The decision to take up the role of the University of Tasmania’s new Head of School of Health Sciences at Newnham, was not a difficult one for Professor Nuala Byrne.
Bringing with her a wealth of experience internationally and most recently from postings at Bond University and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), and with her husband recently appointed as Professor of Sports and Exercise Science, Professor Byrne said she did not hesitate to leave sunny Brisbane behind for Tasmania.
“I have had a number of sisters who have lived here at different times, and I have always loved the landscape and quality of produce available in the State,” she said.
“And the opportunity to work with the different disciplines in Health Sciences is very exciting.”
Professor Byrne said the fact that the University of Tasmania was the only university in the State, and its plans for northern expansion, were also exciting prospects.
“In Queensland there are 10 universities, and four based in Brisbane all vying for attention,” she said.
“Having one health system working hand-in-hand with one university provides the framework for really meaningful interactions and collective benefit.
“The new northern expansion plan is also an exciting opportunity for the State.”
With her own mother and three of her sisters pursuing careers as nurses and her father a medical practitioner, Professor Byrne said she always had a strong synergy with health, and an appreciation of the important role nurses undertake within the health care system.
A passionate researcher with a strong exercise and sport science background, Professor Byrne’s research focuses on nutritional and exercise physiology, particularly in the areas of energy metabolism and its relationship to obesity, athletic performance and optimizing health status though appropriate diet and exercise.
Having had many great opportunities to work with other health practitioners throughout her career, Professor Byrne hopes to focus in her new role on increasing opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.
“Complex problems can’t be solved adequately through a single strategy; we need to combine the multiple strengths available in a multi-dimensional approach,” she said.
“In terms of learning and teaching, I hope to assist in achieving authentic interdisciplinary learning outcomes for our students.
“When graduates from the Faculty of Heath exit the University we want that they have rubbed shoulders with, and have gained an appreciation of the breadth of skill within the health care system. This is ideally achieved via authentic cross-disciplinary experiences during their time at university.”
Professor Byrne is also keen to see simulation learning used to the maximum benefit of graduates and to see associate degrees open more people up to the possibility of university study.
“The goals outlined in the strategy to offer associate degrees was something that also made me interested in coming to the University of Tasmania,” she said.
“I would love to see the public who haven’t had any prior relationship with higher education to understand the opportunities that can be opened to them through tertiary education, and to see the ways this can positively impact the community.
“As academics and researchers we can be very passionate - but not always is this enthusiasm translated to the community around us,
“I’d really like to explore avenues for more engagement with the community, and though this to inspire those who don’t yet have a connection with the University to see areas where they may be interested to get involved.”