New Institute focused on real health needs

Published: Monday 9th March 2015

Simon Stewart 

Professor Simon Stewart is heading up the newly launched Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research - an institute focused on servicing the real health needs of individuals and communities.

Saint Mary MacKillop's call to "never see a need without doing something about it" is the driving force behind ACU's new Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, which was launched last week in Melbourne by ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Wayne McKenna.

Speaking at the official launch on Thursday 5 March, Foundation Director Professor Simon Stewart said, "The Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research is not a medical research institute in the traditional sense; our strength is in people and in communities. We hope to strengthen ACU’s vision to undertake world-class research that reaches people wherever there is a need."

"From community programs to tackle contemporary social issues such as under-age drinking, regional and rural projects designed to optimise prevention and health services in disadvantaged communities to international partnerships to combat emerging epidemics in low-to-middle income countries, research leaders within the Institute are upholding Mary MacKillop's legacy of service to people and communities in need," Professor Stewart said.

The Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research brings ACU researchers together with national and international experts to bring about meaningful changes in health services for people in Australia and around the world. Through research that responds to real needs, researchers are working to improve the wellbeing of people locally and globally so they can lead full, healthy lives.

The MacKillop Institute's team includes leading researchers with a proven track record and international reputation for research excellence as well as up-and-coming researchers in the field. Together the team brings passion, expertise and the determination to make a difference in communities through research addressing today’s most pressing health challenges.

ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven said at the launch, "Australian Catholic University has a settled view on the role of research in universities, which is that there is no such thing as a university that is not deeply engaged in research."

"The Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research is involved in what I call massive inquiry research – research that goes beyond the realm of problems to the identification of trends and the identification of solutions."

"ACU is now the largest English-speaking Catholic University in the world. The University has more than doubled in size to 32,000 students, has more than quadrupled in terms of its budget, and in the same period its funding of research has increased ten times," said Professor Craven.

Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sister Monica Cavanagh, attended the launch as an honoured guest to articulate the historical significance of the Institute's name. Providing personal insights into the life and thoughts of Mary MacKillop from an educational to health perspective, Sister Cavanagh reaffirmed her belief that the new Institute is a welcome addition to the MacKillop legacy.

Driven to improve the quality of health care — especially for those most in need — the MacKillop Institute for Health Research conducts research to test the effectiveness of existing health services, support and education. The Institute also develops new social and community programs, contributing to a health care system that is more sensitive to people's needs.

The Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research includes six research centres. A centre director oversees research within each centre.

  • Centre for the Heart and Mind – Director, Professor David Thompson
  • Centre for Health and Social Research – Director, Professor Sandra Jones
  • Centre for Primary Care and Prevention – Director, Associate Professor Melinda Carrington
  • NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) to Reduce Inequality in Heart Disease – Director, Professor Simon Stewart
  • Centre for Exercise and Nutrition – Director, Professor John Hawley
  • Centre for Musculoskeletal Health – Director, Professor Julie Hides.

Joining ACU from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Professor Simon Stewart is dedicated to understanding the evolving burden of heart disease and developing innovative models of care to improve related health outcomes. An NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and Principal Investigator of an NHMRC Program Grant, Project Grant and Centre of Research Excellence to Reduce Inequality in Heart Disease, he has attracted around $20 million in research funds in the past five years to support his wide-ranging health services research. Professor Stewart was co-founder and Co-Principal Investigator of the Heart of Soweto Study (published in The Lancet and Circulation) and also co-led the Heart of the Heart Study of Indigenous heart health in Central Australia. A prolific contributor to literature in the field through books and peer-reviewed articles, Simon is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cardiology. He holds senior editorial positions in other prestigious journals including the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Nature Reviews Cardiology.