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2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 2

Dr Sireesha Koneru

Dr Sireesha Koneru is a colorectal research Fellow based in Concord Repatriation General Hospital, New South Wales.

Currently, Dr Koneru is undertaking full time colorectal research with some clinical work. She completed her studies at the University of New South Wales and since achieving her FRACS in General Surgery at the end of 2020, Dr Koneru has taken out three years to do a PhD full time with the University of Sydney and the colorectal department at Concord Hospital.

In 2023, she was awarded the RACS Eric Bishop Research Scholarship to commit her efforts to full time research.

Dr Koneru said she was excited to receive the $60,000 prestigious scholarship, a donation by the late Queensland pastoralist Eric Bishop.

“I'm incredibly thankful for the scholarship, it gave me the opportunity to take dedicated time to focus on fulltime research,” she says.

Dr Koneru’s research involves looking at low anterior resection syndrome (LARS)—a suite of symptoms experienced by patients after colorectal cancer surgery—to better understand phenotypes to tailor management strategies.

The research aims to shift from a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ to a more personalised management strategy based on individual symptom profiles.

“In our group of patients more than 70 per cent experienced some form of bowel dysfunction after surgery. My research includes examining how much these symptoms affect quality of life, satisfaction with bowel function, and patients’ ability to return to their day to day life after colorectal cancer surgery.

“What led me to this research was that we have historically looked at symptoms of LARS by volume rather than type. I think this has limited the ability to tailor our management of these patients,” she says.

The year spent on full time research also gave Dr Koneru the inspiration to convert her Master of Philosophy to a PhD. As part of her PhD, Dr Koneru was awarded the highly regarded Fulbright Scholarship for the second half of 2024 where she will travel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA.

Her time there will be spent furthering research on functional outcomes after “watch and wait” management for rectal cancer.

“I think spending dedicated time focusing on research affords you time to really enjoy it and develop a collaborative network of research colleagues with a view to contributing to ongoing, clinically meaningful research.

“I think we’re very fortunate as Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Trainees. In addition to our College supporting scholarships, we’ve had generous benefactors who have afforded us the opportunity to apply for and be supported by a broad suite of research and clinical development scholarships,” she says.

As a teenager, Dr Koneru didn’t know what career path she wanted and spent a long time looking at other options before ultimately choosing to pursue a medical degree.

“I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. I knew that I wanted to work with people and that I wasn't really built for an office job.

“Over time I fell in love with surgery, it was around the fourth or fifth year of medical school during my surgical terms. It was interesting, engaging and a very dynamic profession where you're learning and developing technical and non-technical skills throughout your career.”

In her leisure time, Dr Koneru enjoys hiking, reading, and skiing. She said her skiing adventures have taken her to Canada and Japan, and her next trip is to Switzerland.

“I'm always looking at the next opportunity to go on a ski holiday,” she says.