ESSA Medal

The ESSA Medal is awarded annually in recognition of the most outstanding Australian PhD thesis approved for graduation in the field of exercise and sports science or related fields. The successful nominee also receives a prize of $1500 and will be invited to present at ESSA's Research to Practice 2024.

Project supervisors are invited to nominate their PhD students as candidates for the ESSA Medal 2023. Eligible students are those whose PhD thesis was approved for graduation between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023.

For questions about the ESSA Medal, please contact the ESSA research team.

Nominations for the ESSA Medal 2023 are now closed!

Timeline for Application Submissions
  • Applications open: Monday 30 October 2023
  • Applications close: Wednesday, 14 February 2024 at 5pm (AEST)
  • Winners announced by early April 2024
Medal Description and Requirements (PDF)      Application form (Word) 

Late applications WILL NOT be accepted.

Successful applicants will be informed by early April 2024.

2023 Winner: Dr Stephanie Frade

Exercise for people with Systemic Sclerosis or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus' (University of Southern Queensland)

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) and systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) are systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs) that share similar clinical features including inflammation and damage to joints and internal organs, fatigue, and a reduced quality of life. This thesis evaluated the effectiveness of exercise interventions on health-related outcomes, alongside the perspectives and experiences of both people with lupus and scleroderma and rheumatology practitioners, using a mixed method approach. Exercise is undoubtedly a highly valued non-pharmacological intervention by rheumatology practitioners and people living with the disease, yet there is scarcity in good quality trials and several barriers to exercise that this population face. Telehealth-supervised exercise was feasible for, and well-accepted by people with lupus, resulted in improved fatigue, pain, physical and emotional wellbeing, and could be considered a practical means for this population to engage in exercise.

Exercise for people with systemic sclerosis or systemic lupus erythematosus : University of Southern Queensland Repository (

2022 Winner: Dr Grace McKeon

'Using digital technology to promote physical activity in trauma exposed populations' (University of New South Wales)

Mental illness is a leading cause of disability and is associated with poor physical health. Physical activity interventions can improve health outcomes, yet novel strategies are needed to help people to engage. My thesis explored the role of digital technologies and peer support in the implementation of physical activity interventions for populations exposed to trauma, including emergency service workers. Through a mixed-methods approach and co-design strategies, I conducted three pilot studies and a stepped-wedge trial which generated new knowledge about the feasibility, efficacy and adaptability of social media delivered physical activity programs. The findings offer scalable strategies for promoting physical activity and reducing levels of distress in populations exposed to trauma.

2021 Winner: Dr Stephen Foulkes

'Exercise for Preventing Chemotherapy-induced Cardiotoxicity and Exercise Intolerance' (Deakin University)

"My thesis focused on the role of exercise for characterizing and preventing exercise intolerance and cardiotoxicity induced by breast cancer chemotherapy. As part of this I found that cardiotoxic chemotherapy is associated with substantial and persistent reductions in cardiopulmonary fitness, and that this is explained in large part by impairments in peak exercise cardiac function (termed cardiac reserve). I also found that 4-months of exercise training in women undergoing breast cancer chemotherapy successfully blunted reductions in cardiopulmonary fitness and cardiac reserve induced by chemotherapy, whilst improving skeletal muscle size and function." Dr Stephen Foulkes on his submission.

Previous ESSA Medal Winners

2021 Winner: Dr Stephen Foulkes - 'Exercise for Chemotherapy-induced Cardiotoxicity and Exercise Intolerance' (Deakin University)

2020 Winner: Dr Amy Harding – 'LIFTMOR-M: Lifting Intervention For Training Muscle and Osteoporosis Rehabilitation for Men' (Griffith University)

2019 Winner: Dr Meegan Walker – ‘Blood flow during passive leg movement: impact of vascular disease and nitrate supplements’ (University of the Sunshine Coast)

2018 Winner: Dr Jack Hickey – 'Hamstring strain injury: objective assessment tools and exercise-specific progression criteria during pain-threshold rehabilitation' (Australian Catholic University)

2017 Winner: Dr Caroline Robertson – 'The brain and exercise: neurophysiological correlates of tolerance, regulation and termination' (Charles Sturt University)

2016 Winner: Dr Joyce Ramos – ‘Different volumes of high-intensity interval training in individuals with metabolic syndrome: how low can you go?’ (University of Queensland)

2015 Winner: Dr Robert Stanton – ‘Developing an understanding of exercise in the inpatient mental health setting’ (University of Canberra)

2014 Winner: Dr Rossana Nogueira – ‘Exercising opportunities to prevent chronic disease: The CAPO Kids trial' (Griffith University)

2013 Winner: Dr Angela Spence – ‘Comparative impacts of endurance and resistance exercise on the cardiovascular system in humans: A prospective randomised 6th-month intervention' (The University of Western Australia)

2012 Winner: Dr Belinda Parmenter – 'The use of high intensity progressive resistance training for patients with intermittent claudication from peripheral arterial disease' (University of Sydney)

2011 Winner: Dr Julien Periard – 'Physiological mechanisms limiting prolonged exercise performance in the heat' (University of Sydney)

2010 Winner: Dr Simon van Rosendal – 'Measuring and Optimising Rehydration' (University of Queensland)

2008 Winner: Dr Jay Ebert – 'Orthopaedic surgery, biomechanics and post-operative exercise rehabilitation' (The University of Western Australia)

2007 Winner: Dr Daniel Galvao - 'Resistance Exercise in Men Receiving Androgen Deprivation Therapy for Prostate Cancer' (Edith Cowan University)

2006 Winner: Dr Stephen Bird – 'Influence of nutritive interventions on biochemical signals and markers of myofibrillar protein degradation following acute and chronic resistance exercise in untrained men' (Charles Sturt University)