Archived: Our talented team

The Prevention Centre’s 150 collaborators represent a who’s who of Australian prevention talent. At a recent Investigators’ Forum, some of our investigators and collaborators spoke about their career so far, what makes them proud, and their hopes for prevention in 2017. Here are some highlights of those presentations.

jenny bowman 100x122Associate Professor Jenny Bowman, School of Psychology, University of Newcastle

My story: I am a behavioural scientist and health psychologist. I’m passionate about making a difference to chronic disease at a population level, particularly for vulnerable sub-groups, by reducing modifiable health risk behaviours.

What I’m proud of: Helping to train a new generation of researchers, and conducting research that can change policy and practice.

In my spare time: I try to get some exercise and touch base with friends.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: For the Prevention Centre to continue to do good work and to go from strength to strength, and for more research effort and funds generally to be directed to prevention.


jaithri2 100x122Jaithri Ananthapavan, Senior Research Fellow with the Deakin Health Economics team

My story: I started my career as a rehabilitation physiotherapist, working with stroke patients and the elderly. I then became interested in health economics when I met Rob Carter during my Masters of Public Health. I started my health economics career in London working in pharmacoeconomics consulting. When I moved back home to Melbourne, I started working at Deakin Health Economics, working on obesity prevention research and teaching in the Masters of Health Economics program.

What I’m proud of: I have had a career change and I have had three varied roles. Each has made me better at what I do today. Being a clinician has made me a better health economist and my consulting experience had enhanced my research skills. I am most proud of having a rewarding career while performing my most important role: raising my three young children.

In my spare time: I bake!

My New Year’s wish for prevention: That all children can attend school and enjoy their extracurricular activities in health promoting environments.


gary sacks 100x122Dr Gary Sacks, Senior Research Fellow, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University 

My story: My first professional job was as a management consultant. After a few years I decided to change track and started my PhD looking at policies for obesity prevention. In my 10 years working in public health, I have spent time at various institutions including Oxford, Harvard and the WHO in Geneva, all while formally based at Deakin in Melbourne.

What I’m proud of: Most of my work is focused on understanding the influences on policy, and particularly the tactics used by the food industry. As part of this work, I co-founded INFORMAS, which is now operating in 23 countries to measure various aspects of food environments.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: A tax on sugary drinks in Australia.


 pippy 100x122Pippy Barnett, Research Officer, University of Sydney

My story: My background is in nutrition, dietetics and exercise physiology. I have worked in aged care and general practice, at Headspace and with various community groups. Along the way I’ve been challenged by the overwhelming number of external factors influencing patients’ risk and disease burden. I felt I could be doing more and have since moved into public health research.

What I’m proud of: My proudest moment was being invited to Parliament House for the 2013 National Preventive Health Awards ceremony  as a finalist for my team’s work in malnutrition and falls prevention in residential aged care facilities.

In my spare time: I am completing a Masters of Public Health and health management, and when I can I love getting outdoors.


 claire pearce 100x122Claire Pearce,  PhD candidate, Prevention Centre and ACT Health

My story: I started as an occupational therapist, working in a range of roles including in a brain injury unit in South London. I completed a Masters degree at the University of London and have worked for ACT Health in a number of different roles for the past 11 years. I have spent six years in chronic disease management and am working on my PhD, which is on why health professionals aren’t telling us we are fat.

What I’m proud of: I’m proud of my cumulative experience: the privilege of being a clinician, then moving into project work and having the opportunity to do a PhD, with the aim being to bring  all the skills together to improve the health system.

In my spare time: I hang out with my three gorgeous boys, watch a lot of rugby and think about a future when I’ll have time for hobbies.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: That society starts to see prevention as an essential service and puts pressure on governments to invest in long-term change.


garry jennings 100x122Professor Garry Jennings, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, Monash University

My story: I have worked as Director and CEO of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, and Chief Medical Adviser to the National Heart Foundation. I’ve also been head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Cardiovascular Health, and a cardiologist working for years in basic, clinical and applied cardiac research.

What I’m proud of: In my time at the Baker IDI, I realised that if we didn’t address the most obvious example of disadvantage, Indigenous health, I was kidding myself. Our work with Aboriginal communities in Alice Springs has led to a recognition there are Indigenous communities around the world with similar problems.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: As medical adviser to the Heart Foundation, I know that the biology underlying our prevention agenda is very complicated, and we have got to communicate that to the community. Over-simplification is a real challenge.


melanie crane 100x122Melanie Crane, Research Fellow, University of Sydney

My story: I worked in Kyrgyzstan in community development as a nutritionist, doing health promotion – I started in public health before I knew what it was. Then I made a (temporary) shift to the corporate world before entering research, first in asthma education at the Woolcock Institute, then in cancer prevention at the NSW Cancer Institute. I’ve just completed my PhD at Sydney University evaluating the health impacts of new bicycle infrastructure.

What I’m proud of: My biggest achievements are seeing my work help to inform policy.

In my spare time: I’m busy writing, helping in my local church community, or I’m stuck on house renovations.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: My ongoing wish is for less people moving about in cars – for a healthier, happier city.


Dr Ccameron willis 100x122ameron Willis, Principal Research Fellow and NHMRC Sidney Sax Public Health Fellow, the Prevention Centre

My story: I started as a physiotherapist, working in spinal rehabilitation in the UK. My PhD was at Monash, measuring quality of care relating to trauma systems. During my post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Adelaide, I was awarded a Sidney Sax fellowship to go to Canada, where I had my first encounter with systems thinking and systems science.

What I’m proud of: I’m proud of the teams and colleagues I have worked with in building a better understanding of multi-sectoral partnerships in prevention.

In my spare time: With a new puppy and a new house, I’m either at the park or Bunnings.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: Is that our joint efforts help more people in more places live longer, healthier and happier lives.


sharon friel 100x122Professor Sharon Friel, Professor of Health Equity and Director of the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University

My story: I come from a socially disadvantaged community in the east end of Glasgow, where life expectancy was 54-55 years for men and not much better for women. I thought there was something profoundly unfair about this sort of society and life. I started my career as a chemist in England then moved to Ireland where I worked in the university in Galway and headed up the national health and lifestyle survey in the early ’90s. I worked closely with the Ministry of Health, so from the start I was involved in policy. Now I’m trying to understand how you get issues of health equity onto the policy agenda, what does policy coherence for health equity look like, what are some of the implementation issues, and what is the quantifiable impact of public policy on inequities in health.

What I’m proud of: I am most proud of being involved in the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, working with some of the world’s political leaders. I think we made a difference – getting action on the social determinants of health through global and national policy.

In my spare time: I like walking the dog.

My New Year’s wish for prevention: For government commitment to improving health inequities through action on the social determinants.


katie conte 100x122Dr Katie Conte, Research Fellow, University of Sydney

My story: From Kentucky to Australia, by way of rural Appalachia, India and Oregon, my career journey has been characterised by working with other cultures to creatively integrate community-based health promotion interventions. These projects range from small-scale adaptations to state-wide scale-ups, from sexual health education to arthritis self-management programs.

What I’m proud of: My passion is elevating the voices of people who are not usually heard. I’m trying to do that in my work with prevention, trying to tell the human story of health practitioners in the field who are the people behind the data.

In my spare time: I’m still acclimating to Australia, which involves a lot of eating and a lot of exploring!

My New Year’s wish for prevention: Let’s starting listening – the harder it is to understand another viewpoint, the more it’s worth it to try.