NHMRC honours leading public health advocate Rebecca Ivers

Professor Rebecca Ivers from The George Institute and UNSW Sydney has been awarded the 2018 Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship, given to Australia’s top ranked female fellow in public health.

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Professor Rebecca Ivers (left) and Professor Kathryn North of Murdoch Children's Research Institute. Photo: NHMRC/Irene Dowdy

Professor Rebecca Ivers has been honoured with a major award from Australia’s peak medical research funding body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), for her research on the burden of injury and improving trauma care.

Professor Ivers, Director of the Injury Division at The George Institute for Global Health and Professor of Public Health at UNSW Sydney, was awarded the NHMRC Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship Award in public health, which celebrates female scientists excelling in biomedical, clinical and public health research. She is the fifth outstanding woman researcher from UNSW to win the Fellowship in the past four years.

The Fellowship recognises her work in studying injury and trauma care, focusing on addressing inequities in low income groups and working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Professor Ivers’ work covers road injury, burns, drowning, falls, and includes a major program to reduce drowning in Bangladesh.

“Injuries are a global public health issue, and a leading cause of death in Australia for people aged one to 44. There are substantial inequalities in the injury burden, both for serious injury and death, by socioeconomic status,” said Professor Ivers.

“The biggest health challenge I see is how we manage these rising inequities in health in our communities. This will require a sophisticated public health approach that addresses the social determinants of health.

“It is a tremendous honour to be given this award, and I am exceptionally proud of the team I have built and of the partnerships and collaborations, both local and global, that enable my research. I also feel privileged to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to design and evaluate programs to address injury, and mentor the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research leaders.”

In 2017, The George Institute and UNSW entered a strategic partnership to dramatically boost medical research in Australia and overseas to transform lives around the world. The George Institute is an independent, global medical research institute that targets the world’s most urgent health priorities.

UNSW Dean of Medicine Professor Rodney Phillips congratulated Professor Ivers on her award.

“We at UNSW Medicine applaud Professor Ivers’ superb accomplishments as Australia’s leading expert in unintentional injury recognised through this prestigious NHMRC Fellowship. UNSW Medicine looks forward to working closely with Professor Ivers.

“The alliance between The George Institute and UNSW has proven to be one of the most successful academic partnerships in recent times. The collaboration is focused on improving the health of women, girls and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with an emphasis on targeting non-communicable diseases and injuries; health systems; clinical trials and epidemiology.”

Professor Ivers said: “I am very much looking forward to working with UNSW to further build researcher and teaching capacity in public health and injury prevention.”

The fellowships were established to further the career development of female researchers, and were awarded at the annual NHMRC Research Excellence Awards Dinner in Canberra on 27 June. The awards are named after Australian-American Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

In 2007, Professor Ivers received the inaugural NHMRC Achievement Award acknowledging her significant contribution to young drivers and road safety. In 2014, Professor Ivers was named in The Australian Financial Review and Westpac list of Australia’s Top 100 Women of Influence.

As an injury epidemiologist and innovator, Professor Ivers designs and leads large observational studies and randomised trials focusing on injury in high-risk and disadvantaged populations in Australia and in low- and middle-income countries in Asia.