CQUniversity Australia

From nursing a sick health system to providing springboard for research 

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Professor Sonj Hall once worked as a nurse at the grassroots level of our health system. More recently she's been implementing a billion-dollar suite of government programs designed to create better patient outcomes across Australia.

Now she's been recruited as Director of the new Health Collaborative Research Network*, which has $5.53 million in Commonwealth funding to develop partnerships between the regionally-based CQUniversity and its capital city cousins, the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Curtin University.

PhotoID:11644, Professor Sonj Hall
Professor Sonj Hall
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Professor Hall sees her role as being a catalyst to encourage CQUniversity academics to develop projects alongside larger, more mature research teams, and to harness CQUniversity's 'power of place', giving metropolitan researchers better access to health networks on the ground in rural and regional communities.

She's already helping to recruit professorial research fellows who will - depending on their strengths - focus on boosting research activity across health outcomes, medical and allied health, industrial and environmental health, and/or population health.

"The Health CRN will be a springboard for CQUniversity's research leading to delivery of better health outcomes for rural and regional areas. We're not directly funding research but we're acting as a catalyst to create activity and opportunities."

Professor Hall is keen for CQUniversity's early and mid-career academics to have access to research mentoring, exchanges and collaborative bids for nationally competitive grants. Research higher degree (RHD) students could also benefit from co-supervision.

"Enrolling and graduating more RHD students is one of the CRN's key performance indicators," Professor Hall says.

"Facilitation of cross-institutional RHD supervision is intended to allow candidates to benefit from access to specific skills and expertise available at the partnering institution; access to specialised infrastructure and facilities; and wider exposure to other researchers, institutions and processes."

With a mantra about 'bang for buck' and a belief in the 'moral obligation' to get the best health outcomes for public money spent on health, Professor Hall gave an example of her own research into cancer care for various disadvantaged groups.

She said her research went beyond number crunching and into the more political and translational phase of enabling better health outcomes without necessarily spending more money, chiefly by making health systems more accessible, effective and 'patient friendly'.

With experience in health economics, Professor Hall says she should be able to forge links with academics in management, commerce and law, as well as the health areas to further these aspects of her work.

CQUniversity staff should be able to draw on her experience of leadership positions across the government, healthcare and academic sectors, including stewardship of strategic health policy development for national and state governments.

* The CRN program is designed to encourage less research-intensive smaller and regional institutions to develop their research capacity and adapt to a research system driven more strongly by performance outcomes by teaming up with other institutions in areas of common interest. The funding is based on a competitive selection process. The CQUniversity-led project will be housed in our Institute for Health and Social Science Research.