National Network Advances Women’s Careers and Research in Women’s Health

A national AHRA network is advancing women’s careers and building capacity in women’s health research across Australia.

The Women’s Health Research and Translation Impact Network (WHRTN) is providing workforce development to support women’s research careers, supporting Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI), establishing networks within the Research Translation Centres (RTCs), funding research, and supporting Indigenous capacity building in women’s health.

“WHRTN’s training and funding programs are built for scale and impact and are advancing women’s careers and building capacity in women’s health research across Australia,” said WHRTN Lead Investigator and Chair of the Research Committee, Professor Helena Teede.

Since its inception in 2020 with a $5M grant from the Medical Research Future Fund, WHRTN’s workforce development program has supported over 67 early and mid-career research (EMCR) women with funding, including 31 EMCRs in 2023.

“These grants have the potential to deliver impact for women’s emerging research careers. They can build capacity and grow research teams, provide opportunities to up-skill or offer flexibility for work and family life balance,” said Workforce Development Sub-Committee Chair Professor Vicki Clifton.

WHRTN is also delivering monthly training events (webinars) in mentoring, leadership, CCI, grant writing and networking. Its workforce development program has partnered with AHRA Centres to deliver the training, which has been co-designed, using evidence-based strategies, for women in early and mid-careers. By April 2024, the program had engaged nearly 2,000 women at the events and through viewing recordings on WHRNT’s YouTube channel.

“It’s been inspiring to watch the development of these
women’s research networks and the work they have done
to build local capacity and collaboration.”

University of Sydney researcher Dr Anna Singleton received a WHRTN workforce development grant and is co-designing a cancer experience survey to evaluate support strategies and services for women with cancer. She says she is grateful for the acknowledgment and funding.

“The grant enabled me to establish new collaborations with Australia’s leading cancer survivorship researchers and lead a multi-disciplinary research team of Australian cancer and public health researchers and consumer representatives,” said Dr Singleton. “I’m thankful that WHRTN could help me on my journey.”

A further innovation of WHRTN has been its Emerging Leader Fellowships (ELFs), which provide young women with the opportunity to work in WHRTN while being mentored by women research leaders, as well as consumer advisors and advocates.

Emerging Leadership Fellow Dr Cannas Kwok worked on WHRTN’s National Steering Committee. “I am so proud to be an ELF!” she said. “The program offers excellent opportunities to network and work with a group of researchers, national leaders and health consumers who share the same mission – translation of knowledge in promoting a better quality of life for women.”

WHRTN’s CCI Program has launched new training resources and formed a National Consumer Network. “We are working to embed coproduction in research, improving training for consumers and researchers on how to effectively partner in research and making CCI in research relevant to the community,” said WHRTN’s Consumer Partnerships Lead, Leslie Arnott.

WHRTN’s lead academic on the CCI Sub-Committee is committed to incorporating CCI in all WHRTN’s activities. “CCI is vital in co-design, with consumers and community members adding value to research, the translation of research, and healthcare delivery,” she said.

“Our network is demonstrating leadership in the codevelopment of a CCI strategy now being implemented broadly across WHRTN. This includes governance, training, stakeholder engagement and external partnerships to facilitate collaboration between researchers and community members.”

WHRTN has also funded nine network establishment grants, building local capacity and collaboration within the RTCs. “It’s been inspiring to watch the development of these women’s research networks and the work they have done to build local capacity and collaboration,” said Professor Teede.

In the Research Program, nine co-production seed and full grants have been awarded, all aligned to national strategic priority areas in women’s health. “These co-production grants involve new processes to develop genuine and respectful partnerships between researchers and consumers, including shared consumerinvestigator leadership,” said Professor Georgina Chambers, who led the grant development process.

Three capacity-building awards for Indigenous EMCRs have been awarded and two early career project officers have been supported. “The Indigenous program is also developing resources on the culturally appropriate engagement of Indigenous communities in research, and is leading seminars and events in this area,” said Professor Aunty Kerrie Doyle, Chair of WHRTN’s Indigenous Sub-Committee.

“To date, there has been great collegiality in the work undertaken both within the WHRTN sub-committees and across the centres,” said Professor Cate Nagle, WHRTN’s Steering Committee Chair. “We look forward to consolidating these relationships as we work together to develop future shared visions to improve equity in health and wellness for all Australian women and to support the careers of women in research.”

Women’s Health Research and Translation Impact Network
AHRA Members and Project Partners:
All Research Translation Centres

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