We spend a moment with epidemiologist Dr Emma Miller, who has been a prolific voice in the media to help clearly explain COVID-19 developments from the perspective of a public health expert.
What is your role and what does your work focus on?
I’m an epidemiologist in public health and have been at Flinders for nearly seven years. Being a ‘balanced’ academic, I wear a few hats at Flinders and I’m currently involved in several research projects investigating alcohol and cancer, smoking cessation and sexually transmissible infections – funded variously by the Australian Research Council, Cancer Australia and Flinders Foundation. As well as supervising HDR, Honours and Masters dissertation students, whose projects span the gamut of my research and other interests (such as COVID-19, STI, hepatitis C and HIV), I coordinate undergraduate and postgraduate topics on epidemiology. In my spare time, I also coordinate the Graduate Diploma of Research Studies for the College of Medicine and Public Health.
What journey has brought you to this point in your career?
I was a working musician and singing teacher for several years before deciding to change my focus to health, starting with a nursing degree. I realised I was right about the health thing, but not necessary about directly delivering it, so I never practiced as a nurse. However, the knowledge I gained during that degree has continued to be really useful to me. During my Master of Public Health studies, I found out that I was an epidemiologist (back when nobody knew what that was) with an interest in communicable diseases, which led to my PhD on the epidemiology of hepatitis C in the South Australian prison system. I’ve worked in the surveillance of communicable disease at CDCB in Adelaide and at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, and held academic posts at Deakin University, La Trobe University and The University of Adelaide.
What is something you are most proud of?
I’m very pleased about living a very fulfilling life crammed with an array of interesting experiences. These include working on some really interesting projects that focus on improving things for vulnerable populations, trying to infect (sorry about the pun) my students with my enthusiasm for epidemiology, engaging with media and contributing to public health debates, having the opportunity to live in and feel at home in another city (having come from Melbourne), getting to sing on stage, raising a family and having a very successful relationship, meeting and getting to know lots or wonderful people form all walks of life… and the list goes on.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I pretty much leap from task to task. Some times this means I’m ‘putting out fires’. Some times I’m leisurely interrogating a data base, meeting with students or discussing stuff on FLO with them, or I’m preparing and delivering teaching materials and lectures. Often, it’s simultaneously juggling all of the above.
How do you like to relax or spend your spare time?
Music remains an important part of my life. It’s strictly amateur hour now in terms of performing but I enjoy listening to a wide range of music genres. I am pretty much obsessed with politics and news/current affairs – both local and global. I’m also a keen archer (target shooting only!) and get immense enjoyment from pottering around in my garden and worshipping my cats.