Meet Stephanie


Walk for Wishbone Auckland, 26 May 2019

Dr Stephanie Nunes Da Paz works at an Auckland hospital and last year received a Wishbone Foundation research grant. Stephanie will be speaking about her research at the Auckland Walk for Wishbone event, as well as doing the stair climb, while her husband and two young children will do the 1k walk.

Stephanie’s research looks at the bacterial growth on the lead gowns worn in orthopaedic theatres to protect staff from being exposed to radiation. The gowns, which are shared among staff and specialties, are professionally cleaned every two months.

“The gowns are a potential reservoir for micro-organisms, but there is little research on how often they should be cleaned and by what method. The study looks at the amount of contamination that remains after cleaning and the contamination until the next cleaning.”

Stephanie works in a big hospital and there is a pool of lead gowns hanging outside the theatre. Staff wear the lead gowns underneath their sterile surgical gowns.

“I became interested in how the lead gowns were being cleaned and what the cleaning cycle was. I wanted to see what kind of microbiological growth there was on the gowns, what kind of bacteria actually grows on them, how heavy the growth is, how many colonies there are, and whether there were any antibiotic-resistant bugs.

“I followed six gowns, which are each made up of three pieces, throughout their cleaning cycle. I took the swaps to the University of Auckland lab and, with a microbiologist there, did some preliminary testing on the swabs. We grew different types of bacteria and took the colonies that looked interesting and had significant growth back to the hospital lab. That lab identified the bacteria and tested it for susceptibility to antibiotics.”

She says the testing is complete and she is going through the results. Early indications are that the gowns are not hosting any concerning antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“The last thing we want is multi-resistant bugs that can cause joint and bone infections. We should all think about how we can improve the environment in the theatre, including what we wear and what comes in contact with the patient.”

Stephanie says having a research grant from an independent source is very important.

“I could have had funding from a big orthopaedic company but that research wouldn’t have been independent. We need to be able to report things the way they are.”

She says she couldn’t have done her research without the Wishbone Foundation grant, and she is very grateful for the support Wishbone provided.

“The whole grant process has been straight forward; the communication has been great. The research is something I’m doing as an extra to my job and my family, so it was really good to have the support for the administrative side from Wishbone.”