Since graduating with a MBBS (Hons, rank number 1) from Monash University, she has been actively involved in basic and clinical research as well as clinical practice.
She undertook PhD studies with Dr Morag Young, Dr Colin Clyne and Professor Peter Fuller at Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research, now Hudson Institute, from 2008-2013. Her PhD thesis, entitled ‘Mineralocorticoid receptors (MR): mechanisms of ligand- and tissue-specific activation’, identified and characterised novel coregulators of the MR using a novel phage display technique in addition to cell culture work and gene expression assays. This work identified four novel coregulators that interacted with the MR in a context-specific manner, and was published in the journal, Molecular Endocrinology.
Since completing her PhD, Dr Yang has continued to work on coregulator discovery. In particular, as the Cardiovascular Endocrinology group has shown that MR in macrophages is a key determinant of the macrophage proinflammatory state, she is working to identify macrophage-specific MR coregulators with the ultimate aim of developing a tissue-selective MR modulator that can alter the macrophage proinflammatory state without affecting epithelial MR activity. This would offer protection from cardiac fibrosis and failure without causing hyperkalemia.
In addition to laboratory-based research, Dr Yang established the Endocrine Hypertension Service at Monash Health and Hudson Institute with Prof Fuller. She developed the guidelines for the management of primary aldosteronism (PA), coordinated inter-disciplinary research between the Departments of Interventional Radiology, Pathology, Cardiology, Respiratory Medicine, and Endocrinology, and collaborated with research groups in Perth, China, Italy, the Netherlands and the USA.
Dr Yang’s PhD was supported by a NHMRC postgraduate scholarship and RACP Shields Research Entry scholarship. She has subsequently secured continuous Post-Doctoral Fellowships and Project Grants in excess of half a million from the Endocrine Society of Australia, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Heart Foundation, Council for High Blood Pressure Research Australia, CASS Foundation, Rebecca Cooper Foundation, Collier Charitable Foundation and Monash University.
Dr Yang has presented nationally (2 invited presentations, 12 orals, 6 posters) and internationally (5 invited presentations, 1 oral, 8 posters including 1 Presidential Poster Prize in 2011). She was invited to chair sessions on aldosterone-related diseases at the ESA conference in 2016 and US ENDO conference in 2019. She was awarded the Novartis Junior Scientist Award at the Endocrine Society of Australia’s meeting in 2011, the society’s highest basic science award for an early career researcher; and won the Best Oral Presentation Award at the International Society of Hypertension meeting in 2019.
By developing a research program where the research is embedded in clinical service and supported by a capable team of committed academics, clinicians and scientists, Dr Yang strives to enhance the culture of ‘bedside to bench, and vice versa’ translational medicine, and allow the integration of cutting edge science into day-to-day healthcare.
A range of projects have stemmed from collaborations both nationally and internationally, including investigation of:
Techniques to improve the success and accuracy of adrenal vein sampling
Confirmatory tests that can accurately diagnose primary aldosteronism (PA) as well as predict the subtype of PA
24-hour blood pressure parameters that can better characterise PA
The relationship between obstructive sleep apnoea and PA;
The prevalence of PA in patients newly diagnosed with hypertension
Transcriptomic profiling of patient samples to identify biomarkers of PA.
In December 2018, Dr Yang formed the Primary Aldosteronism Centre of Excellence (PACE). PACE is built on existing collaborations and led by internationally respected clinician-scientists in PA-related research in Australia, including Prof Peter Fuller from Hudson Institute of Medical Research/Monash Health, Prof Michael Stowasser and Dr Martin Wolley from Queensland University, who have published extensively in the field and set the standards for PA management in Australia. PACE also has the support of world leaders in cardiovascular endocrinology, resistant hypertension research and cardiovascular epidemiology, Dr Morag Young (Hudson Institute), Prof Markus Schlaich (University of Western Australia), Prof Trevor Mori (University of Western Australia) and Prof Christopher Reid (Curtin University); prominent primary care health services researcher, Prof Grant Russell (Monash University); and a senior biostatistician, Dr StellaMay Gwini (Monash University/Barwon Health). This inter-disciplinary and trans-national collaboration will allow the team to optimise capacity in the field of PA research and address knowledge gaps using a systematic and evidence-based approach. Discovery science will be woven into the fabric of clinical practice where mechanisms from preclinical models and molecular pathology will be translated into improved patient care.
Dr Yang supervised one Biomedical Science honours student (2016) and three Science honours students (2017-18) to completion. She is currently supervising a clinician PhD student with one more to commence in 2019. She has also supervised and mentored medical students and registrars on many projects. Their work have been presented at national and international conferences, with 3 manuscripts published, 3 manuscripts under preparation and 5 new projects in progress. She is keen to support the career development of all junior clinician and science students who have an interest in endocrinology.
Dr Yang’s research outcomes have transformed clinical practice by developing a focussed expertise in the area of primary aldosteronism and establishing a streamlined, evidence-based pathway for its care. At Monash Health, the number of patients diagnosed with PA has increased 20-fold over 7 years; the success rate of adrenal vein sampling (a technically challenging step in PA diagnosis) has increased from 40% in 2010 to >95% in 2019; and targeted treatment has led to reduced medication burden with improved BP in all diagnosed patients.
Dr Yang strives to engage with primary healthcare networks and general practitioners by delivering regular education seminars throughout Victoria and offering clinical support. She has also engaged patients to develop consumer-focussed education materials and a website to inform those who may have a diagnosis of primary aldosteronism. She led a team of volunteers at Monash Health to participate in May Measurement Month, a global initiative to measure the blood pressure of people around the world during the month of May. The team enthusiastically recorded blood pressure on over 1000 participants!