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Dr Susan Thomas

What are your research interests?

My research projects have focused on the more vulnerable groups in Australia with the common aim of improving access to quality primary health care services. I am interested in applied research, useful to policy makers and health service planners. My interests include:

  • Improving access to primary health care for vulnerable populations, including in rural and remote areas, Indigenous people, refugees, children and the elderly
  • Advocacy
  • Issues of health equity 
  • Contextual issues

Why did you get into research?  

Research provides the evidence that can improve equity of access to health services. As a clinician, I was seeing the same preventable health problems over and over and I wanted to work at another level where I might influence change.  

Biography 

Dr Susan Thomas has a background in community nursing, generalist care, methadone maintenance, homeless outreach, aged care, dementia services and palliative care. These areas of nursing require a non-judgemental approach, patience and willingness to advocate for both patients and populations. 

Dr Thomas has dedicated a number of years to humanitarian aid work with Medecins Sans Frontiers. This has included work in Uganda, Sudan and Liberia, in conflict settings and in managing communicable disease outbreaks in remote and sometimes unstable areas. Her role with the organisation was largely as a Field Coordinator, responsible for all aspects of project implementation. 

Dr Thomas' professional experience led her to study public health where she obtained her MPH at UNSW. Later Dr Thomas went on complete the Public Health Officer Training Program at NSW Health and obtained her Doctorate in Applied Public Health also from UNSW in the process. She completed a  number of research projects while at NSW Health, including qualitative and quantitative studies involving falls in the elderly, paediatric outreach in a urban Aboriginal community, improving blood lead screening for Aboriginal children in Broken Hill and ways to strengthen partnerships between Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and mainstream government health services.  

Dr Thomas went on to work in Alice Springs at Flinders Centre for Remote Health as a Senior Research Officer before moving to Newcastle and taking up a post-doctoral position at the public health unit. Her current work has included a blood lead survey and reducing bacterial skin infections in Aboriginal children in rural NSW. 

Future Focus 

While I continue to work in areas of access, equity and advocacy, I am making plans to improve my skills and qualifications in health economics. This way, I can provide even more evidence to those in key positions who are able to make meaningful changes in health service delivery.  

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Delphi studies
  • Qualitative research
  • International experience
  • Aboriginal health

Affiliations

  • University of Newcastle, School of Medicine
  • HMRI Public Health Program, Capacity Building Group
  • Flinders University, School of Medicine
  • Australian Public Health Association
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres