The Image of a Fulbright: Revolutionising Stroke Diagnosis and Embracing Human Connections

Dr Annabel Sorby-Adams, Fulbright Future Scholar, Funded by The Kinghorn Foundation | The University of Adelaide/Massachusetts General Hospital

From late nights in Harvard Library to sunsets in Hawaii – my Fulbright experience was undoubtedly the opportunity of a lifetime.

In June of 2022, I commenced my Fulbright Future Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. My long-awaited Fellowship sought to establish the efficacy of low-field MRI for the diagnosis and management of stroke; an innovative solution which seeks to address the limitations of conventional MRI by providing an inexpensive, portable, safe, and user-friendly system.


Specifically, my fellowship endeavoured to assess the ability of low-field MRI to detect and differentiate acute ischaemic stroke and intracerebral haemorrhage, its value in monitoring for complications of stroke using sequential neuroimaging, to develop artificial intelligence algorithms to optimise image quality and automate stroke volume quantification, and compare findings obtained at the Massachusetts General Hospital with an additional cohort generated at Yale New Haven Hospital.

In collaboration with leading physicists at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and eminent neurologists at Yale University, my fellowship sought to inform results in a multi-centre study to comprehensively evaluate the value, validity, and general applicability of this new technology to assess and diagnose stroke and improve access to neuroimaging.

Throughout the duration of my Fulbright, I recruited a total of 60 patients with a diagnosis of acute ischaemic stroke or intracerebral haemorrhage, with patients undergoing both single and sequential scanning sessions to monitor for stroke complications. Analysis of imaging is ongoing, and efforts to improve image quality and automate stroke detection using artificial intelligence are underway. To date, the research I conducted as a Fulbright Scholar has culminated in the publication of one manuscript in Nature Reviews Bioengineering, another is under review in Stroke, and I was fortunate enough to present my research findings at the recent European Stroke Organisation Conference in Munich, Germany.

Beyond my immediate research efforts, my affiliation with both Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School provided me with incredible access to both clinical experiences, such as Neurology grand round lectures, and opportunities based at the Medical School, such as the Harvard Medical Postdoctoral Association. Furthermore, through both my project and affiliation with the Fulbright, I was able to meet and collaborate with researchers from other institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Immersed in the mecca that is Massachusetts, taking full advantage of these opportunities exposed me to the incredible breadth of world class research taking place at each of these respective institutions, and meet some incredible, insightful, and dynamic people along the way.

Reflecting on my Fulbright experience, it has impacted my life in an insurmountable way both professionally and personally. Professionally, the standard of academic excellence at Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital has compelled me to pursue lifelong learning. In turn, this has taught me to be tenacious, curious, and internationally collaborative in my research.

Personally, the opportunity to travel; from New York for a slice of Joe’s Pizza, to Hawaii with friends, to hitting the slopes skiing in Montreal; I have been able to experience so many diverse and genuinely awesome places. Finally, working in a clinical setting and speaking to patients every day has enabled me to have incredibly interesting conversations and engage with individuals from an entirely different background to my own; an experience which has encouraged me to be empathetic, open minded, and an avid listener. To this end, the human experiences I garnered throughout my Fulbright, both with the patients I engaged with on a day-to-day basis, to the incredible scientists and clinicians I was fortunate enough to work alongside, has left an indelible mark on my life which I am infinitely grateful for and which I will carry proudly into my future.