Bringing more clinical trials to Western Australia is one exciting goal for Melanie Clark, who recently joined the Perron Institute clinic as the Huntington’s Disease Study Coordinator. 

She completed a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at Curtin University in 2009 and a Master’s degree via Deakin University last year. Her thesis was titled: ‘Burden of HD in Australia: a meta-analysis of depression and apathy and a cost analysis of Huntington’s disease in Australia’. 

Melanie began her research career in schizophrenia research and has published papers in that area. 

“I’ve always been interested in mental health and have been lucky to find a passionate neuropsychiatric research community in WA,” Melanie said.  

Melanie is part-time at the Perron Institute and also works at Graylands Hospital as a Senior Research Scientist at North Metro Health Services’ Neurosciences Unit (NSU).  

At both Perron Institute and the NSU, Melanie works with Dr Carolyn Orr, who is a consultant neurologist at the Perron Institute. They coordinate and lead research primarily focused on Huntington’s and collaborate with other Huntington’s researchers, including Perron Institute Research Affiliate Dr Travis Cruickshank (Edith Cowan University), Dr Brian Long (NSU) and Dr Dan Clarke (NSU).  

Working at the Perron Institute allows Melanie to expand her collaboration with the Huntington’s community, including with the Chief Executive Officer of Huntington’s WA, Lenni Duffield and the team, to co-design research.  

“The Huntington’s community is deeply committed to finding better treatments and, one day, a cure. It’s easy for me to stay motivated working with such an engaged group. 

“At the Perron Institute, I’m inspired to investigate clinic service delivery models and how services can adapt to provide the best care for people living with a degenerative disorder. 

“I’m excited to be working with Dr Orr, Sue Walters (Manager Clinic Services), Dr Srimathy Vijayan (Consultant Neurologist), Jo Borrelli (Clinical Trials Research Coordinator), Katherine Roberts (Research Assistant) and the whole clinical trials team. I’ve been waiting for the right role to become available to join the Perron Institute’s clinical team.” 

More recently, Melanie has been working with Aboriginal and indigenous Elders, health professionals, cultural consultants, and matriarchs from a community in the Kimberley affected by Huntington’s. With Dr Karen Clunies-Ross and Rachel Zombor, they received a WA Mental Health Commission grant to develop a brochure to encourage ‘yarning’ about Huntington’s for people living with or at risk of developing Huntington’s.  

In her free time, Melanie enjoys travelling, reading and spending as much time as possible with her horse ‘Smudge’.  

“I’ve been around horses since I was three, but I had to put my equestrian pursuits on hold while I studied and pursued a research career. Buying Smudge a few months ago was a huge personal achievement and I love getting back into horsemastership and riding.”