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Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh

Biography:

Maria Fiatarone Singh, M.D., FRACP, is an academic and clinical geriatrician, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine in both the USA and Australia, who has held the inaugural John Sutton Chair of Exercise and Sport Science, and Professorship, Sydney Medical School since 1999. Her research, teaching and clinical career has focused on the integration of geriatric medicine, exercise, and nutrition to improve function and quality of life in older adults. She is recognised internationally for her paradigm-shifting work in resistance training for sarcopenia/frailty spanning over 3 decades and is one of the most highly cited researchers in her field. She has designed and carried out many clinical trials and longitudinal studies in Australia, the USA, Norway, and France, including large multi-centre trials of exercise and chronic disease and frailty prevention and treatment. From the beginning of her career, as a practicing geriatrician she has recognised the need for timely and evidence-based dissemination of her work, translating the results of her trials into clinical programs, health care professional courses and accreditation standards, position stands, education of consumers with multi-media materials, and formulating policy recommendations regarding government funding for exercise as medicine. Her many systematic reviews of lifestyle interventions for chronic disease have contributed substantively to the implementation of evidence-based practice in her field. Her transformative clinical research has created a paradigm shift in geriatric medicine, demonstrating that high intensity progressive resistance training can counteract the catabolism of aging, inactivity, and chronic disease, and is therefore a central, critical component of the prevention and treatment of frailty in older adults.

 Prof Fiatarone Singh has 32 years’ experience in the design and implementation of clinical trials utilising high intensity resistance training (PRT) and nutrition for the treatment of chronic disease and frailty in older adults up to 103 years of age, having carried out the very first trial of high intensity PRT in nonagenarians in 1988. Since that time, the target of her trials has expanded to include most of the major chronic diseases and geriatric syndromes affecting function, including mobility disorders, osteoporosis, falls, hip fracture, as well as diabetes, arthritis, obesity, depression, cognitive decline, insomnia, peripheral vascular disease, renal failure, cardiac failure, Lewy Body dementia, peripheral neuropathy, breast cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and substance abuse disorders, among others, using both face-to-face clinic and digital/eHealth-supported delivery of multidisciplinary interventions. She designed and led the NHMRC-funded HipFIT RCT, the only study ever to significantly reduce nursing home admissions and death after hip fracture. She also conducted the successful NHMRC-funded LiFE study of falls prevention exercise in vulnerable elders. She is a CI and Leader/designer of the Exercise and Nutrition modules for the NHMRC-funded Maintain Your Brain Trial- an RCT of 6,200+ older adults receiving web-based, personalised, interactive, lifestyle modification for dementia prevention. She has designed and implemented HOMeCARE- a unique home-based program combining strength and balance training for older adults with dementia and mindfulness training for their caregivers to promote ageing in place- both supported with a unique video-conferencing system for monitoring via a tablet/web-based platform.

Publications: Fiatarone Singh has published extensively in the area of health implications of exercise and nutrition, having authored/edited 3 books, authored over 245 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 120 peer-reviewed books, book chapters, position stands, and review articles. Her seminal work on exercise for frailty in NEJM (1994) has been cited 3261 times, and JAMA (1990) cited 2865 times; 9 publications have been cited >500 times, and 57 cited >100 times, for an overall citation count of 28,093; h-index 71 (accessed 18/09//2019 Google Scholar).

Grants/Collaborations: She has had continuous substantial NIH funding from 1989-2004, and continuous NHMRC funding since 1999 when relocating to Australia.  Career grant funding totals over $59 million AUD; currently she is CI on 5 active NHMRC grants totaling over $10 million AUD. She collaborates with researchers in Canada, USA, Norway, Israel, Brazil,  and Iran, among others.

Research translation: Her ultimate goal is to improve health care and quality of life, particularly for the most vulnerable with limited access to quality lifestyle programs and aged care. She founded and still advises the Circle of Fitness, an exercise program for residents of Harvard-affiliated Hebrew SeniorLife, which has operated continuously since 1989 as an outgrowth of the original FICSIT nursing home trial in Boston.  She is the founding director of the Fit for Your Life Foundation, an international non-profit organisation providing education on health and fitness to seniors and health care professionals since 1992, and ongoing exercise training in her FFYL clinic.  She co-founded the STRONG Clinic at Balmain Hospital in Sydney in 1999, which has served thousands of older adults for 20 yrs, providing integration of their geriatric care and treatment of sarcopenia with PRT. She has twice co-authored the guidelines for Exercise and Older adults for the ACSM, as well as for each edition of the Resource Manual for Health Care Professionals, and position stands on Osteoporosis and  Diabetes for ESSA, as well as the exercise guidelines for the RACGP on Osteoporosis.

Community engagement and advocacy work: She is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting and Osteoporosis Australia, Refugee Action Coalition,  RACP Policy Reference Group,  member Aged Health Network Executive Committee, founder of Doctors and Allied Health Professionals against the Border Force Act, serves as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Name Parish and Neringah Hospice, member of Social Justice Committee of St. Calista’s parish, volunteers with The Dish meal program for the homeless, and is founder/director of the new CanaCare Wellness Clinic serving those with detention, homelessness and addiction recovery as part of Cana Communities in NSW.

Supervision/mentoring: She has mentored more than 30 Honours and Postgraduate students, physicians and Fellows in the USA, Australia, France, Norway and Malaysia since 1988 (40% FTE is teaching) and is currently supervising 10 PhD/Master’s/Honours students and 2 PD Fellows.