I was born in central west NSW in the beautiful town of Dubbo and have always had a passion for health equality and improving services for those who need it most. Growing up sporty with two brothers I feel has added to my resilience and energy for research!
I first started working in research after completing my Psychology Honours Degree at The University of Newcastle, where I assisted on various trials to improve health risk behaviours among vulnerable Australians. I commenced my PhD shortly after which examined smoking among people with a mental illness (smoking rates as high as 90%), and how to improve routine care delivery to people for whom their physical health is often overlooked.
During my PhD I worked in inpatient psychiatric wards in hospitals in Newcastle and spoke to hundreds of people living with severe and persistent mental illness. The insights I gained from these amazing people have really highlighted the complexity we face in improving health and gave me such a passion to keep pushing for those most in need.
After my PhD I commenced a postdoctoral role at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, where I was introduced to the world of substance use epidemiology, and my ultimate mentors and supervisors, Professor Maree Teesson and Professor Nicola Newton. After two babies, COVID, and a major institutional transfer, I now find myself at the Matilda Centre, focusing on reducing use and harms associated with smoking, e-cigarettes (or 'vaping') and mental health across the lifespan. This includes preventing uptake, helping people quit, and identifying risk groups who need additional support.
The energy at the Matilda Centre is unparalleled. Never before in any workplace have I been invited to co-write a grant, receive said grant ($2 million no less) and start the trial all within a matter of months.
What I love is that there are no barriers to action, support for innovation comes from the top and is evident in the incredible diversity of programs and people at Matilda. We can, and do make change. Our research is not limited to estimates, numbers or statistics. Once a trial or resource has been thoroughly tested, we strive to implement this into the real world, to change policy, to make the health and lives of Australians better. I observe this on a daily basis, and it really is incredible.
At the moment I am heavily involved in preventing e-cigarette use in young people. I am working closely with Professor Newton, Dr Lauren Gardner and Dr Amy-Leigh Rowe to develop and test a new 4-module e-cigarette prevention program for Year 8 students in 42 schools across NSW, QLD and WA.
I also work quite closely with the NSW Ministry of Health, including the Tobacco Control Unit and the Centre for Aboriginal Health, to design, test and distribute mass media digital resources about smoking and vaping to target groups, including young Aboriginal people.
This process involves a lot of youth engagement and co-design which I am new to but am really enjoying! I also complete work for other State Health and Education Departments, including ACT Health and the SA Department of Education, to advise teacher training kits, school policies and resources to prevent e-cigarette use.
The Respect Your Brain animated video series focuses on the impact of five drugs commonly used in Australia and explores the way these drugs affect a young person's developing brain.
With my other hat on, I’ve also just started supervising Dr Jack Wilson who will be leading a series of studies examining the efficacy of medicinal cannabis products. I also continue working on my main passion project, which is identifying novel ways to help people with serious mental illness quit smoking.
I love cricket. Always have, always will. I will happily chat about bowling statistics, batting averages, team selection and shot choices if you too share a passion for this bizarre sport. I can bowl too, so watch out!
I have just finished Harry Gallagher's autobiography "Memories of a Fox" which was hilarious, devastating and inspiring all in one. Harry coached Dawn Fraser (then a rough-as-guts Balmain kid) and reflects on his life growing up incredibly poor in depression-era Inner West Sydney. His anecdotes are incredible. I'm now reading "The Mandarins" by Simone de Beauvoir – written on the cusp of WWII liberation in Paris, it's a semi-autobiographical retelling of her life, with a strong focus on women's place in the world relative to men. I also started reading a book about productivity and efficiency by Madeleine Dore called "I Didn’t Do The Thing Today" but... I never finished it.