The Schizophrenia International Research Society has named Alison Yung, M.D. the 2020 Outstanding Translational Research Awardee. Prof. Alison Yung is a Principal Research Fellow, Consultant Psychiatrist and Professor at the Centre for Youth Mental Health (CYMH) and Orygen, University of Melbourne and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, UK. She is the Director of Graduate Research at the CYMH. In this role, she has oversight of all Research Higher Degree students at the CYMH.
SIRS research is not just a thirst for knowledge, it has the goal of improving the lives of those who might develop or already have a mental health difficulty. So, it is vital to SIRS that we recognise individuals whose have influenced research and clinical practice, not just in their own country but across the world. I am delighted to announce that this year’s worthy winner of the 2020 SIRS Translational Research Award is Professor Alison Yung who is based at universities in Melbourne and Manchester. Alison has not only had her research translated into practice, but she has also done just that herself. Her contributions are multiple – developing criteria to help predict who will develop schizophrenia are used around the world in research and services. But this was never enough, and Alison uses her clinical insights “back translate” and inform the next set of studies. This has led to her next task – closing the mortality gap by concentrating on physical health. What next for her? Who knows? Just watch this space.
Alison Yung has made a truly seminal and pioneering contribution from the early 1990s with the prospective definition of the “At Risk Mental State”: the clinical phenotype of the earliest stage of schizophrenia and related psychoses. Her definitions and her leadership of a range of research studies shifted our thinking about in this stage of illness overnight. Our focus of research and clinical care at this stage of illness means that we could change the illness trajectory as they now become open to therapeutic change. Her research changed our view of schizophrenia and we became more optimistic. Alison has many fine qualities and other achievements. She is honest, tenacious and possesses a wonderful sense of humour. She is a superb mentor and teacher for younger researchers and a highly valued colleague. In Australia and around the world her receipt of this prestigious award will be warmly welcomed and celebrated.
I am very pleased to be the recipient of the 2020 SIRS Translational Research Award. The recognition of one’s peers is truly an honour. I would like to thank SIRS for recognising the importance of not just creating knowledge but using it to help people.
My research is on early identification and detection of people at high risk of developing a psychotic disorder produced criteria that have been adopted around the world. Those at risk are often very distressed and the identification of this group has enabled them to access the care they need.
My next step is to improve the physical health of people with serious mental illnesses. The marked health inequality of those with psychotic disorders is a tragedy. Current strategies for improving health are either ineffective or not implemented effectively. I intend to evaluate better strategies so the lives of people with psychotic illnesses can be improved by our research.