Elissa Mortimer, the Doctorate of Public Health by research, wins a Graduate Women SA Centenary scholarship

Starting off with a Bachelor of Science at Flinders University, Ms Elissa Mortimer moved on to a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, also with Flinders.

Ms Mortimer is currently undertaking her fourth qualification with Flinders, where she works too. She feels very fortunate to have this ongoing connection with the University.

In 2012, Ms Mortimer started working at Flinders in a Project Manager role with Professor Graeme Young for the GI Global Health Unit, College of Medicine and Public Health. Their clinical trials were focused on maternal and child health priorities in Malawi and India.

Now, in her Doctor of Public Health Study, Ms Mortimer concentrates on the priority population of people living with HIV in India. Much of her work has been centred around resistant starch, a powerful dietary ingredient with known prebiotic properties.

Ms Mortimer devised her doctoral research study to answer the following question: What is the effect of a dietary resistant starch intervention on the colonic luminal environment and HIV-related immunity, and is a feeding trial feasible in HIV-positive adults in India?

In February this year, Ms Mortimer travelled to Bhubaneswar in North-East India to set-up her clinical trial and to commence recruitment to this study. Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted her recruitment plans. Luckily, the study team was able to continue research with the participants they had selected before.

Case numbers of COVID-19 are still increasing in India, but Ms Mortiemr is hopeful that in a few months time the number of cases will plateau and she will be able to continue with the recruitment for her study.

“I am deeply passionate about my work on global health priorities in low-middle income countries. I envisage that the Doctorate of Public Health qualification will enable me to lead independent research in this area in the future.”

During her career, Ms Mortimer has been fortunate to work on global health priorities in diverse settings including Nepal, Malawi, India and Fiji.

Having spent three years in Kathmandu, Nepal working on the National Vitamin A Program was a life-changing experience for Ms Mortimer and had laid the foundation for her continued interest in this area.

“I look forward to many more fruitful years with Flinders and I am grateful for the education and employment opportunities that have been extended to me.

“Being awarded the Australian Federation of University Women Graduate Centenary Scholarship is a wonderful affirmation that will support my continued studies for the Doctorate of Public Health. I am proud to represent Flinders as a recipient of this scholarship.”

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