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A picture of many different varieties of pill

Health data and personalised medicine: How will you be treated?

Thursday 22 August, 2019
Venue: The Old Rum Store, Chippendale

Nothing feels more personal than our health but medical treatment is essentially a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Despite our multitude of differences, when we get sick, we’re more or less treated with the same drugs.

Because health experts don’t fully understand why diseases occur in individual patients, nor how they will respond to treatment, broad populations are prescribed the same medicine–with more or less unpredictable results.

But with the advent of precision medicine and advances in eHealth technology, this may be about to change.

Very soon, treatment based on our individual genetic information and health histories will be readily available. Some suggest this will lead to vastly improved diagnoses, avoidance of detrimental side-effects, fewer errors and greater efficiencies when we visit the GP.

But these breakthroughs are not without risk. Others express legitimate concerns as the growing sophistication of our eHealth systems increases security vulnerabilities and customised medicines remain out of financial reach for most individuals.

Join us as we learn more about this incoming disruption from experts in metabolic cybernetics, eHealth and sociology and discover what medical treatment could mean for you in the very near future.


  • Students/Staff — $15  
  • Alumni — $20 
  • Friends — $25 

*ticket prices include drinks and catering

Our experts

Associate Professor Sonja Van Wichelen, Sociology and Anthropology

Associate Professor Sonja Van Wichelen
Sociology and Anthropology

As a sociologist I am fascinated by how institutions shape our lives. In my current research I look at how science and law create their own narratives to make sense of their functions in the world. I am particularly interested in the implications of biotechnological change. Whether society sees these changes as hopeful or murky depends much on how our institutions give meaning to them. As one of the most defining institutions in society, law is a key site to look at how these changes are translated into our culture.

Professor David James, Metabolic Cybernetics

Professor David James
Metabolic Cybernetics

I love science. The possibilities are boundless. I run a lab of around 20 people at the University of Sydney - we work on cells from all kinds of animals, mice of all sorts of colours, humans and now even flies. Technology and science has moved at a pace never seen before and we can begin to envisage that what we have done and will do, will transform the medical care system throughout the world. Individuals will one day enjoy finding out more about their future health risks and most importantly what they have to do to extend healthy life. There is almost nothing that I can think of that could surpass this kind of future. This is my dream.

David is the Leonard P. Ullmann Chair of Metabolic Systems Biology at the Charles Perkins Centre.

Professor Tim Shaw, eHealth

Professor Tim Shaw


My research focuses on how we can help health professionals to work at the top of their game. This began with working with the College of Surgeons in Australia to develop basic surgical training online in 1999. This was a bold project by the College long before online learning was commonplace. I quickly realized that education is rarely enough to change practice and I focused for a number of years on how you introduce complex interventions into health services using implementation science. More recently I have become intrigued by how healthcare professionals lack access to their own performance data and how we can use this type of information for performance improvement. This led me to being a Lead Investigator and now Director of Research on the $110M Digital Health CRC, which presents great opportunities for national collaboration.

Tim is a graduate of the University of Sydney (BSc(1988) + PhD(1996)) and Director Research in Implementation Science and eHealth (RISe) at the Charles Perkins Centre.