Sandra Campbell - A Rising Star in Health Research

19 June 2014

James Cook University researcher Dr Sandra Campbell is to receive one of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) top prizes for excellence in health and medical research.

The Cairns-based researcher will be announced at the NHMRC’s 200th Council Dinner in Canberra tonight (Wednesday 11 June) as the recipient of the inaugural NHMRC Rising Star Research Excellence Award.

NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson praised the quality of the research being undertaken by the awardees.

“Among this year’s twenty recipients are researchers whose work aims to deliver breakthroughs in areas such as Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer and immune disease,” Professor Anderson said.

“We are also delighted to recognise some very promising up and coming researchers who are on the path to join the ranks of our country’s very best minds in science.

“The Rising Star award is granted to the top-ranked application by an Indigenous researcher in our Early Career Fellowship Scheme,’ Professor Anderson said.

“The inaugural recipient, Dr Campbell, is conducting research that seeks to maximise health outcomes for Indigenous women during pregnancy and ensure that their children get the best possible start in life.”

In her research, Dr Campbell will work with Apunipima Cape York Health Council to develop a research program aimed at closing the gap in health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their babies.

“Healthy mothers tend to have healthy babies, so we hope to track and better understand those factors before, during and after pregnancy that make for healthy birth outcomes,” Dr Campbell said.

“The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers have healthy babies, but the rate of poor birth outcomes is about double that of non-Indigenous Australia,” she said.

“Identifying the factors that contribute to a healthy birth will help close that gap, and will also address health issues across people’s lifespan, including early development of chronic disease.”

Dr Campbell will not be attending the NHMRC awards night because her work with Apunipima starts this week.

“As an Aboriginal epidemiologist I’m excited to be working with a community-based organisation, so our research will be informed by the community and the clinicians who work with them.

“We want to find non-intrusive, sustainable ways to gather information on mothers and their babies, to ensure that our efforts to improve women’s health are based on the best information we can get.”

Dr Sandra Campbell is an early career researcher at James Cook University in Cairns. After working as a nurse and midwife, she completed a Master of Applied Epidemiology in Indigenous health and a PhD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reproductive health epidemiology.

Sandra was born in Roma and traces her connections to Mandandanji country following her father’s line.

Her NHMRC Early Career Fellowship, the basis for her selection for the Rising Star award, consists of $306,596 from the NHMRC over four years.

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