By Yasmine Phillips

An international leader in the analysis and mapping of big data sets to tackle disease has been appointed The Kerry M Stokes Chair of Child Health, in partnership with Curtin University, the Channel 7 Telethon Trust and the Telethon Kids Institute.

Professor Peter Gething, a Professor of Epidemiology at The Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford, will start in the inaugural position in September 2019, following an extensive international search led by Curtin and the Telethon Kids Institute.

The Kerry M Stokes Chair of Child Health honours Mr Stokes’ extraordinary commitment to child health research. It was announced at Telethon last year following Mr Stokes’ decision to step down as Chairman of the Channel 7 Telethon Trust.

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said she was delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Gething to the inaugural position.

“Professor Gething is a widely respected researcher who has dedicated his career to fighting the global burden of tropical diseases such as malaria, one of the major global killers of children in developing countries. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role as a senior scientist and advisor to the World Health Organisation and national governments,” Professor Terry said.

“Professor Gething will be instrumental in driving world-class collaborative research in child health and development and I look forward to the significant contribution and strong leadership that he will bring to the role.”

Telethon Kids Institute Director Professor Jonathan Carapetis said Professor Gething’s research was an excellent fit with the work being done at the Institute and his expertise in geographical targeting was particularly relevant.

“Peter is essentially one of the world’s great ‘disease detectives’. He maps data on important diseases like malaria to understand the causes, track their trajectories in populations and most importantly identify what works and what doesn’t in reducing deaths and disease incidence,” Professor Carapetis said.

“We know that this type of spatial intelligence will help us to target resources and interventions to help more young lives.

“We are particularly excited by how his expertise can help us to tackle the complex issues here in Australia, especially for children living in remote areas that continue to suffer the greatest levels of disadvantage.”

Telethon General Manager Marie Anne Keeffe said Professor Gething was an outstanding appointment.

“We are delighted that through Telethon’s support, we are able to attract scientists of the calibre of Professor Gething to bring his work and family to Perth,” Ms Keeffe said.

“His expertise will bring new insights into how we can improve the health and development of children not only here in Western Australia, but around the world.”

Professor Gething said he was honoured to be appointed as The Kerry M Stokes Chair of Child Health.

“I am very impressed by the positive can-do attitude that I’ve seen in the research environment in WA,” Professor Gething said.

“The data revolution means that we often have more information than we know what to do with. My expertise is to make sense of that data in a way that will lead to more targeted and effective programs.”

The Kerry M Stokes Chair in Child Health will be a Curtin University Professor whose research will be conducted at the Telethon Kids Institute.