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Centre for Chronic and Complex Care Research

The Centre for Chronic & Chronic Care Research, is a collaborative clinical research centre between the University of Wollongong School of Nursing and Western Sydney Local Health District. The Centre is located at Blacktown Hospital, and affiliated with the UOW: Liverpool campus, it is supported by the Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Education Network. 

The Centre conducts clinical and translational research across all aspects of chronic disease management, with strengths in research in frailty, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation. There is a strong commitment to the conduct of transdisciplinary research, nurse-led investigator-initiated clinical research, implementation science, consumer-partnered research and capacity building for the next generation of clinician-researchers. The Centre is led by Professor Caleb Ferguson, Professor of Nursing (Chronic & Complex Care). We welcome enquiries for higher research degree supervision in the areas of chronic & complex care and nursing research. 

Our team

Professor Academic Director

Professor Caleb Ferguson is a Registered Nurse and Professor of Nursing, who leads an NHMRC-funded program of research at the Centre for Chronic & Complex Care, University of Wollongong and Blacktown Hospital, Western Sydney Local Health District. His research includes examination of the impact of digital health education for people living with AF for stroke prevention. He has received over $12 m as a Chief Investigator in competitive research funding and published over 110 academics papers. He is also a Fellow of the ESC, CSANZ and the Australian College of Nursing, and is elected as the current Chair of the Cardiovascular Nursing Council of the CSANZ. He currently co-leads the Western Sydney Clinical Frailty Registry along-side Professor Richard Lindley at Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals. 

Senior Research Fellow (Frailty), Lead, Frailty Command Centre

Dr Julee McDonagh is a Senior Research Fellow in Frailty at the Centre for Chronic & Complex Care at WSLHD and the University of Wollongong. Dr McDonagh is a registered nurse with over a decade of clinical nursing experience. She is also a proud descendant of the Cabrogal Clan of Darug Nation. Dr McDonagh is the Research Lead for the Frailty Command Centre at the CCCCR at Blacktown Hospital, coordinating research projects within the Western Sydney Clinical Frailty Registry, as well as building her own program of research examining ways to improve the management of people living with frailty, cardiovascular disease and multimorbidity. Dr McDonagh is a current member of the Australian College of Nursing; the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives; the ANZ Society for Sarcopenia and Frailty Research EMCR committee; an Executive Committee member of the Cardiovascular Nursing Council of the Cardiac Society of ANZ; and a member of the JBI Cardiovascular Expert Reference Group.

Research Fellow (Implementation Science)

Dr Sabine Allida is a Research Fellow (Implementation Science) at the Centre for Chronic & Complex Care Research (CCCCR) WSLHD and the University of Wollongong. She is also an Honorary Fellow at The George Institute for Global Health and an adjunct fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. Dr Allida is the Research Lead of the CCCCR’s Digital Health and Research Translation program, coordinating digital health projects including the INFORM AF II trial. Her research focuses on enhancing healthcare delivery to improve cardiovascular health outcomes. She is an emerging leader and expert in complex evidence synthesis and have authored several high impact Cochrane reviews (gold-standard for informing policy and practice) in stroke, heart failure and digital health. Dr Allida’s research has informed and is cited in healthcare guidelines published by the Stroke Foundation, American Heart/Stroke Association, American College of Cardiology/Heart Failure Society of America and National Institute for Health and Care Research. She is a member of the psychology working group for the Australasian Living Stroke Guidelines responsible for reviewing and updating recommendations for the treatment and prevention of mood disorders after stroke. Her Cochrane review on ‘Pharmacological, psychological, and non-invasive brain stimulation interventions for treating depression after stroke’ is a ‘living’ review within the Australasian Living Stroke Guidelines. 

Associate Research Fellow

Scott William has a biomedical science background and is currently finalising his PhD thesis in Medical Education at the Western Sydney University School of medicine. For his PhD, Scott conducted a mixed method study where he explored the experiences that international and refugee background students have during their time completing a program of healthcare professional education at a large metropolitan university in Australia. Scott’s interests lie in learning more about eHealth, eLearning and clinical research. Scott has joined the CCCCR as part of the team on the INFORM-AF study.

Senior Lecturer & Implementation Scientist

Dr John Rihari-Thomas’ clinical background is in both cardiology & patient deterioration in acute care setting and held positions on both the clinical Excellence Commissions’ Deteriorating Patient Advisory Group and state clinical Council. John is currently a member on the Cardiovascular Research Network Rising Stars committee. John Successfully implemented the rapid response system (RRS), Sepsis Kills program and REACH programs at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney with the aim of early detection and intervention of clinically deteriorating patient, reducing adverse clinical events such as unplanned Intensive Care Unit admissions, unexpected cardiac arrests and deaths. Working as a project manager & Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, John Primarily lead the implementation of 2 large, randomised controlled trials across 3 states in Australia (the Assessment and CommuniCation ExcelLEnce foR sAfe patient outcomEs (ACCELERATE) Trial and the Evidence-based Nursing Core assessment Trial. Although both trials had different outcome measures, John’s research interests lay in clinically based implementation science and behaviour change.

Clinical Nurse Specialist 2 (Frailty Research)

Reejamol John is a Registered Nurse with over 20 years of experience in Critical Care. She completed her BN in 2001 at The Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Science in India. In 2013, she received her Master's in Intensive Care from The University of Sydney. She has undertaken various leadership and management roles including a Clinical Nurse Educator and a Nursing Unit Manager role for the Orthopaedic Surgical Unit at Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals. In 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, she was appointed as Nursing Unit Manager for the Blacktown Vaccination Hub. Reejamol is currently a Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Western Sydney Clinical Frailty Registry responsible for screening, recruitment and follow-up of patients and data management. She is also an Honorary Fellow at the School of Nursing, University of Wollongong. Reejamol is passionate about implementing evidence-based nursing into practice and enjoys engaging and collaborating with consumers in research. 

  • Joby Alex
    The impact of educational interventions on patients living with indwelling urinary catheters 
  • Fahad Shaikh
    Pharmacological considerations for obese adults with atrial fibrillation

  • Christian Pedrosa
    Digital interventions to support atrial fibrillation self-management

  • Natalie Govind
    Improving palliative care for people after acute stroke

  • Kirsten Parker
    To co-develop & test a nurse coordinated model of care in frail older adults to improve hospital to home transition 
  • Jessie Austin
    Waste Less, Live More: Interventions to Reduce Waste and Carbon Emissions in Healthcare

  • Hussein Al-Qarni
    Innovations in acute frailty management: harnessing clinical registry feedback for better outcomes

  • Wa’ed Shiyab
    The adoption of mHealth applications by nurses for chronic conditions

  • Shegaw Zeleke
    Effects of co-designed culturally tailored nurse-led intervention on stroke survivors in the acute stroke setting in Ethiopia

Flagship research projects

Western Sydney Clinical Frailty Registry is a prospective cohort study of patients who are admitted under Rehabilitation and Aged Care Services, Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital. This study is co-led by Professor Richard Lindley and Professor Caleb Ferguson and is designed to facilitate a local approach to understanding frailty status and associated conditions and improving outcomes. The Registry has approximately 1000 older adults enrolled and will provide detailed representative data on frailty status and outcomes of patients admitted to Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital, as well as capacity building opportunities for the Western Sydney Local Health District. The Western Sydney Frailty Registry is the only frailty registry listed on the Australian Registry of Clinical Registries (Registry ID: ACSQHC-ARCR-095).

INFORM AF is a co-designed digital education program for people living with atrial fibrillation (AF). It consists of 6-8 case scenario-based AF questions delivered through an mHealth application spaced learning platform. INFORM AF was developed in response to the significant gaps in the quality provision of AF education in Western Sydney and nationally as identified in an exploratory qualitative study of patients with AF, clinicians, and expert key stakeholders. In a recent quasi-experimental study, INFORM AF was found to be feasible and acceptable and resulted in significant improvements in AF knowledge and quality of life at 6 weeks, 3, 6 and 12 months. INFORM AF is currently being tested in a prospective, open-label, blinded endpoint, randomised controlled trial to determine its effect on re-hospitalisation, all-cause mortality, cardiovascular-related hospitalisation, medication adherence, AF-related knowledge, and quality of life. The trial is funded by the National Health & Medical Research Council and the Nancy & Vic Allen Stroke Prevention Memorial Grant, provided through the Stroke Foundation (Australia).

BANDAID-Explore aimed to explore the educational and self-management needs for patients living with heart failure. The BANDAID-Explore will study allow for a greater understanding of the patients’ experience of living with heart failure, what information, and education or support they would need to know to improve self-manage of their heart condition. This study applied an exploratory qualitative design to gain insight into key topic areas for heart failure patient education and to greater understand what is most important to patients. This study was conducted at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and/or The University of Sydney through a series of focus groups with patients, their carers and healthcare professionals. Researchers worked with these groups to establish priority areas for patient education, that will inform an mHealth educational program called eTips for evaluation in a future study called BANDAIDS e-TIPs coordinated by the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre. This study is funded by the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Dr John Rihari-Thomas’s research interests lay with implementation science and behaviour change, with a keen interest in implementing research into nursing practice by working pragmatically with clinicians. After 5 years involvement working closely with and supporting clinicians in large, randomised controlled trials, he is currently working on the 'Using Evidence-based constructs to de-implement low value healthcare; A mixed methods pilot study' (ECO). The ECO study is designed to determine the effectiveness & feasibility of a pragmatic organisational ward level intervention to de-implement routine low value care practices and support the introduction of an assessment tool to proactively screen for and determine, only those patients at risk of avoidable harm that require further assessment screening.   


Get in touch

Centre for Chronic & Complex Care Research - Ward B37, Ground Floor, Blacktown Hospital, Marcel Crescent, Blacktown, NSW, 2148