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Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia

Aoife and Jules Milikapiti preschool

Our People

 

Vicki Wade
Director

 Biography 

BIOGRAPHY

Vicki Wade is a senior Noongar woman with over 40 years of experience in health at state and national levels. Vicki is a recipient of multiple national awards including the 2019 AHHA Sidney Sax medal and CSANZ Indigenous Health lifetime award for her contributions to Australian health services policy, delivery and research, particularly in relation to Indigenous heart health. Vicki is well known across Australia and is well respected for the work she has done in helping to close the gap. She sits on the National Close the Gap steering committee and a previous board member of the Congress of Aboriginal Nurses and Midwives.

Vicki sits on numerous national research projects providing a critical lens to the socio-cultural context with the aim to reduce research and evidence practice gaps. Vicki is a strong advocate for her people following her matriarchal lineage, Vicki’s grandmother was a healer and helped with the Noongar women in birthing on country in the mission and later reserves in south west of Perth, her mother was one of the first enrolled nurses in Perth and her daughter is carrying on the tradition as a doctor. Vicki hopes that the work she does will see her grandchildren have better opportunities that she and her family were afforded. 

E: vicki.wade@menzies.edu.au

Anna Ralph

Professor Anna Ralph
Senior Clinical Advisor

 Biography and Qualifications

BIOGRAPHY

Professor Anna Ralph is the Co-director of RHDAustralia and Director of Global and Tropical Health at Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. She is a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellow and a practicing medical specialist in General Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Royal Darwin Hospital. 

Her research fields include rheumatic fever / rheumatic heart disease in Australian Indigenous populations, tuberculosis control especially in neighbouring South-East Asian settings, and improving inter-cultural communication between healthcare providers and clients. She supervises masters and PhD students, post doctoral researchers, and Infectious Diseases Advanced Trainees. 

QUALIFICATIONS

PhD, Australian National University, 2010
Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 2005
Diploma of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, 2002
Master of Public Health, University of Sydney, 1999
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Honours Class 1, University of New South Wales, 1996
Medical Science Honours Class 1, Australian National University, 1993
Bachelor of Medical Science, University of Tasmania, 1992.

E: anna.ralph@menzies.edu.au

Professor Alex Brown
Advisor

 Biography and Qualifications

BIOGRAPHY

Professor Alex Brown is an Aboriginal medical doctor and researcher. He grew up on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) with family connections to Nowra, Wreck Bay and Wallaga Lake on the far south coast of NSW.

Alex trained in medicine at the University of Newcastle, before working in hospitals on the central coast on NSW. He subsequently travelled to Israel to complete a Master of Public Health and returned to Australia to begin work in Alice Springs, where he spent 14 years.

Alex first managed the local Centre for Disease Control in Alice Springs, controlling outbreaks of disease, immunisation programs and the surveillance of disease, before starting in research for the Menzies School of Health Research. In 2007 he was appointed to set up a research program in Central Australia with Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, with a focus on heart disease and diabetes in Aboriginal people. During this time, Alex commenced and completed his PhD on depression and heart disease in Aboriginal men.

Over the last 20 years, Alex has established an extensive and unique research program focused on chronic disease in vulnerable communities, with a particular focus on outlining and overcoming health disparities. He leads projects encompassing epidemiology, psychosocial determinants of chronic disease, mixed methods health services research in Aboriginal primary care and hospital settings, and randomised controlled trials of pharmacological and non-pharmacological chronic disease interventions.

Alex has been involved in policy since he commenced as a doctor. He has been heavily involved in engaging government and lead agencies in setting the agenda in Aboriginal cardiovascular disease management and control and chronic disease policy more broadly. He sits on a range of national committees,and co-chaors the Indigenous Research Health Fund through the MRFF.

In July 2012, Alex joined SAHMRI to lead Aboriginal health research.

In November 2012, Alex was awarded the prestigious Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellowship to further his research into the impacts of psychosocial determinants on cardiovascular disease in Aboriginal communities. He holds an NHMRC Research Fellowship.

QUALIFICATIONS

Bachelor of Medicine: University of Newcastle, NSW. 1996
Masters of Public Health: A comparative analysis of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in Australia and New Zealand 1984-1996: Is there evidence of widening indigenous/non-indigenous differentials? Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel. 1999.
PhD: Kurunpa [Spirit]: Exploring the Links between Psychosocial Stress, Depression and Heart Disease in Indigenous Men. School of Population Health, University of Queensland June 2010
FCSANZ (2006) 
FRACP (hon.) 2010 
Viertel Senior Medical Research Fellow 2013-2017

Cath Halkon
Strategy and Projects Manager

Biography

BIOGRAPHY

Catherine has worked in RHD prevention since 2012, providing operational and strategic management and delivering education projects with RHDAustralia and, from 2018, as Program Manager across the END RHD national advocacy alliance and the END RHD Centre of Research Excellence. Catherine holds a Master of International Management and is an experienced program manager with a background in research, education, policy and not-for-profit management.

Catherine’s previous experience includes the implementation of a large-scale project to accelerate the literacy and educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Northern Territory, research and business management in a multi-disciplinary University research school social science and establishment of the business development unit at Charles Darwin University. In these roles and her current position Catherine has been responsible for strategy development and implementation, research translation and building and maintaining relationships in large, complex projects.

E: catherine.halkon@menzies.edu.au

Maida Stewart

Maida Stewart
Champions4Change Project Coordinator

Biography

Maida is a Wemba Wemba/Wergaia woman who has lived in the Northern Territory for over 29 years. For the past 18 years, Maida has been working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner with the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, Northern Territory, where she provided culturally appropriate and responsive health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the greater Darwin region.

Maida has extensive experience in primary health care practice, and in health education and promotion. She’s worked in the areas of women’s health, child and maternal health, acute healthcare, mobile outreach and has been employed as a chronic disease coordinator. 

In 2018, Maida was awarded a Churchill Fellowship that focused on examining healthy housing in relation to primary prevention of ARF/RHD, which took her to Auckland on Aotearoa’s (New Zealand) North Island in early 2020 to investigate the Healthy Homes Initiative.

Starting with RHDAustralia in March 2021 as the Champions4Change Project Coordinator, Maida is the main point of contact for the Champions4Change program. She works closely with senior cultural advisor, Vicki Wade to develop, coordinate, and implement strategies and resources that  provide training and education to Champions in the program. By establishing and building meaningful relationships and encouraging networking between individuals and communities, Maida will work with Champions to prioritise their social and emotional well-being, and support their capacity building, community education, and health promotion activities.

E: maida.stewart@menzies.edu.au

Emer O'Connor
Health Professionals Educator

 Biography and Qualifications

BIOGRAPHY

Emer is a Registered Nurse with over six years of experience ranging in critical care units and more recently in Primary Health Care settings. Although Emer’s nursing career has specialized in acute care, Emer has a passion for child and maternal health and infectious diseases. Emer has spent the past 18 months working in Indigenous Health, whilst working remotely in East Arnhem Land, Emer has cared for and lived alongside many people with ARF and RHD. Emer enjoys working in primary health care settings and has had experience in outreach, health education and promotion. Emer enjoys education and is eager to work with RHDA to continue to educate health professionals in best practice and culturally competent care for the individuals, families and communities living with ARF and RHD.

QUALIFICATIONS

Bachelor of Science and Nursing: Curtin University of Technology
Masters of Tropical Medicine and Public Health: James Cook University (Currently enrolled)

E: emer.oconnor@menzies.edu.au

Naja Dyrting
Champions4Change and Communications Assistant

Biography

Naja has been working with RHDAustralia since March 2020 in the capacity of Indigenous Trainee. She is providing high level support to our Champions4Change program, as well as working with other team members on a range of projects including new learning modules and social media platforms.

Naja hopes to gain skills in a range of areas as she works towards a Certificate III in Business.

Read more about Naja....

E: naja.dyrting@menzies.edu.au

Sara Noonan
Senior Technical Support Officer

 Biography and Qualifications

BIOGRAPHY

Sara re-joined RHDAustralia in her role as Technical Advisor in 2018.

Sara has a strong background in RHD starting in 1997, when she established the inaugural RHD control program in Darwin with a small team; and subsequently supported development of RHD control programs across Australia under the National Rheumatic Fever Strategy. She coordinated review of national Australian RHD guidelines editions published in 2012 and 2020.

Internationally, Sara has worked with the World Heart Federation to directly support RHD control program development in seven Pacific Island countries and indirect support to several other countries. She has been involved with a variety of research projects including surveillance for rheumatic fever, school-based echocardiographic screening, diabetes, and health systems and quality improvement research. Her Masters thesis focused on trialling a model of continuous quality improvement in health settings in Fiji.

Sara also has qualifications and experience in asthma education and immunisation, and has worked in the areas of tuberculosis surveillance and school health. Sara maintains her nursing practice at her base in South Australia.

Qualifications and Biography

QUALIFICATIONS

Registered Nursing Diploma, 1987
Bachelor of Nursing, 2004
Master of Health Science (Research), 2014

E: sara.noonan@menzies.edu.au

Sean Rung
Communications and Project Support Officer

Biography

Sean has over five years of strategic communications experience working in the health and education sector. As the communications advisor for RHDAustralia and HOT NORTH based at Menzies School of Health Research, he leads, develops, implements, and analyses media, marketing and communications activities that focus on reaching and engaging with health professionals, families, patients and communities living and working across Australia with our international neighbours to the north.

Sean has managed a range of projects including the design and development of organisational websites, mobile applications, and e-learning training packages and platforms. He is proficient in a wide range of software packages, databases, mobile applications, e-learning platforms, web and software-based media content development systems, management information systems and content management systems.

He has extensive experience as an underwater videographer, video editor, producer, director, interviewer and writer. These skills, honed through years of training an practice, allow him to successfully develop and implement media and communications content for radio and television, digital and print publications and media releases.

His stakeholder engagement experience includes governmental and non-governmental executives, consultants, contractors, media contacts, clinicians, researchers, health educators, allied health providers, policy makers, community leaders, Aboriginal health workers, community health workers and the general public.

E: sean.rung@menzies.edu.au

Professor Bart Currie
Physician

 Biography and Qualifications

BIOGRAPHY

Prof Currie’s passion is in coordinating links between clinicians, public health colleagues and other service providers, laboratory scientists and community.

Initially head of the early Menzies School of Health Research Clinical Division and then Interim Director of Menzies from August 2005 to March 2006, Professor Currie now leads the Tropical and Emerging Infectious Diseases team within the Global and Tropical Health Division. He is also Director of Infectious Diseases at the Royal Darwin Hospital, Professor in Medicine at the Northern Territory Medical Program, Flinders University, Adjunct Professorial Fellow at Charles Darwin University and Adjunct Professor at James Cook University. 

He is the former Director of RHDAustralia and currently Director of the HOT NORTH program based at Menzies. He was appointed to the Technical Reference Group for the Australian Government’s new Regional Health Security Initiative in July 2017.

His collaborations across Central and Northern Australia and with clinical and scientific colleagues elsewhere in Australia and overseas have resulted in over 580 peer-reviewed publications.

Prof Currie has peer reviewed grants for the NHMRC since the 1990s and has peer reviewed for 52 journals, including The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine and a range of PLoS and BMC open access journals. He has supervised 18 successfully completed PhDs and seven Master by Research students.

QUALIFICATIONS

Fellow of the Australian Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 1990
Fellow,
 Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 1985
Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 1985
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Melbourne, 1978

E: bart.currie@menzies.edu.au

Last Updated 
20 July 2021
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