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Dermatology Research Fellow, Royal North Shore Hospital and Kolling Institute

Please can you tell us about your career to date?

I’m still junior, so not much of a ‘career’ to date, but for a general timeline: born and raised in Sydney, Australia, undergraduate medical degree at the University of New South Wales, medical and surgical internship and residency (FY1/2) at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, DPhil in Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the Kennedy Institute, University of Oxford, then returned to Australia to continue clinical and scientific training. I am now the Dermatology Research Fellow at Royal North Shore Hospital and the Kolling Institute, and for someone like me who one-day aspires to be an independent clinician scientist, it is a dream position. My time is evenly split between the hospital with its inpatients, ER, consults, and outpatient clinics, managing the Department’s numerous early to late phase industry sponsored and investigator inititated clinical trials, and supervising the numerous students and their projects within the Department and running some of my own projects. The latter of which involves seeing some of the laboratory discoveries that were discussed by invited speakers during my time at the Kennedy Institute having a real-world impact in clinical trials for our patients. I also conduct some wet lab work within the adjacent Kolling Institute.

What was it that attracted you to the Kennedy Institute?

Its people and projects. Coming from the clinic, I’d long seen the need for newer and better medicines and wondered how they came to be discovered and brought to patients. However I wasn’t sure how or when to learn about this. So it was the interesting and clinically relevant projects, and the numerous clinician scientists at various stages of their careers at the Kennedy Institute, who all acted as professional role models, that attracted me to the Institute and to a clinician scientist career. In particular, I’d like to thank Dr James Chan, Prof Jagdeep Nanchahal, and Prof Sir Marc Feldmann who gave me the opportunity.

How did your time at the Kennedy Institute help shape your current career path?

Immensely. I attribute my scientific development and successes to the skills and knowledge I learnt at the Kennedy Institute, and the relationships that were formed amongst my peers and seniors, both clinicians and basic scientists, during that time under the astute institutional direction of Prof Fiona Powrie.  Special mention must go to Dr Ana Espirito Santo, who spent countless hours teaching me lab skills, and then later spent more countless hours with me as we learnt new lab skills together and performed large experiments in tandem. And of course my supervisor, Prof Nanchahal, who was happy to immerse me in every possible aspect of the scientific process and running a lab group, from designing and performing experiments, data collation and analysis, project and personnel management, grant writing and rebuttal, institutional review board presentations, forming and maintaining international collaborations, and of course, consumables ordering and ethics. This set me up to be an independant investigator, to have no fear, to think critically, and to formulate appropriate and timely solutions for whatever issues might arise. I also learnt the value of being embedded in both the clinical and basic science spheres, especially when it comes to performing translational research and accessing human tissues. And this has continued on, with my current Institute having a healthy clinician-scientist and basic scientist balance: Prof Carolyn Sue (neurology), Prof Gemma Figtree (cardiology), and Prof Carol Pollock (nephrology), to name just a few.

What is your advice to students considering a DPhil at the Kennedy Institute?

Go for it! And once you’re done, consider coming down under to spend some time in our lab, and on our beaches!