In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) is strengthening is capacity with a focus on public health integration across the organisation.
Public health has played a role in all Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) deployments since 2019 , with the highly professional and multifaceted teams providing care to populations who have been impacted by a sudden-onset disaster or infectious disease outbreak.
Many of the health professionals active on the AUSMAT roster have demonstrated expertise in areas of public health, enhancing the ability to respond and foster long-lasting relationships with key stakeholders and health colleagues across the Indo-Pacific.
As NCCTRC proactively responds and adapts to changing global health strategies and practise. it has recognised the need to further strengthen the deployable capacity to better prepare and respond to communicable disease outbreaks, and the impact of non-communicable diseases during disasters within the community both domestically and abroad.
Public health is applied across a vast range of areas with involvement and expertise from across the organisation. The NCCTRC invites you to meet some dynamic members of the team who are working to enhance public health capability for AUSMAT training and deployments.
Dr Maya Cherian
Public Health Medical Officer
Dr Maya Cherian commenced with NCCTRC in 2023 in the role of Public Health Medical Officer having gained experience in the areas of Aboriginal health, public policy, communicable diseases and statistics as part of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine advanced training.
“Joining NCCTRC has opened the door for me to learn more about emergency management and disaster response through the lens of public health. I am excited to contribute to the fabric of the organisation and assist in enhancing the public health components of NCCTRC, through education, research and enhancing capabilities alongside the public health workforce on the AUSMAT roster.
“Prior to the pandemic I was based in Western Australia as a resident medical officer, this position allowed me to work across a whole host of interesting spaces, including infectious diseases, neurosurgery, herpetology, oncology and psychiatry. In fact, I was working in infectious diseases as COVID-19 entered Australia. From here I moved into the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre for WA Health. This experience cemented my interest in wanting to pursue public health as a medical specialty.
“The broadness of public health is what makes it such a great area of health to focus on. Now training in an emergency response space with NCCTRC, it’s clear that public health has always had a role in AUSMAT deployments though it has been recent global events including the measles outbreak in Samoa and COVID-19 to remind people that public health is at the forefront of health in general. Ultimately, having a strong foundation of public health is vital in assisting any community.
“As public health practitioners we are at a very opportune moment to implement systems for the future. From this point onward, I hope to see that public health is integrated in everything we do across health and emergency response. COVID-19 certainly pushed public health into the spotlight, but now we have an exciting opportunity to make a huge difference for population health in the future.”
Epidemiologist & Senior Research Officer
Stephanie joined NCCTRC in 2021 as a Senior Research Officer and Epidemiologist to develop research activities and provide operational and public health assistance to deployments.
Prior to this, she was a COVID-19 outbreak response Team Lead at the Victorian Department of Health and researched the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance, healthcare-associated infections and infection prevention and control interventions based at the Alfred Hospital. She is a graduate of Australia’s Field Epidemiology Training Program at the Australian National University, the Master of Applied Epidemiology, and has worked across Asia and the Pacific and Latin America.
“I grew up very interested in health and development, although I decided I wanted to work in public health while I was completing an internship in Indonesia and believe it or not, I became very unwell with dengue fever! Prior to this experience I had never heard of dengue fever, but I soon became fascinated with vector-borne diseases, and not long after, I enrolled in a Master of Public Health.”
“Public health presents vast career opportunities for people from a range of professional and educational backgrounds. It’s a field that is continually evolving and there is so much space to learn and explore roles that suit the individual, whether that is research, health promotion, policy, evaluation or education. As someone without a clinical background, I continue to be driven by the ability to learn about diseases, their diagnosis, treatment and prevention.”
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was working in hospital epidemiology focused on healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance. Working in the hospital environment alongside a range of professionals was fascinating and challenging. During this time, I had the privilege to spend a portion of my role travelling around Australia and Fiji for work and learning from clinicians and researchers in the field.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic definitely revitalised how we recognise the importance of public health as we saw an entire population impacted by an infectious disease. As ecosystems shift and climate changes, the importance of public health globally will only continue to grow and undoubtedly remain relevant in how NCCTRC as an organisation responds to future sudden-onset and health related disasters.”
Trauma Research Coordinator, previously Nurse Education Consultant (Public Health)
Leigh Elton is a registered nurse with a background in emergency nursing both in paediatrics and adults in New Zealand and Australia. Over the last three years, Leigh has worked across the Pacific in an education role, helping to develop system changes to support nurses and their patients’ outcomes. Leigh has completed a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in nursing, through Auckland University of technology, additionally she carries a Post Graduate Certificate in Child Health, a Post Graduate Certificate in Advanced Nursing. Leigh is currently completing a conjoint Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and a Master of Global Development.
Leigh has a passion for her work, and feels honoured and privileged to grow professionally in a space which allows her to advocate for equality in health and more broadly across the populations AUSMAT has supported in recent years, specifically our healthcare colleagues across the Pacific. Leigh has been instrumental in designing a public health focussed pre-learning course to be included in AUSMAT Team Member courses.
“My career to date really has been inspired by the people I have had the honour of working alongside, and the enthusiastic and dynamic nurses I have had the opportunity to advocate for.
“Health impacts everyone… that is really the backbone of why public health has become so important for me to delve deeper into, and contribute to, from an education perspective.
“My broader interest is in global emergency care systems and making systematic change which promotes sustainable support. Working in a global context has opened me up to a really exciting and evolving space including long-lasting discussions around decolonisation, sustainability, inclusivity, diversity and development.
“I think public health has experienced a renewed focus universally because as a global population we have witnessed how health impacts not only every individual but also the systems we have created in a modern world, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted trade, economics, politics, travel and much more, really highlighting the public health and those wider socioeconomic impacts on health.
“For NCCTRC and AUSMAT, I think the measles response in Samoa in 2019 was the precursor and demonstrated that our teams have the expertise and ability to respond to far more than a sudden-onset disaster. These experiences, and of course COVID-19, have demonstrated how and why having really strong public health knowledge and strong operational systems in place can be really effective in protecting and promoting the health of your staff and patients as a collective.”