Kerryn Coleman: pandemic policy advisor making a difference


Kerryn Coleman

TEAM COVID-19 — PANDEMIC POLICY ADVISORS MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Name: Dr Kerryn Coleman

Title: Chief health officer, Australian Capital Territory

Role in responding to COVID-19 

Briefing the ACT minister for health Rachel Stephen-Smith, chief minister Andrew Barr and other members of the ACT government on key COVID-19 issues, including school closures, hospital preparedness and testing protocols.

Working across the ACT Health Directorate and the Health Protection Service to ensure hospitals, general practice and the community health sector are able to provide appropriate testing and treatment services.

Representing the ACT on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Developing public information resources and communicating with ACT residents via mainstream and social media as one of the government’s key spokespeople on COVID-19. 

Previous roles

Dr Coleman is a public health physician who has worked at senior levels in public health in aa number of jurisdictions.

Her previous roles include director of public health and public health physician at the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service and Director of Communicable Disease Control in the Northern Territory.

Prior to taking on the role in the ACT Dr Coleman was a medical adviser within the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing in both the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

Notable achievements/contributions during this crisis

Dr Coleman has played a leadership role in managing the ACT’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her prior experience in infectious diseases has assisted her in working with government departments, public health experts, medical professionals and health service managers to identify and treat people infected with the virus and to prevent its spread.

On 30 April the ACT was the first Australian jurisdiction since the start of the pandemic to record no active COVID-19 cases, although there have been additional cases recorded since then from people travelling to the territory.  To date there has been no evidence of community transmission within the ACT.

Dr Coleman has overseen the development of a contact tracing training program via a partnership between ACT Health and the Australian National University.  This e-learning program has upskilled 100 students in contact tracing to act as surge capacity for existing teams in the ACT.

The training program has been shared with international organisations, including the World Health Organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and is being used by public health departments in the USA, Germany, the European Union and Mediterranean.

Quote

‘I know as we get fewer and fewer cases in the ACT and around Australia everyone is asking why we have to keep doing these physical-distancing measures. But we have seen what happens overseas if we pull back on these measures too early. There is a big risk that we will see the case numbers start to rise again really rapidly. We don’t want that to happen in Australia. So, although restrictions have eased, our responsibilities have not. We all need to behave as though we have COVID-19 and everyone around us has COVID-19.’

This article is part of the Team COVID-19 series, available here.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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