Profiles

Rebekah McWhirter

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Rebekah McWhirter

Research Fellow

Room Room 2.21, Faculty of Law, Sandy Bay Campus

+61 3 6226 4605 (phone)

Rebekah.McWhirter@utas.edu.au

Dr Rebekah McWhirter is a research fellow with the Centre for Law and Genetics, Faculty of Law, with an adjunct appointment at the Menzies Institute of Medical Research, University of Tasmania. Her research interests include ethical and legal issues in genetic research, indigenous genetics, empirical research methods in ethical and legal research, and methods for identifying genetic risk factors for disease in isolated populations. She is currently working on an ARC Discovery Grant project, “Genomic Data Sharing: Issues in Law, Research Ethics and Society”.

Biography

Rebekah completed her PhD in medical history at the University of Tasmania before joining Menzies as a project officer in the cancer genetics group, working on familial studies of prostate cancer and haematological malignancies in Tasmania. She then undertook a MSc in Public Health Research at the University of Edinburgh, focusing on an investigation of genetic risk factors for multiple sclerosis in the Orkney and Shetland Islands.

Upon her return to Australia, she joined a research team at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, and managed a genetic and anthropological study of a vulvar cancer cluster among young Aboriginal women resident in the East Arnhem district of the Northern Territory.

In 2012, she returned to Menzies in Hobart, where she continues her work on vulvar cancer genetics and, in collaboration with members of the Centre of Law and Genetics in the Faculty of Law, also undertakes research into the ethical and legal issues in genetic research.

In 2018, she joined the Centre for Law and Genetics fulltime, where she works applies empirical research methods to ethical and legal issues in genomics and healthcare.

Career summary

Qualifications

  • BA (1st Class Hons), University of Tasmania, Australia, 2003. Doctoring Status: the BMA in Tasmania 1911-1930
  • PhD, University of Tasmania, Australia, 2008. 'Lymph or Liberty': Responses to Smallpox Vaccination in the Eastern Australian Colonies
  • MSc (Public Health Research), University of Edinburgh, UK. 2010. Genetic Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis in the Northern Isles of Scotland

Memberships

Professional practice

  • Member of the Health and Medical Human Research Ethics Committee (Tasmania Network) (2012-present)
  • Co-leader of the Empirical Ethics stream of the Australasian Association for Bioethics and Health Law (2017-present)
  • Member of the Ethics and Social Issues Committee of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (2015-2016)
  • Professional memberships: International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease, Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law, European Society of Human Genetics, and Human Genome Organisation (HUGO)

Teaching

Research ethics, Cancer genetics, Indigenous health, Health law

Teaching expertise

Rebekah has coordinated CNA001 Patients’ Rights, was co-ordinator of CAD206 Ethical and Legal Aspects of Dementia Care, lectures into XBR120 Complementary Medicines in Contemporary Society, and has lectured on research ethics in the following units: Human Genetics, Health Law, and Fundamentals of Clinical Science 2.

Research Appointments

  • Member of the Ethics and Social Issues Committee of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (2015-2016)
  • Member of the Health and Medical Human Research Ethics Committee (Tasmania Network) (2012-present)
  • Co-leader of the Empirical Ethics stream of the Australasian Association for Bioethics and Health Law (2017-present)

View more on Dr Rebekah McWhirter in WARP

Expertise

Rebekah's research interests include ethical and legal issues in genetic research, indigenous genetics, empirical research methods in ethical and legal research, and methods for identifying genetic risk factors for disease in isolated populations. She has been involved in NHMRC and RHHRF funded projects, including the genetic investigation of a vulvar cancer cluster among young Indigenous women living in East Arnhem, an investigation of community attitudes to biobanking, and a project aimed at improving informed consent processes for research. She is currently working on an ARC Discovery Grant project, “Genomic Data Sharing: Issues in Law, Research Ethics and Society”.

Research Themes

Rebekah's research aligns to the University's research theme of Better Health. Her research interests include indigenous health, ethical and legal issues in genetic research, and methods for identifying genetic risk factors for disease in isolated populations.

Fields of Research

  • Quantitative Genetics (incl. Disease and Trait Mapping Genetics) (060412)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
  • Bioethics (human and animal) (220101)

Research Objectives

  • Expanding Knowledge in Law and Legal Studies (970118)
  • Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences (970111)

Publications

Total publications

33

Journal Article

(28 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2019Chauhan G, Adams HHH, Satizabal CL, Bis JC, Teumer A, et al., 'Genetic and lifestyle risk factors for MRI-defined brain infarcts in a population-based setting', Neurology, 92, (5) pp. e486-e503. ISSN 0028-3878 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000006851 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Web of Science - 1

Co-authors: Srikanth V; Callisaya M

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2019Jeanneret R, Spiranovic C, Eckstein L, McWhirter R, Arstein-Kerslake A, et al., 'Enhancing early detection of cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system: feasibility of a proposed method', Current Issues in Criminal Justice pp. 1-15. ISSN 1034-5329 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/10345329.2018.1556283 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Jeanneret R; Spiranovic C; Eckstein L; Arstein-Kerslake A; Scanlan J; Kirkby K; Vickers JC

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2018McWhirter R, 'Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety', Women and Birth, 31, (2) pp. 134-142. ISSN 1871-5192 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.wombi.2017.06.023 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 2

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2018McWhirter RE, Eckstein L, 'Moving forward on consent practices in Australia', Journal of Bioethical Inquiry: an interdisciplinary forum for ethical and legal debate, 15, (2) pp. 243-257. ISSN 1176-7529 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s11673-018-9843-z [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2

Co-authors: Eckstein L

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2018Nielsen J, Bubela T, Chalmers DRC, Johns A, Kahl L, et al., 'Provenance and risk in transfer of biological materials', PLOS Biology, 16, (8) Article e2006031. ISSN 1544-9173 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2006031 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Nielsen J; Chalmers DRC; Scheibner J; Whitton T; Nicol D

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2018Eckstein L, Chalmers D, Critchley C, Jeanneret R, McWhirter R, et al., 'Australia: regulating genomic data sharing to promote public trust', Human Genetics, 137, (8) pp. 583-591. ISSN 1432-1203 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s00439-018-1914-z [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 7

Co-authors: Eckstein L; Chalmers D; Critchley C; Jeanneret R; Nielsen J; Otlowski M; Nicol D

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2017Ben-Avraham D, Karasik D, Verghese J, Lunetta KL, Smith JA, et al., 'The complex genetics of gait speed: genome-wide meta-analysis approach', Aging, 9, (1) pp. 209-246. ISSN 1945-4589 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.18632/aging.101151 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 6

Co-authors: Callisaya ML; Thomson R; Srikanth VK

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2017McWhirter R, 'Informed consent and performance data: clinician experience as a material risk', University of New South Wales Law Journal, 40, (2) pp. 566-589. ISSN 0313-0096 (2017) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

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2017McWhirter R, 'Performance data and informed consent: a duty to disclose?', Medical Journal of Australia, 207, (3) pp. 100-101. ISSN 0025-729X (2017) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.5694/mja16.01195 [eCite] [Details]

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2017Nicol D, Eckstein L, Morrison M, Sherkow JS, Otlowski M, et al., 'Key challenges in bringing CRISPR-mediated somatic cell therapy into the clinic', Genome Medicine, 9, (1) Article 85. ISSN 1756-994X (2017) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1186/s13073-017-0475-4 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3

Co-authors: Nicol D; Eckstein L; Otlowski M; Burdon KP; Chalmers D; Charlesworth J; Dickinson JL; Hewitt AW; Mackey DA; Nielsen J

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2017Nicol D, McWhirter R, Dickinson J, 'Implementing values-based governance for a new bioresource model', Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 4, (2) pp. 404-411. ISSN 2053-9711 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1093/jlb/lsx007 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1

Co-authors: Nicol D; Dickinson J

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2017Critchley C, Nicol D, McWhirter R, 'Identifying public expectations of genetic biobanks', Public Understanding of Science, 26, (6) pp. 671-687. ISSN 0963-6625 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/0963662515623925 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Nicol D

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2016Adams HHH, Hibar DP, Chouraki V, Stein JL, Nyquist PA, et al., 'Novel genetic loci underlying human intracranial volume identified through genome-wide association', Nature Neuroscience, 19, (12) pp. 1569-1582. ISSN 1097-6256 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/nn.4398 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 60Web of Science - 65

Co-authors: Srikanth V

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2016McWhirter RE, Otlowski M, 'Regulation of non-consensual genetic testing in Australia: use of samples from deceased persons', Journal of Law and Medicine, 24 pp. 150-165. ISSN 1320-159X (2016) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Otlowski M

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2016Nicol D, Bubela T, Chalmers D, Charbonneau J, Critchley C, et al., 'Precision medicine: drowning in a regulatory soup?', Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 3, (2) pp. 281-303. ISSN 2053-9711 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1093/jlb/lsw018 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 11Web of Science - 10

Co-authors: Nicol D; Chalmers D; Charbonneau J; Dickinson J; Hewitt AW; Otlowski M

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2016Nicol D, Critchley C, McWhirter R, Whitton T, 'Understanding public reactions to commercialization of biobanks and use of biobank resources', Social Science & Medicine, 162 pp. 79-87. ISSN 0277-9536 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.06.028 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 12Web of Science - 12

Co-authors: Nicol D; Critchley C; Whitton T

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2015Kowal E, Greenwood A, McWhirter RE, 'All in the blood: a review of Aboriginal Australians' cultural beliefs about blood and implications for biospecimen research', Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 10, (4) pp. 347-359. ISSN 1556-2646 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/1556264615604521 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 4

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2015McWhirter R, Nicol D, Savulescu J, 'Genomics in research and health care with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples', Monash Bioethics Review, 33, (2-3) pp. 203-209. ISSN 1836-6716 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s40592-015-0037-8 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Nicol D

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2014Chalmers D, McWhirter RE, Nicol D, Whitton T, Otlowski M, et al., 'New avenues within community engagement: addressing the ingenuity gap in our approach to health research and future provision of health care', Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1, (3) pp. 321-328. ISSN 2329-9460 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2014.963002 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6

Co-authors: Chalmers D; Nicol D; Whitton T; Otlowski M; Critchley C; Dickinson JL

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2014McWhirter RE, Critchley CR, Nicol D, Chalmers DRC, Whitton TC, et al., 'Community Engagement for Big Epidemiology: Deliberative Democracy as a Tool', Journal of Personalized Medicine, 4, (4) pp. 459-474. ISSN 2075-4426 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3390/jpm4040459 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Critchley CR; Nicol D; Chalmers DRC; Whitton TC; Otlowski MFA; Dickinson JL

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2014McWhirter RE, Marthick JR, Boyle JA, Dickinson JL, 'Genetic and epigenetic variation in vulvar cancer: Current research and future clinical practice', The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 54, (5) pp. 406-411. ISSN 1479-828X (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ajo.12241 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3

Co-authors: Marthick JR; Dickinson JL

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2014McWhirter RE, Thomson RJ, Marthick JR, Rumbold AR, Brown MA, et al., 'Runs of homozygosity and a cluster of vulvar cancer in young Australian Aboriginal women', Gynecologic Oncology, 133, (3) pp. 421-426. ISSN 0090-8258 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2014.03.566 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 7

Co-authors: Thomson RJ; Marthick JR; Dickinson JL

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2013McWhirter RE, Nicol D, Chalmers D, Dickinson JL, 'Body ownership and research', Journal of Law and Medicine, 21 pp. 323-329. ISSN 1320-159X (2013) [Refereed Article]

PMID: 24597380 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Nicol D; Chalmers D; Dickinson JL

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2012McWhirter RE, 'The History of Bioethics: implications for current debates in health research', Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 55, (3) pp. 329-338. ISSN 0031-5982 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1353/pbm.2012.0025 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1

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2012McWhirter RE, Mununggirritj D, Marika D, Dickinson JL, Condon JR, 'Ethical genetic research in Indigenous communities: challenges and successful approaches', Trends in Molecular Medicine, 18, (12) pp. 702-708. ISSN 1471-4914 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.molmed.2012.08.003 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 9Web of Science - 13

Co-authors: Dickinson JL

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2010Tegg EM, Thomson RJ, Stankovich J, Banks A, Flowers C, et al., 'Evidence for a common genetic aetiology in high-risk families with multiple haematological malignancy subtypes ', British Journal of Haematology, 150, (4) pp. 456-462. ISSN 0007-1048 (2010) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2010.08267.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 6

Co-authors: Tegg EM; Thomson RJ; Stankovich J; Banks A; Flowers C; Panton J; Piaszczyk A; Bahlo M; Marsden KA; Lowenthal RM; Foote SJ; Dickinson JL

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2009McWhirter R, 'Smallpox and Vaccination in Tasmania', Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, 56, (2) pp. 140-53. ISSN 0039-9809 (2009) [Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2005McWhirter R, 'The British Medical Association in Tasmania and the Hospital Crisis', Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, 52, (3) pp. 175-82. ISSN 0039-9809 (2005) [Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

Chapter in Book

(3 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2018Otlowski M, Eckstein L, McWhirter R, 'Regulation of Genetic Testing', Health Law in Australia, Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia, B White, F McDonald, L Willmott (ed), Australia, pp. 839-874. ISBN 9780455238753 (2018) [Revised Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Otlowski M; Eckstein L

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2017Thomson R, McWhirter R, 'Adjusting for Familial Relatedness in the Analysis of GWAS Data', Methods in Molecular Biology: Bioinformatics - Volume II: Structure, Function, and Applications., Humana Press, JM Keith (ed), New York, United States, pp. 175-190. ISBN 978-1-4939-6613-4 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-6613-4_10 [eCite] [Details]

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2014Nicol D, Chalmers D, McWhirter R, Dickinson J, 'Impressions on the Body, Property and Research', Persons, Parts and Property: How Should We Regulate Human Tissue in the 21st Century?, Hart Publishing Ltd, I Goold, K Greasley, J Herring, L Skene (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 9-23. ISBN 978-1849465465 (2014) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Nicol D; Chalmers D; Dickinson J

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Thesis

(1 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2008McWhirter R, ''Lymph or Liberty': Responses to Smallpox Vaccination in the Eastern Australian Colonies' (2008) [PhD]

[eCite] [Details]

Other Public Output

(1 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2018McWhirter RE, 'How do we 'do' consent?', Research Ethics Monthly, Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS), Australia, 26 August 2018 (2018) [Magazine Article]

[eCite] [Details]

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Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants

4

Total funding

$1,174,204

Projects

Enhancing Early Detection of Cognitive Impairment in the Criminal Justice System (2017)$5,299
Description
This project scopes a research design to develop a method to enhance early detection of cognitive impairment.
Funding
University of Tasmania ($5,299)
Scheme
Grant-CAL Hothouse Research Enhancement Program
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Spiranovic CA; Eckstein LG; McWhirter R; Kirkby KC; Watters P; Vickers JC; Bindoff AD
Year
2017
An app platform for informed consent: making multimedia content accessible (2016)$30,000
Description
Aim: To develop and test a flexible platform for creating informed consent apps for healthand medical research projects
Funding
Menzies Institute for Medical Research ($30,000)
Scheme
Grant - Development Grant
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
McWhirter R
Year
2016
A vulvar cancer cluster caused by genetic susceptibility: investigating the genetic mechanism (2014 - 2016)$1,116,905
Description
Cancer of the vulva is 70 times more common in young Aboriginal women in Arnhem Land than in other women. Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which also causes cervical cancer, is the usual cause of this cancer; initial investigations have found that HPV is present in these cancers but is not the reason for the excessive incidence. This study will investigate inherited risk factors contributing to the development of this diseasein this population.
Funding
National Health & Medical Research Council ($1,116,905)
Scheme
Grant-Project
Administered By
Menzies School of Health Research
Research Team
Condon J; Dickinson JL; McWhirter R; Rumbold A; Thomson RJ; Boyle J; Garvey G; Markey P
Period
2014 - 2016
Grant Reference
1060187
Improving informed consent in research to protect participants (2014)$22,000
Funding
University of Tasmania ($22,000)
Scheme
Grant-Research Enhancement (REGS)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
McWhirter R; Eckstein LG
Year
2014

Research Supervision

Current

1

Current

DegreeTitleCommenced
PhDImproved Cardiovascular Disease hEALth Service Delivery in Australia (IDEAL Study)2016