Expanding First Nations’ health research capacity

Flinders NT Researchers

By Judith Aisthorpe

Flinders Rural and Remote NT

Husband and wife academics Associate Professors Kootsy Canuto and Karla Canuto settled into their new Darwin offices in January, just as the monsoons broke across the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Associate Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Karla Canuto, and Associate Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health and Wellbeing, Kootsy Canuto, are of Torres Strait Islander descent and are passionate about improving the lives of First Nations Australians through health-based research.

Associate Professor Karla Canuto said her research was influenced by her family, her upbringing, and the mentorship received from so many great Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders over the years.

Working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health research for 20 years, she has experience across a wide range of health research projects, including chronic disease prevention, the promotion of physical activity, and understanding cancer disparities.

“As a Torres Strait Islander, I’m very concerned about the health inequities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience and I want to be part of the solution,” Associate Professor Karla Canuto says.

Associate Professor Kootsy Canuto, who has had a diverse career across education, training and within the public service, said he was inspired by his wife to pursue a career in research.

He has a particular interest in investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health and wellbeing, focusing on improving and streamlining primary healthcare services and programs, fatherhood, and co-design of social and emotional wellbeing programs. He was recognised as the 2020 South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute Early Career Researcher of the Year.

“I value listening, understanding and collaborating, and as a result I have developed strong, meaningful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and community organisations across Australia,” he says.

“These relationships are of the utmost importance and will continue to guide all elements of my research and personal development.”

Professor Jaqui Hughes, inaugural Clinical Research Professor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advancement,   joined the NT research team in May.

Professor Hughes is a Torres Strait Islander woman and a Darwin-based clinical researcher who grew up in the NT.

She has previously been based at Menzies School of Health Research and is a clinical nephrology consultant for the NT Department of Health.

Professor Hughes will continue to work closely with her colleagues at Menzies, and with other health institutions and partners, to undertake important health-based research, strengthening Flinders’ existing partnerships and developing new ones.

Professor Hughes is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, Deputy Chairperson of the National Indigenous Kidney Transplant Taskforce, and a member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

Her research has focused on improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with, or at risk of, chronic kidney disease, and she currently has an NHMRC Emerging Leader Fellowship.

“I’m excited to move to Flinders as a professor and recognise the extraordinary value these leadership roles can have to support health advancement,” she says.

New Population Health Discipline Lead

Professor Ray Mahoney
Professor Ray Mahoney. Photo: Brenton Edwards

Flinders University has created a new Discipline of Population Health that reflects the diversity of the University’s broader public health expertise and that of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics.

The discipline will be led by Professor Ray Mahoney, who joined Flinders in June this year as Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, and Discipline Lead of Population Health.

Professor Mahoney, a descendant of the Bidjara people of Central West Queensland, joins Flinders University from the Australian e-Health Research Centre at CSIRO.

Professor Mahoney is passionate about leading research into culturally safe care and addressing racism in health care. He has a background in cardiovascular disease research and policy leadership, having investigated the patient journey for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cardiac care across rural and remote settings, and chronic disease risk factor management for those people in acute and primary care settings.

Professor Mahoney also has a background in development and delivery of culturally safe eHealth, leading studies into the accuracy of Indigenous status identification in public hospital patient information systems, and the suitability and applicability of mHealth (a specific way to utilize mobile technology, including apps, to achieve improved health goals) for remote monitoring of chronic disease risk factors in primary health care.

He is a member of national cardiovascular research groups and the Ethics Committee for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Professor Mahoney says he is looking forward to the challenge of leading a strong team.

“I’m excited about joining our very skilled and experienced team to grow the capacity of Indigenous researchers and health practitioners across undergrad, postgrad and HDR programs at Flinders – so they can lead best practice culturally safe care for our people.”

This article is from the 2022 College of Medicine and Public Health Alumni magazine: Read more

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2022 MPH Alumni Magazine College of Medicine and Public Health Indigenous

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