AITHM James Cook University

Professor Emma McBryde – AITHM Professorial Research Fellow

AITHM Professorial Research Fellow Emma McBryde is a world-leading infectious disease specialist, and physician, as well as a tuberculosis epidemiologist. This background is supported by her research expertise in mathematical and statistical modelling. Professor McBryde began her career with a Bachelor of Medicine from the University of Queensland, followed by a Masters of Biostatistics at the University of Melbourne, and then a PhD from the Queensland University of Technology.

Professor McBryde was previously the Head of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and Head of Modelling and Biostatistics at the Burnet Institute. She also held an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research fellowship at the University of Melbourne. With a naturally inquiring mind, Professor McBryde’s passion for research was originally kindled by her interest in fundamental sciences, especially physics. This, compounded with work experience in a physics laboratory and a General Practitioner mother who encouraged her interest in all things medical, led to her pursuing a career in medicine, specialising in infectious disease. She later blended this into her interest in mathematics and created modelling tools for best practice control and prevention of infectious diseases.

Joining AITHM in mid-2015, Professor McBryde also received a Global Fund grant, enabling her to determine at a national level the best place to concentrate resources in order to combat tuberculosis. Professor McBryde has also undertaken work that focused on preventing and controlling tuberculosis across South-East Asia and the Pacific, with particular focus on the Philippines, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

“I’m proud of our achievements this year [in 2015], we are building a global impact as we target tuberculosis, this infection disease occurs all over the world, but mostly effects those living in poverty and in the prime of their lives; those who are young, and should be fit, healthy and productive. We have excellent support, including from the World Bank and we are starting to see inroads in preventing and controlling the disease, which is crucial,” Professor McBryde said. Throughout her career Professor McBryde has sought to understand the global phenomenon of infectious diseases improvements in international health outcomes, and inequities in care. “I’m passionate about science and mathematics, but I’m excited by what those disciplines can do to improve real-world outcomes. My latest studies allow me to model 1000 virtual reality trials to explore ideas and assumptions on combatting tuberculosis, and we can now figure out how best to allocate resources and to eventually eliminate infectious diseases,” she explained.

Professor McBryde spends her time split at AITHM between leading tuberculosis research and supervising several postdoctoral students, including projects on preventing and controlling tuberculosis outbreaks in the Torres Strait, and conducting field studies in places such as Papua New Guinea. Professor McBryde enjoys a solid mix of qualitative and quantitative research work, in both the laboratory and the field. Professor McBryde is also Director of the Australia Tuberculosis Modelling Network (AuTuMN), which is the world leader in tuberculosis research. She collaborates with other researchers at JCU, Melbourne University, Monash University, and the Burnet Institute. In the future she hopes these collaborations and her work at AITHM will see emerging infectious diseases outbreaks reduced or eliminated.

“The day-to-day of my job is a lot of fun; I work in a creative, collaborate way and get to experiment with mathematics. I’m following both my interests and my passions, but most importantly I am doing my all to combat tuberculosis, an infectious disease with 9.6 million cases reported in 2014 (WHO). The work we are doing is crucial and I hope to one day see it mean many infectious diseases become relegated to history,” Professor McBryde said.

“I’m following both my interests and my passions, but most importantly I am doing my all to combat tuberculosis, an infectious disease with 9.6 million cases reported in 2014 (WHO).The work we are doing is crucial and I hope to one day see it mean many infectious diseases become relegated to history.”

Professor Emma McBryde

AITHM Professorial Research Fellow