Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Interview with Associate Professor Lisa Amir (Judith Lumley Centre)

Lisa Amir (left), Miranda Buck (centre) and new family at Royal Women's Hospital

This week, we interview Associate Professor Lisa Amir from the Judith Lumley Centre (JLC; on Twitter at @LTUJudithLumley).

The JLC is a multidisciplinary public health research centre with programs focused on mothers, parents and their infants.

It's great to see Lisa's enthusiasm for her topic shine through.

And the fact that she and her team tried five times before landing that big grant? A perfect demonstration of how persistence is as necessary in academia as expertise!



How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

I’ve always been interested in women’s health and, when I became a new mother in 1984, I started learning about breastfeeding. I just kept reading and haven’t stopped!

I realised that breastfeeding is an important phase of women's lives but it receives very little attention from health professionals, researchers and policy makers.

My work aims to understand the problems experienced by breastfeeding women in order to improve women's experiences and help them reach their breastfeeding goals. I do a lot of teaching to health professionals, but there is a still a long way to go.

I started an open access journal dedicated to breastfeeding to improve access to research on this topic. My role as the Editor-in-Chief of the International Breastfeeding Journal involves working with authors from around the world to help them publish their research, and this is always satisfying.

What aspect of research do you enjoy the most? 

I love planning projects, searching the literature, reading, writing, analysing, publishing – all of it!

And the least?

My least preferred things would be dealing with HR and Finance issues.

Do you ever have topic envy? If so, what research topic do you fantasise about?

I find breastfeeding has so many fascinating aspects – from science to society! Nothing else stands a chance.

What's the best research moment you’ve had?

This is an easy question! It was the moment that I heard that my NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) project grant was successful in 2008.

After previously receiving grants for $7,000 and $30,000, this one was for three quarters of a million dollars! This was the fifth time I had submitted the CASTLE (Candida and Staphylococcal Transmission: Longitudinal Evaluation) cohort study looking at nipple and breast pain in breastfeeding women. I was also invited to the announcement in Canberra where I was able to make a short speech.

This success was a big boost to my confidence as a researcher.

Lisa Amir (left), Anita Moorhead (right)
and Mayor of Shepparton (centre)
If you were a graduate researcher again, what would you do differently?

My thesis was a traditional PhD thesis. Now I encourage my students to do a PhD with publications.

This is a great way to get publications completed during their candidature, and good for the supervisors as well.

We know there are some students who complete their research degree without ever publishing, and this is a tragedy.

Do you have any advice to offer on scholarly collaboration and/or networking?

Take every opportunity to attend events where research is being presented. It might not be your topic, but you will almost always learn something.

Don’t hesitate to go to conferences, and always try to present your work. Standing beside a poster is a great way to meet other people, and listening to their questions and comments can add depth to your understanding and improve your publications and presentations.

Introduce yourself to people. You never know if a chance meeting will lead to a long-lasting friendship, research collaboration, or an invitation to present your work to another group!

I use Twitter to keep in touch with researchers in Australia and overseas. It’s a great way to let people know what you’re doing, and it has increased my familiarity with other people’s work as well. Retweeting tweets from a conference leads to more followers and a connection with other people, even if you’re still sitting at your desk at home or on a tram trip around Melbourne.

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Associate Professor Lisa Amir (MBBS MMed PhD IBCLC FABM FILCA) is a general practitioner and lactation consultant. 

She works in breastfeeding medicine at The Royal Women's Hospital and in private practice in Melbourne, Australia. 

She is a Principal Research Fellow at the Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University. She is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed articles, and the Editor-in-Chief of International Breastfeeding Journal. 

Lisa tweets from @Lisa_H_Amir.

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