Dr Lianne Woodward awarded Liley Medal

Neurological Foundation

HRC's Liley Medal awarded for work on neurodevelopmental risk in preterm infants.

Predicting neurodevelopmental risk in children born very premature has earned Associate Professor Lianne Woodward from the University of Canterbury the HRC's prestigious Liley Medal for health research.

The medal was presented to Associate Professor Woodward at the New Zealand Science Honours dinner held on 15 November 2006 by Lady Margaret Liley and assisted by Dr John Hay, Deputy Chair of the HRC Board.

The Liley Medal is awarded annually by the HRC, recognising an individual who has published a research study that has made an outstanding contribution to health and medical sciences. It is named after Sir William (Bill) Liley KCMG, BMedSc, MBChB, PhD, FRSNZ, FRCOG to recognise his lifetime contributions to the health and medical sciences.

Associate Professor Woodward has found that the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will significantly improve the early identification of those preterm infants at greatest neurodevelopmental risk. Early and accurate identification of these children is essential to ensure their longer term health and development is optimised.

The study was supported by the Neurological Foundation.

From her research, Associate Professor Woodward has found that cerebral abnormalities on neonatal MRI, especially in the developing white matter, are associated with increased neurodevelopmental risks for the premature infant. These abnormalities were detectable by 40 weeks gestation using MRI.

Importantly, these abnormalities were stronger predictors of later severe neurodevelopmental disability than traditional clinical risk factors such as gestational age, birth weight and abnormal ultrasound findings.

Along with these findings, the research has provided valuable data on the rates of severe neurodevelopmental impairment amongst children born very preterm in New Zealand.

Associate Professor Woodward’s research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2006.