This month, the Library spoke with Dr Jean Spinks about her research, what inspires her and the advice she has for new researchers.

Dr Spinks is trained as a health economist, pharmacist and a health systems researcher and has extensive experience across the three disciplines, as well as post-graduate qualifications in public health. Dr Spinks is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Applied Health Economics and before working in academia she worked in community and hospital pharmacy both in Australia and internationally in the Asia-Pacific region.

Her research focuses broadly on the integration of medication and medication services in primary care. Jean’s current projects involve the development, implementation and evaluation of an Indigenous Medication Review Service (IMeRSe) with partners National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Other project also include innovative pharmacist workforce models of care and consumer preferences for medication services. Jean has also published in the areas of medicines pricing, complementary medicine use and the disposal of unwanted medicines.

Learn more about Dr Spinks’ research in the Q & A below:


Q & A:

What path led you to your research?

As a teenager I knew I wanted to do ‘something to do with health’, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what that meant. After working as a pharmacist for some years and realising that many marginalised groups in society had poorer access to health services, I became driven to understand why health systems were set up the way they were and if access to services could be improved for these groups. After studying public health, I ended up doing a PhD in health economics at Monash University and now I combine an economic and clinical lens to researching opportunities for health system change.


[…] I find that a setback ends up being an opportunity in disguise, a chance to think about a problem from another angle.


What is the real-life impact of your research?

These days, my research is focused on analysing the population need for medication services as well as being part of efforts to design and test interventions to improve access to services and health outcomes. Most recently I have been part of a team that developed and evaluated a medication review service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that better integrates with their existing primary health care services. The service, known as IMeRSe, sought to remove some of the barriers encountered through the mainstream health system. Some of the changes are quite simple in concept but require a lot of change in the way health professionals work together. Health system reform is not always fast, but when you collect evidence that shows clients have a better experience and better health outcomes due to relatively simple changes, it inspires you to keep trying to change the system for the better.

Are there such things as setbacks in research?

Of course! But sometimes I find that a setback ends up being an opportunity in disguise, a chance to think about a problem from another angle.


‘Good health is important to all of us, but we don’t all experience it in the same way.’


Who has inspired you?

I tend to find inspiration in everyday interactions with people I come into contact with – colleagues, friends, family and clients (when I was working as a pharmacist). Good health is important to all of us, but we don’t all experience it in the same way. People who work in health care are often driven by a motivation to make things better for other people and that inspires me. My first boss in community pharmacy in inner-city Sydney had a particularly strong influence on me. He had an amazing skill to connect with the diverse range of people we worked with every day—people on our methadone program, people who were struggling financially, who were lonely, who had different cultural backgrounds, who used needle exchange. All were treated with respect and dignity and a healthy dose of good humour. More recently I have been inspired by how the more person-centric approach of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services has a lot to teach mainstream health services in Australia.

What advice do you have for students and researchers?

Whenever possible, work with people you really enjoy working with. Research can sometimes feel lonely and disconnected from the people and systems you are trying to influence. When you are part of a great team, it is much easier to stay motivated as you can share the challenges but also the breakthroughs.


Interested in learning more? You can read some of Dr Spinks’ previous research at Griffith Research Online.