Fri, 03/08/2019 | News

NCIRS - A 21-year history of leadership empowering women

This International Women’s Day 2019 we celebrate our 21-year history of leadership empowering women at NCIRS. 

In 1997 Margaret Burgess successfully tendered for the Australian Government Department of Health funding for National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS) and subsequently became our founding director. 

Professor Margaret Burgess AO, NCIRS Founding Director 1997 – 2004 

Margaret has made an outstanding contribution to immunisation research. Margaret graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Sydney and was distinguished by gaining first place among the women candidates and first place in Surgery. She was awarded a Doctorate of Medicine by the University of Sydney in 1971 and was elected as a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Faculty of Public Health Medicine in 1991. In the 1960s she established an international reputation through publication of studies relating to congenital rubella syndrome. In the 1970s, she conducted the first clinical trials of rubella vaccines in Australia. In the 1980s Margaret took up a Staff Specialist appointment in paediatric oncology at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, a field in which she also made significant research contributions. 

In the 1990s she returned to research in the area of immunisation, conducting large community-based studies on hepatitis B vaccination and assisting the NHMRC in revising the national childhood immunisation schedule. She then successfully tendered for NCIRS and was its director until 2004. During her time as NCIRS director, Margaret was involved in the development of the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register and initiated a wide program of research around vaccination and vaccine-preventable diseases, including varicella, rotavirus, measles and pertussis. She was awarded an Order of Australia in 2003 for services to public health in Australia.  

Margaret is also a mother and has provided inspiration and mentoring to many women (and men) at NCIRS, including Peter McIntyre who succeeded Margaret as NCIRS Director.  

Professor Peter McIntyre, NCIRS Director 2004 – 2017 

Professor Peter McIntyre was director of NCIRS for 13 years and continues to be a Professorial Fellow with NCIRS after moving to New Zealand in 2018. As NCIRS Director, he oversaw significant expansion in all areas of work, through government and research grant support. He is recognised internationally for research in vaccine prevention of pertussis and pneumococcal disease and has held multiple roles with the World Health Organization (WHO). He was recently appointed to the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation of the WHO. 

Peter is a strong supporter of women and has contributed to the career progression of many at NCIRS. In particular Peter showed his support of women as leaders through the appointment of Kristine Macartney as Deputy Director of NCIRS in 2010, who subsequently became the director of NCIRS in 2018. 

Professor Kristine Macartney, NCIRS Director 2018 – Present 

Professor Kristine Macartney was appointed as the director of NCIRS in 2018. Kristine is also Senior Staff Specialist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Professor in Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and Senior Editor of The Australian Immunisation Handbook.

Kristine has been instrumental in the growth and success of numerous program areas within NCIRS that are of state, national and international importance, including two national surveillance networks: Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) and AusVaxSafety (an active vaccine safety surveillance initiative). Kristine focuses on all aspects of vaccinology and vaccine-preventable disease control, especially viral diseases (rotavirus, influenza and varicella), vaccine policy-making and vaccine safety. She currently leads a large NHMRC partnership grant on childhood influenza and pertussis, and is an investigator on other independently funded research grants.

Kristine is also mother to three daughters and acknowledges her husband and family’s contribution in support of her success. 

Leadership empowering women

At NCIRS we have these inspiring leaders to thank for showing us that women can achieve their greatest potential both professionally and personally and contribute to global public health in the process. As we celebrate this day we acknowledge how important it is to ensure that such opportunity is available to women, and their broader communities, more equitably across the globe.

We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our many partners across Australia and beyond in celebrating the successes and striving to fulfil the goals articulated as part of International Women’s Day

The University of Sydney School of Medicine Online Museum – Burgess, Margaret
Festschrift for Professor Margaret Burgess AO, CDI Vol 28 No 3 2004
NCIRS 20 Year Anniversary report