profit and for-purpose sectors, working namely in health, community and human service areas. Lesley is a former nurse and midwife, bringing both clinical expertise and senior executive experience to HeartKids. Following a number of senior roles in health, both in the public and not-for-profit sectors Lesley has been providing Interim CEO / Executive support to organisations since 2013. This has included work in aged care, the community sector, children's services, disability services and ophthalmology providing support in the areas of strategy, leadership, governance, quality and risk management.
On a personal note, Lesley is a mother of 3 adult daughters, one of which was diagnosed with a neural tube defect at the age of 4 ½ yrs old, so brings a level of empathy and understanding to the role.
Dr Tom Gentles
MBChB DCH FRACP FCSANZ
Director Green Lane Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Service at Starship Childrens, Auckland, New Zealand
Dr Gentles is the Director of the Green Lane Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Service at Starship Children’s Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand and Chair of the Paediatric and Congenital Council of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. He trained at Green Lane Hospital, New Zealand and Children’s Hospital, Boston. His subspecialty interests are in echocardiography and fetal cardiology and research interests are in the area of ventricular function in congenital and rheumatic heart disease, and long-term outcome following cardiac surgery.
A/Professor Leeanne Grigg
MBBS FRACP FCSANZ
Divisional Director – Cardiovascular, Renal & Endocrine Services
Director of Cardiology, Royal Melbourne Hospital
A/Prof Leeanne Grigg is Head of Cardiology, as well as Director of the Adult Congenital Cardiac Service, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria. She is also Head of the Combined Congenital Cardiac Pregnancy service run conjointly with the Royal Women’s Hospital. After initial training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and further training at Toronto Hospital in Ontario Canada, A/Prof Grigg has been involved in the development and expansion of the congenital cardiac service in collaboration with the Cardiology Department at the Royal Children’s Hospital. In addition to providing clinical care to the congenital heart patients, she is involved in teaching and research in this area and in training other cardiologists in the growing subspeciality of Adult Congenital Cardiac Disease.
A/Professor Robert Justo
MBBS FRACP FCSANZ
Director, Paediatric Cardiology, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Depatment of Paediatrics, University of Queensland
Robert Justo is Director of Paediatric Cardiology at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. His general paediatric cardiology and interventional cardiology training was undertaken at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. He has developed clinical interests in catheter-based interventional cardiology, cardiac transplanation and indigenous health. His research interests include long-term outcomes, both medical and neuropsychological, for children affected by congenital heart disease.
A/Professor Nadine Kasparian
Director, Cincinnati Children’s Center for Heart Disease and Mental Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Professor of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Head of Psychology, Heart Centre for Children, The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network
Dr. Nadine Kasparian is Professor of Pediatrics and Founding Director of the Cincinnati Children’s Center for Heart Disease and Mental Health at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the United States. In 2008 Nadine established one of the world’s first integrated psychology programs dedicated to childhood heart disease. Her team has received numerous awards, including the 2018 Sydney Children's Hospitals Network Innovation Award for Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services. Nadine's research investigates the factors that shape emotional and neurobiological development in children and adults with critical or chronic illness, particularly congenital heart disease. Her team seeks to understand how early experiences of medical adversity may alter developmental processes, including emotion regulation and stress reactivity, in ways that increase vulnerability to anxiety, depression, and other mental health difficulties. Nadine has a PhD in Medical Psychology from the University of Sydney and serves as Associate Editor for Psychology & Health, the flagship journal for the European Health Psychology Society. She holds a National Heart Foundation of Australia Future Leader Fellowship (2017-2021), serves on the steering committee for the international Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative (CNOC), and in 2018 was awarded a Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy and Practice based at Harvard Medical School.
Dr Mugur Nicolae
MD FRACP FRCPC FCSANZ
General Cardiology and Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Pulmonary Hypertension Specialist
Dr Nicolae completed an undergraduate medical degree in Bucharest, Romania in 1990. He completed his Cardiology training in 2006, working at a number of hospitals in South Africa and Brisbane. In 2007 he completed a one year Fellowship in Adult Congenital Heart Disease in Brisbane at The Prince Charles Hospital with Dr Dorothy Radford, and in 2008 he completed his second Fellowship year in ACHD in Vancouver, at the University of British Columbia, St. Paul’s Hospital with Prof. Marla Kiess. Dr Nicolae has been a staff specialist at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane since his return from overseas in 2008. He commenced Private Practice at Holy Spirit Northside Hospital in 2009. In 2016, he joined the Cardiology Department at the Mater Adults Hospital in Brisbane on a part time basis.
Dr Nicolae practices equally in Adult Congenital Heart Disease and General cardiology, with a particular interest in Echocardiography, Pulmonary Hypertension and Obstetric Cardiology. He was the Cardiology Program Education Co-ordinator until recently at The Prince Charles Hospital and is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland, School of Medicine.
Dr Clare O’Donnell
BSc MBChB FRACP SM FCSANZ
Paediatric and adult congenital cardiologist, Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Service at Starship Childrens/Auckland City Hospitals in New Zealand
Dr Clare O’Donnell completed her medical and paediatric training in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland. She began her paediatric cardiology training at Green Lane Hospital before spending four years in Boston at the Boston Children’s and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals. While in Boston she completed a Masters in Science in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her clinical and research interests are in adult congenital heart disease, intervention for congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension.
Dr Lisa Selbie
Non Executive Director, HeartKids Limited
Chair of the Research Advisory Committee, HeartKids Limited
Lecturer, Advanced Academic Programs in Biotechnology, Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Selbie received her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from Northwestern University and has experience in cardiovascular research, project management, consulting and teaching. Dr Selbie held research positions at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham as a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow studying cardiac neuropeptide receptors, and was involved in consultancy reviews of national research funding processes. Dr Selbie is a lecturer with Johns Hopkins University MS/MBA Biotechnology Program developing and delivering on-ground and online courses, serves on the NSW AusBiotech Committee, and is a Director of HeartKids and Chair of the Research Advisory Committee.
A/Professor Gary Sholler
Director of Cardiac Services (Sydney Children's Hospitals Network)
A/Prof. Gary Sholler is a paediatric and fetal cardiologist as well as the Director of Cardiac Services at both of the Children's Hospitals in Sydney. He has lead and advises several major state, national and international professional bodies, and has expertise In complex programme development and change management. His clinical interests are in fetal echocardiography & counselling, and diagnosis & management of complex congenital cardiac abnormalities. His research interests at present are in complex cardiac disease diagnosis and innovative care, fetal cardiac diagnosis and management, cardiac genetics, semantics and language in medical communication, and the emotional and psychological impact of cardiac diagnosis in the fetus and child on families.
Professor Simon Stewart
PhD NFESC FCSANZ FAHA FAAN
Director, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) to Reduce Inequality in Heart Disease
Director, Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research
Professor Stewart is dedicated to understanding the evolving burden of heart disease and developing innovative models of care to improve related health outcomes.
The Director of the Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research at the Australian Catholic University, he is also an NHMRC of Australia Principal Research Fellow and leads the NHMRC of Australia Centre of Research Excellence to Reduce Inequality in Heart Disease. As Principal Investigator he currently leads projects worth more than $10 million in peer-review funding. This includes a number of multicenter, randomized trials of disease management.
Professor Robert Weintraub
Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne
Paediatric Cardiologist, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne
Honorary Research Fellow, Murdoch Children's Research Institute
Visiting Specialist, Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne
Visiting Cardiologist, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne
Dr Robert Weintraub is a paediatric cardiologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital. He gained his medical degree at the University of Sydney and after completing a fellowship at RCH, he trained in heart transplantation at Harefield Hospital in the UK and in echocardiography at the UCSD Medical Center, San Diego. He is the lead physician for the heart failure, transplant and pulmonary hypertension service at RCH. Dr Weintraub is on the editorial board of Paediatric Cardiology and Progress in Paediatric Cardiology and serves as a reviewer for a number of leading peer review journals. His research interests include cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension and paediatric cardiac registries.
Dr Gavin Wheaton
MBBS FRACP FCSANZ
Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide
Dr Gavin Wheaton is a paediatric cardiologist at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide and visiting cardiologist to the Northern Territory. He undertook his training at the University of Adelaide and has a special interest in rheumatic heart disease. Dr Wheaton is also a Senior Lecturer at Flinders University.
Dr Wheaton has had a long association with HeartKids and served as Patron of HeartKids SA.