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Renowned midwifery researcher Professor Caroline Homer has been appointed the new Chair of the Council of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The new Council, which boasts expertise in nursing, biomedical science, clinical and public health, the medical profession and business, will serve a three-year term to June 2024 and play a key role in supporting the NHMRC in its mission of building a healthy Australia.

An internationally recognised midwifery researcher, scholar and leader in maternal and newborn healthcare and service delivery, Professor Homer has more than 25 years’ experience in clinical practice, research, education and international development. She is currently co-program Director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health at the Burnet Institute and an Emeritus Professor of Midwifery at the University of Technology Sydney.

Professor Homer is the current Deputy Chair of the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board and Chair of the NHMRC’s Peer Review Analysis Committee. She was a member of the Council in 2018–2021 and has previously been a member of the NHMRC’s Research Committee and Chair of the NHMRC’s Women in Health Science Committee.

“I am honoured to rejoin the NHMRC Council, this time as the Chair,” Professor Homer said.

Last year, Professor Homer was named the world’s leading midwifery researcher in The Australian’s analysis to uncover top researchers.

Speaking to the ANMJ, Professor Homer shared how she began her career as a nurse and trained at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Midwifery was never on her radar but on reflection supporting a couple who had chosen not to resuscitate their premature baby left a lasting impact.

After moving to Sydney, Professor Homer began developing her research skills while working as a clinical trials nurse with people with HIV at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Her decision to become a midwife was influenced by her flatmate, who had just embarked on the profession.

Professor Homer said working in a Malawi mission hospital in Africa in 1992 as a new grad helped her gain an awareness of the differences between midwifery in developing countries and more advanced nations.

A short time later, she shifted into education and research, starting her midwifery research career at St George Hospital where she worked in a Family Health Research Unit led by Professor Lesley Barclay.

She undertook her influential PhD, Collaboration in maternity care: A randomised controlled trial comparing community-based continuity of care with standard hospital care, as part of the program in 2001, at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Professor Homer boasts more than 25 years’ experience in midwifery as a clinician, educator, researcher and leader.

She taught at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) for 15 years, where she was appointed Professor of Midwifery in 2005.

A leader in maternal and newborn healthcare and service delivery, she has spearheaded research into the development and implementation of innovative models of midwifery care and the development of midwifery practice and education.

Her current role as co-program Director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health with the Burnet Institute in Melbourne is focused on mothers, children and adolescents.

Last year, the Burnet also prioritised studying the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic response.