Recipients of the A. H. Couch Trust

Surviving to adulthood is now a realistic aspiration for many children born with congenital heart disease, thanks to huge advances in medicine. Yet there is a worldwide shortage of doctors trained to look after this new patient group, who have complex and demanding problems that require care from highly specialised experts.

There are few centres of excellence that provide training in this area. The A. H. Couch Trust supported me to undertake training to the highest certification as a Senior Fellow in Congenital Heart Disease at McGill University, Montreal.
I learnt how to look after patients, and gained expertise in cardiac ultrasound and MRI. These modern imaging techniques are now so advanced that they provide sufficient information that many patients can avoid the discomfort and risk of invasive evaluation.

I undertook research into pulmonary hypertension in congenital heart disease and now I use the skills acquired at MacGill University to care for adults with congenital heart disease, as a consultant with the Green Lane Cardiovascular Service. I became a Trustee of the A. H. Couch Trust in 2014.

- Dr Boris Lowe

As an Internationally qualified nurse from India, it was a great challenge for me to get used to the culture and educational system in New Zealand. Whilst working full time in the Cardiovascular Unit at North Shore Hospital, I enrolled for postgraduate studies at Massey University. When all other funding applications were rejected, the A. H. Couch Trust gave financial support.

I finished my papers with good grades and am now completing a Masters in Nursing, with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. This recently established role gives legal authority to practice above & beyond the scope of a registered nurse. It demands advanced education, clinical training and demonstrated competence.

- Chandu Surendran Nair

Throughout my years nursing in Cardiology, the number of heart failure patients in hospital keeps growing but we don’t have enough resource to care for them.

Through the assistance of the A. H. Couch Trust, I was able to pursue my Master’s Degree and complete my dissertation on the "Cost-Effectiveness of Home-Based intervention for Heart Failure Patients". This involved extracting beneficial information from published research to improve how we look after heart failure patients in the community.

Home-based intervention enables the discovery and management of symptoms before decompensation sets in, using a nurse-led multidisciplinary approach. The growing number of patients with heart failure requires more nurses with the appropriate skills to care for them in the home.

This approach helps keep patient’s out of hospital. For the patient, this results in improved quality of life and greater sense of control of their condition. For the taxpayer, there is a reduction in the cost of care.

- Hedy Geronimo

The European Society of Cardiology Congress is the premier international cardiology meeting each year, with over 30,000 attendees from around the world. I received a travel grant from the AH Couch Trust which supported my attendance at this meeting where presented the results of my research.

The research involved an international collaboration, which has now redefined heart size and function for healthy people, results which will be incorporated into international guidelines.

As part of this same award I was able to meet with my research collaborators in Oxford and London. Living in NZ we are fortunate to be able to work in strong research environments, but collaboration with our international colleagues remains essential. The travel awards from the AH Couch Trust are very important to enable such collaborations from so far away.

- Dr Katrina Poppe
Senior Research Fellow

University of Auckland

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains an important cause of health problems for New Zealanders. Traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes are important causes of heart disease but there are also genetic causes.

We are now entering the “genomic era” where the ability to unravel our genetic information is cheaper and easier. I am currently undertaking a post-doctoral fellowship at The University of Auckland, with a focus on understanding how genetics can be used to assess risk for heart disease.

Part of my studies involves detailed assessment of genetics for people following a heart attack. The AH Couch Trust has generously supported part of the costs of my research, allowing me to make rapid progress during the early months of my fellowship and to develop new research protocols which will extend our knowledge in this area.

I am indebted to the Trust for this grant without which I would not have been able to progress this research, which aims to improve heart health for New Zealanders.

- Dr Nikki Earle
Heart Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow
University of Auckland

As a clinical researcher, I am indebted to organisations that provide funds for research. Presenting and discussing new research findings at international conferences is an integral part of the research process. As an allied health professional, conference travel funds are limited and I have been grateful for the financial support of The Couch Trust.

The trust supported my attendance at the European Society of Cardiology Annual Congress. This was pivotal as I met with several international researchers and could establish collaboration with them on a large international project I led to develop ethnic-specific normal reference ranges for cardiac ultrasound.

This went on to be published in a highly ranked international cardiology journal and became supporting background for a Health Research Council Grant I am currently completing to establish reference ranges for New Zealand, and specifically for Maori and Pacific Island patients.

- Prof. Gillian Whalley
Unitec, New Zealand