Churchill Fellowship recipient working to eradicate tropical skin diseases

Tropical skin diseases and common skin conditions like scabies could be a feature of the past. At least, that’s what Paediatrician Daniel Engelman is hoping to achieve with his Churchill Fellowship.

Daniel was recently awarded the Dr Dorothea Sandars Churchill Fellowship to develop best practice approaches for population mapping of scabies and tropical skin diseases.

Daniel says that scabies and impetigo are major problems in Australia, particularly in remote Indigenous communities, and that these conditions had the potential to lead to severe infections as well as kidney and heart diseases.

“Scabies has been a major problem at a local level for decades, particularly for Indigenous populations in northern Australia,” said Daniel.

Churchill Fellowship recipient, Daniel Engelman

“Research through The Tropical Diseases Research Group at MCRI has developed a highly effective community treatment approach for these skin conditions in several Pacific countries, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). We now have an opportunity to eliminate scabies as a public health problem in Australia.”

Although his travel plans are currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Churchill Fellowship will allow Daniel to travel to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to connect with, and learn from experts in his field.

“By visiting international experts, I will develop a framework for scabies disease mapping, working with affected communities to define areas where community treatment can be implemented,” he said.

“Australia’s unique geography and population density mean novel scientific approaches to mapping are needed. We must work together with Indigenous communities, the Aboriginal controlled health sector and other stakeholders to maximise the success of this project.”

“The potential impact of this project is immense, with transformative benefits for communities. For example, scabies in Fiji was reduced from 30 per cent to less than 2 per cent with a single treatment round. Multiple treatments could eliminate scabies from these communities.”

Daniel has a long standing passion and commitment to work in global health, and hopes his work will help reduce inequality for the most disadvantaged children and families globally.

“It is striking that my own children in Melbourne are at exceedingly low risk of conditions like scabies or rheumatic fever and children who do get these illnesses in Victoria can readily access effective treatment. I am driven to do this work, so that all children can have the same opportunities for health and well-being, and the opportunity to live full and meaningful lives.”

This year’s Churchill Fellowship was awarded to 112 Australians to create positive change in the community. For a full list of this year’s recipients, please click here.

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