Scientific Committee

  • Leigh Blizzard (Scientific Committee Chair)

    Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard is the senior biostatistician at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Hobart, where he is a Senior Member. He has expertise and rich experience in the practice of biostatistics, and skills in designing and developing analytical strategies for health research projects. The small size of the research group in the early days of the Institute provided an unparalleled opportunity for him to take hands-on responsibility for the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of internationally-recognised research in sudden infant death syndrome (published in JAMA), early life determinants of disease (BMJ, The Lancet, Circulation), multiple sclerosis (BMJ) and musculoskeletal conditions (Arthritis and Rheumatism). Since completing his PhD in 2000, Leigh has built statistical capacity at the Institute to 7 positions and, in statistical research, has contributed to developments in log-link modelling of binary, multinomial and ordinal outcomes to provide estimates of risk ratios in follow-up studies. Recently he has established a statistical research program in assessment of goodness-of-fit of log-link models in collaboration with Professor David Hosmer, a noted international authority. The significance of this research in statistical methods has been recognized with a NHMRC Project Grant, a Population Health Career Development Award and a Career Development Fellowship. Leigh has produced more than 250 research publications, including over 200 papers published in peer-reviewed journals (102 last 5 years), and has a record of sustained success in competitive grants as a CI with $20,910,641 gained ($5,776,502 last 5 years).

  • Gemma Carey

    Dr Gemma Carey is an NHMRC Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer with UNSW Canberra. She holds a PhD in social policy and population health from the University of Melbourne. Her research sits at the critical interface between public health, public administration and social policy. In particular, Dr Carey has investigated processes of ‘joining up’ within government and between government and non-government organisations, including within the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Dr Carey has been published widely on different aspects of public administration and public health. In addition to her academic research, she runs a policy forum – the Power to Persuade (PTP) (an annual symposium and blog). PTP is aimed at improving the relationships between policymakers, academics and the community sector. Running since 2011, PTP is sponsored by the Victorian Government and a range of NGOs and peak bodies (

  • Heather D'Antoine

    Heather is a Bard woman from the West Kimberley. She trained as a registered nurse and midwife. Heather has worked in health services for more than 20 years and then management of health services for 4 years. In 2001, she moved into health research at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth in 2001. Heather has been involved with a team conducting research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) for 15 years. She moved to Darwin in April 2010 to take up the position as Associate Director for Aboriginal Programs for the Menzies School of Health Research where she continues her research on FASD and now rheumatic heart disease. Her role at Menzies has a major focus on building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher and creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students. Heather has a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Masters in Health Economics (Aboriginal health) from Curtin University.

  • Erica James

    Erica James, PhD is Associate Professor (Public Health) in the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle. She is a behavioural epidemiologist with a focus on health promotion and behaviour change. Erica has taught across public health programs at several Australian Universities over the past 18 years and currently teaches health promotion in the Master of Public Health program at the University of Newcastle. From 2011-15 was an executive member of the Council of Academic Public Health Institutions Australia (CAPHIA). Her research interests include behavioural nutrition and physical activity as they relate to cancer prevention and control. Erica had led several large behaviour change trials in both primary prevention and amongst cancer survivor populations.

  • Jonine Jancey

    Jonine Jancey is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at Curtin University in Western Australia. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, a role she considers a privilege to have, and a very long term member of the Australian Health Promotion Association (membership number 53). Jonine has also been an active member of the Public Health Association (WA Branch), as WA President and in other committee roles. For over 20 years she has worked at the coal face of health promotion as a practitioner in non-government organisations and government, and has a practical research bent. As an interventionist she works across many health areas and collaborates nationally and internationally on applied research aimed at improving health outcomes. Jonine was a member of the scientific committee for the Public Health Congress (2015) and the Australian Health Promotion Conference (2016).

  • Tara Kessaram

    Dr Tara Kessaram is originally from Bermuda. She studied medicine at University College London and completed her specialist training in New Zealand to become a Fellow of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine. She specialises in global health and is presently a consultant for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) for the World Health Organization in Solomon Islands. Her previous experience includes working with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community as a public health research specialist, the World Health Organization in Fiji on the strengthening of primary care interventions for NCDs in Pacific island countries and territories, and the Public Health Association of New Zealand on the impact of local government legislation on public health.

  • Paula King

    Paula is a vocationally registered Public Health Medicine Specialist and Fellow of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM). She is an appointed member of the NZCPHM Council, the New Zealand Child, Youth and Mortality Review Committee and the New Zealand Mortality Review Committees’ Māori Caucus. Prior to training in public health medicine, she spent ten years in clinical practice, the majority of which was spent in clinical paediatrics and primary care. She is completing her PhD in the area of child health equity under the Health Research Council Clinical Research Training Fellowship. Paula has a strong commitment toward improving the health and wellbeing of Māori children, and eliminating health inequities in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Her broad research interests include indigenous child health, child rights, Māori health, and quality underpinned by health equity.

  • Nikki Percival

    Dr Nikki Percival is a health services researcher and deeply committed to promoting health, strengthening health systems and achieving Indigenous health equality. Since 2007, her work has been about understanding how to redesign the health system so that it works better for Indigenous Australians. During her PhD, Nikki developed Australia’s first quality improvement tools to assist health services achieve best practice in Indigenous health promotion. She has worked within government, non-government and research organisations in health promotion practice, policy and research for over 20 years and holds a Bachelor of Science, Masters in Public Health and PhD in public health. Currently based in Brisbane at Menzies School of Health Research, Nikki leads research and consultancy work on health promotion implementation, evaluation and systems approaches with a particular focus on quality improvement and Indigenous primary health care. Nikki is the Queensland Branch President of the Australian Health Promotion Association.

  • Michaela Riddell

    Dr Michaela Riddell is a multidisciplinary scientist with training in medical laboratory infectious diseases diagnostics and Public Health epidemiology and biostatistics. Techniques she developed during her PhD have been adopted by the World Health Organization global measles/rubella laboratory network particularly in Africa and Papua New Guinea. Since 2009 she has managed and implemented two large community based intervention trials incorporating group peer support to assist with self-management of type 2 diabetes (Victoria) and hypertension (India). She is skilled in community recruitment for research projects, statistical evaluation and is experienced in laboratory and epidemiological capacity building in Pacific Island countries and Papua New Guinea. She has consulted widely for the WHO measles laboratory program and is a member of the RCPA Quality Assurance Program standing committee. She is Co-Investigator on the NHMRC funded Partnership grant “Improving the health of people with type 2 diabetes using information and communication technology (ICT)”. Michaela represents the Australasian Epidemiological Association on the National Organising Committee and will work to ensure adequate contribution to the Congress from an epidemiological methodology perspective.

  • James Smith

    Associate Professor James Smith (Phd, GCPH, Dip Bus Mgt, BEd, BAppSc Hons) is the Program Manager for the Whole of Community Engagement initiative within the Office of Pro Vice Chancellor – Indigenous Leadership at Charles Darwin University. His research interests span Indigenous health, Indigenous education, health policy development, and men’s health. He has previously worked in a range of health and education settings. This has spanned management and executive roles in both government and non-government contexts in the Northern Territory. He has been a member of numerous state and national representative committees relating to health policy, evaluation and preventive health. He is a Fellow of the Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), former National Vice President of AHPA, former National Chair of the AHPA Research, Evaluation and Evidence Translation Committee, a past National AHPA Conference Chair, and current AHPA NT Branch President. He is an Adjunct Research Fellow with Centre for Research, Evidence and Impact in Public Health at Curtin University. He is currently a member of NT Primary Health Network Consumer Advisory Council and an Associate Editor for the Health Promotion Journal of Australia and the International Journal of Men’s Health. In 2012, he was awarded the Aileen Plant Medal by Australia’s four peak professional health bodies for early career excellence in population health.

  • Li Ming Wen

    Professor Li Ming Wen, MD, MMed, PhD has extensive research experience in the fields of medicine and public health in China and Australia. He is a Research and Evaluation Manager in the Health Promotion Service of Sydney Local Health District, NSW Health. He holds a position as Adjunct Professor in both School of Public Health, Fudan University, and Faculty of Medicine, Tongji University, China. He is also Associate Professor in School of Public Health, University of Sydney. He has extensive experience with health promotion intervention research and conducting clinical trials with over 100 peer-reviewed articles in high impact journals and book chapters. Over the past 10 years he has received more than $3 million in peer-reviewed national and international competitive grants. His current research interests are in childhood obesity, physical activity, active transport, sexual health and tobacco control with specific expertise in the evaluation of health promotion initiatives. A highlight of his role in health promotion evaluation included receiving the Better Health Good Health Care Baxter Award for Innovative Research in 2000. With his ground-breaking and novel work in developing, implementing and evaluating the Healthy Beginnings Trial (, Prof Wen is internationally recognized as a leader in early life interventions to prevent obesity.