JCU appoints new tropical health dean
James Cook University has appointed tropical and public health specialist, Professor Maxine Whittaker as Dean of the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences.
Professor Ian Wronski, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, said the university was delighted to have secured Professor Whittaker for this key position.
Professor Whittaker is currently Professor of International Health at the University of Queensland and was formerly the Director of the Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health at UQ.
“This appointment represents a return to the tropics for Professor Whittaker, who previously distinguished herself in senior health roles in Papua New Guinea, including Senior Technical Health Adviser to the National Department of Health,” Professor Wronski said.
“She brings a wealth of experience in global and tropical health to her new role, having worked extensively in tropical countries including Papua New Guinea, Zambia and Bangladesh, to improve the accessibility, acceptability and quality of essential health services, especially for marginalised and vulnerable populations.”
Professor Whittaker will oversee teaching and research in public health, tropical medicine, biomedical sciences, veterinary science, and molecular and cell biology.
She joins Professor Lee Stewart and Professor Richard Murray as the Deans of the three Colleges in the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine.
“I am excited about the unique opportunity JCU provides to advance the practice of ecosystem health in its teaching, research and engagement activities,” Prof Whittaker said.
“JCU is unique in being the only university in Australia, and one of only a few in the world, with human health and public health and animal health in the same division. It also has a strong environmental science capacity in the university that when all brought together can ensure JCU plays a global leading role in the field.”
“Added to this is the strong commitment to, and engagement of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and academics at JCU, which will uniquely enhance the understanding of and approach to ecosystem health,” Prof Whittaker said.
“The strong bio-medical sciences capacity in the college provides further depth in understanding many of the global tropical human and animal health challenges that need to be addressed if Australia and the world are to achieve the recently launched Sustainable Development Goals.”
Prof Whitaker also has a personal connection to the region. “Both my husband and I have ancestral roots in Northern Queensland, which we look forward to exploring more deeply and helping our families learn about our links to this part of the country.”
In announcing the appointment, Professor Wronski thanked Professor Peter Leggat, who will continue acting in the role until Professor Whittaker takes up the position in Townsville in late February 2016.
“Throughout the university’s restructure and the formation of our division’s three colleges, Peter has provided exemplary leadership and invaluable guidance. We wish him well as he returns to his role as a leading researcher in public health and tropical medicine, working on important projects here and internationally.”