Improving the health and wellbeing of people with a disability

Professor Anne Kavanagh

Professor Anne Kavanagh is using her medical prowess, research expertise and leadership zeal to improve the health of people with a disability.

Professor Kavanagh (BMBS ’87) is one of Australia’s great advocates for people with a disability. As Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute and Chair of Disability and Health at the University of Melbourne, her current research addresses the inequities in health between people with and without a disability.

Her commitment to change is driven by passion and care that stems from personal experience.

‘When my eldest child was diagnosed with Autism and an intellectual disability, I learned first-hand how people with disabilities and their families experienced poorer health outcomes because they were often marginalised from society,’ says Professor Kavanagh.

‘Later, I developed multiple sclerosis. I knew then that I wanted to devote the rest of my career to producing evidence that could guide health and social policy to improve the socio-economic wellbeing and health of people with disabilities.’

During the 1980s Professor Kavanagh was impressed that Flinders University was leading the way in innovation in teaching medicine. It influenced her choice to study at the university as well as her desire to work at the forefront of public health reform.

‘I was keen to be part of that,’ she says. ‘I want my research to transform people’s lives for the better, and Flinders taught me to see people in the broader contexts of their lives.’

Graduating with a medical degree in 1987, Professor Kavanagh later conducted some of the earliest work internationally on how mammographic density reduces the accuracy of screening, before focusing on the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities.

Compelled to implement further positive change for people with a disability, Professor Kavanagh says, ‘I want to see an end to discrimination against people with disabilities. I want real jobs, inclusive communities, proper housing and good health care for people with disabilities, and I want the National Disability Insurance Scheme to work.’

‘Anything that I can do in my research to help achieve that would make me very happy.’

Professor Anne Kavanagh was awarded a 2019 Flinders University Convocation Medal for her outstanding leadership and the advancement of research and knowledge on health inequities, particularly the health of people with disabilities.

Read the full list of 2019 Alumni Award recipients

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