Professor Munns takes his world-leading expertise to Queensland

06 December 2021
Researcher Profile

Professor Craig Munns was recruited as a Staff Specialist in paediatric bone disorders at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) more than 17 years ago. At the time it was the only job of its kind in Australia, which made this step in his career a milestone. Since then, he’s built on what Professor Chris Cowell envisioned for the role and the department, to deliver what is now the premier paediatric bone service in Australasia and throughout the Asia-Pacific.

“I feel privileged that I’ve been part of, at least his recruitment into the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN), as an early-career, but very skilled paediatric endocrinologist and bone and mineral specialist. He brought to the Network a set of clinical skills which were finely tuned and probably in advance of what any other individual at that time could offer. So he was a really great package,“ said Prof Chris Cowell, SCHN Director of Research.

Prof Munns is a world leading expert in paediatric bone, with a focus on improving the physical and psychosocial function of children with bone and mineral disorders. He leads the Bone and Mineral health service at CHW, impacting the wellbeing of countless children. He has built on the vision of Prof Cowell to develop a fit for purpose bone and mineral clinical service. Through collaboration with countless other clinicians across the Network, Prof Munns has developed bone and mineral medicine to become a crucial clinical service.

“There’s been individual successes along the way, but I think the biggest success is the fact that we’ve shown that a focus on bone and mineral disorders is necessary, and we’ve influenced paediatric practice throughout the nation by showing that,” Prof Munns said.

“Craig raised the bar in looking after children’s bone health at CHW. He built both a research and clinical team that was truly multidisciplinary. Coordinated clinics with both Endocrinology and Orthopaedic input allowed for multiple pre-clinical collaborations as well as clinical research including clinical trials. He was also able to bring many allied health team members into the fold both clinically and in research. Many of these allied health professionals have gone on to their own academic careers,” said Prof David Little, Paediatrics and Child Health at CHW.

Prof Munns is an excellent clinician, who has drastically improved his patients’ quality of life with the clinical care he provides. His patients are children with conditions including Osteogenesis Imperfecta, primary and secondary osteoporosis, bone mineralisation disorders, and orthopaedic conditions such as avascular necrosis and bone tumours. His clinical care involves collaboration with multiple teams within CHW including Orthopaedics, Oncology, Rehabilitation, Neuromuscular and Genetics, across SCHN and even state-wide. By maximising the bone health and musculoskeletal function of his patients, he reduces their pain, disability and fatigue, which allows them to reach developmental milestones, participate in mainstream school and be able to keep up with their peers.

“Craig‘s legacy of a world-leading multidisciplinary bone service to look after the most complex of patients and their families with the rarest of bone conditions will live on. Whilst being the most caring and sophisticated yet humble physician he also pushed research boundaries and translated those results into clinical practice,” said Dr Oliver Birke, Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at SCHN.

Among his achievements, he established bisphosphonate, vitamin D and genetic rickets treatment protocols which have been adopted across Australia and the Asia-Pacific. He developed national and international guidelines for the prevention and treatment of nutritional rickets. As Clinical Trials Lead at Kids Research he is involved in Advanced Therapeutics, including cell and gene therapy.

“It has been wonderful to see his leadership and how he’s able to provide an incredibly personalised, family-orientated service for children with bone and mineral disorders. His achievements over 10 to 15 years have been extraordinary locally, nationally and in the Asia-Pacific region as a leader and an educator,” said Prof Cowell.

He is also a dedicated researcher, looking into novel and innovative physical and pharmacological therapies. He has more than 130 peer reviewed publications and has 12 articles cited more than 100 times, as well as 11 book chapters.

“Craig has made major contributions to the network at many fronts as a clinician, an academic, a senior established researcher, endocrinologist, bone specialist, mentor, educator, leader and a director. Craig is incredibly generous in sharing his knowledge, expertise and experiences. He is committed, passionate, inspirationally positive in deed and words and extremely humble, despite the whole world calling him great,” said Georgette Danyal, Associate Director Research Operations at Kids Research.

“Despite Craig’s achievements he still leads by example and is one of the hardest working people I know. He is always willing to answer clinical questions, support junior staff and assist emerging investigators with their research. He has a patient-centred approach to everything that he does, and a selfless commitment to making the lives of children better in whichever way he can,” said Christie-Lee Wall, Bone and Mineral Coordinator at CHW.

But his clear passion is the patients, with more than a few tears to be shed in the clinic when he leaves. Prof Munns’ enormous clinical and non-clinical workload never gets in the way of finding the time to ask his patients what matters to them. It’s these answers that guide his clinical care and his treatment goals.

“I’ve set out to make a difference in the lives of children and families. I love looking after kids. I find bone disorders fascinating and the children inspiring, as are their families,” he said.

Concluding his time at the Network, Prof Munns is taking his wealth of knowledge interstate to Queensland. He’ll be working to increase the collaboration between hospitals in his new role at the University of Queensland and Queensland Children’s Hospital as Director of the Child Health Research Centre and the Head of the Mayne Academy of Paediatrics.

“I believe the best way to make a major impact in the lives of children and their families is through interstate and international collaboration. This will be a focus of my clinical and research roles in Queensland,” he said.

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