When she is not on the frontline implementing feeding programs for mothers and their children in Afghanistan or responding to an Ebola outbreak in Uganda, Dr Kamalini Lokuge is conducting her own research to bridge the gap in service delivery for key medical humanitarian aid issues.
“Unless you engage right through the process – with the people and communities living the problems and the health workers that help them deal with these problems, often what you do will not make a difference. It may seem like it will work, it may change things at a policy level, but in terms of what mothers and children will get, nothing will change,” explains Kamalini.
As an Epidemiologist and Research Fellow with the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Kamalini’s position at the ANU is unique. Crucial for effective solutions to these issues, she brings together the knowledge from people delivering health services in challenging environments and the expertise of researchers from other disciplines, such as policy development and infectious disease modeling, to not only generate new research knowledge, but to translate it to policy.
“If you can communicate your research in a form that policy makers can understand then you are the best doctor you can be to patients because you are not only giving them care, you are making things change more broadly for the future,” she remarks.
Through practice-driven research and local capacity building, Kamalini’s work has a direct tangible impact on improving the health outcomes of the world’s most vulnerable populations, including those affected by conflict, communicable diseases and natural disasters. To continue to give a voice to these communities, her work requires a particular type of support and funding. “Part of my work is supported by traditional funding sectors but when you work with people in these complex settings, you need to be flexible.”
She continues, “It is my core support from the ANU that allows me to be available to go and independently evaluate a sexual violence program in Papua New Guinea for Médecins Sans Frontières or a HIV program in a remote area of Zambia. For this type of work to have an sustained impact, it requires the investment that ANU has made.”
In recognition of services to medical humanitarian aid, Kamalini was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2010. Every day she continues to tackle the major challenges facing public health, both at a human and scientific level. “Everything I do has value to improve the lives of people who face so many challenges, and I feel privileged that I’m able to engage in work that I feel has real meaning. Every day, everything I do, I feel has a purpose, and I think that’s rare. I can’t put it any other way.”