Thursday, 26 May 2016

Get to know disease detective and PhD student Dr Katherine Gibney

Research Fellow Dr Katherine Gibney is a PhD student at SPHPM and will soon be submitting her PhD. She is passionate about infectious disease epidemiology and completed a fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US. You'll occasionally spot her walking down Commercial Road to Tall Timber, which she says does good coffee and great food. 

Q: Can you summarise your thesis in two or three sentences?

A: I reviewed 21 years of data which captures all laboratory-diagnosed cases of 65 infectious diseases in Australia. Over this time, some diseases, such as measles became less common through immunisation while other diseases like chlamydial infection, influenza and pertussis became more common, partly through improved diagnostic tests and increased testing. Indigenous Australians and residents of remote and/or socioeconomically disadvantaged areas had higher disease rates, and these groups should be the focus of public health efforts to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in Australia. 

Q: What were you doing before you started your PhD and where?

A: I started my PhD in May 2012, although I began working with the Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit at DEPM in July 2011. Before this, I completed a two-year Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, where I learnt about applied epidemiology as a “disease detective”.

Q: Do you have any idea of what you'd like to do after finishing?

A: I’d like to keep doing research in infectious diseases epidemiology, with a focus on improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I plan to also continue working as an infectious diseases clinician and public health doctor.

Q: What's been the greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

A: One of my research projects was cancelled after about one year’s work, which was extremely disappointing. However, my supervisors and I came up with plenty more ideas to keep me busy. It has probably delayed my thesis by at least six months, but I’m getting close to the end now! 

Q: How did you hear about SPHPM and why did you choose it?

I came to SPHPM because I wanted to work with my supervisors – Professor Karin Leder was very proactive in getting me to join the Unit, and I also have had the opportunity to work with Professor Allen Cheng and Dr Rob Hall who have all been incredibly supportive of my professional development over the last five years. 

Q: What do you like doing outside of your office hours?

A: I have three young children, so that takes up pretty much all my out of hours time!

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