Get to know your college: Associate Professor Karla Canuto

Associate Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Karla Canuto is one of a handful of new additions to the Flinders University Rural and Remote Health NT team. Karla is a Torres Strait Islander, a descendant of the Naghir tribe of the Kulkalgul clan and has focused her area of research around the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“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,” Karla said.

“I guess the perspective I bring to my work due to my family, my upbringing and the mentorship I’ve received from so many great Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders over the years helps me every day in my job. Besides, I was a terrible waitress so a career in health research made a lot more sense.”

While Karla has worked on many important research projects, her PhD is one project that she is most proud of.

“I guess I’m most proud of it because it was an upscaling of a short eight-week physical activity challenge that I had run on Thursday Island with the help of my allied health friends and colleagues, Marissa Arnot and Danielle Charles,” Karla said.

“Thanks to some heavy hitting chief investigators, we successfully attracted over $500,000 of project funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council for it.

“I designed an improved 12-week version of the program and we delivered it in Adelaide as a pragmatic randomised controlled trial with waitlisted controls.

“It was a huge piece of work, but I was lucky to have an amazing advisory group of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and investigators on the grant. “Importantly the local women who joined the program as participants were an enormous inspiration to run a great program, evaluate it well and have the research make a difference.”

Karla and her husband, Associate Professor Kootsy Canuto, who also works for Flinders University are both happy to be in the warmth of the NT and hope to make the most of their time when the dry season arrives by going camping and fishing.

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