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Thanks to the generous support of DISSH, the Children’s Hospital Foundation is proud to announce the 2024 recipients of the Mary McConnel Career Boost Program for Women in Paediatric Research.

Despite recent efforts to promote gender equality in academia, women only account for 20 percent of senior academics in Australian universities and research institutes.

The Mary McConnel Career Boost Program aims to change that.

By offering vital support and financial aid to female researchers at critical stages of their careers, from pre-PhD through to early and mid-career phases, the Children’s Hospital Foundation can foster equal representation and improved health outcomes for children and young people.

Meet the 2024 grant recipients

This year, the program will support three exceptional female researchers across Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service:

  • Natacha Omer – A novice researcher focusing on natural killer cell immunotherapy in paediatric sarcomas. Her ground breaking work aims to revolutionise treatment options for young cancer patients.
  • Anna Francis – An early-career researcher dedicated to decreasing mortality and morbidity in children with chronic kidney disease. Her research promises to make significant strides in paediatric nephrology.
  • Sophie Wen – A novice researcher working on optimising clinical antimicrobial trials in children with bloodstream infections. Dr Wen’s work seeks to enhance the effectiveness of treatments for serious infections.


The legacy of Mary McConnel

The Mary McConnel Career Boost Program was established to honour Mary McConnel – a pioneering woman who inspired Queenslanders to elevate the care and treatment of sick children and young people.

In a time when women had limited rights, Mary founded Queensland’s first paediatric hospital in 1878, setting a powerful precedent for future generations.

“Our support of the Mary McConnel Career Boost Program ensures women in research have the right support framework to face the complexities of their family and work.”

– Lucy Henry-Hicks, DISSH CEO

A bright future ahead

Children’s Hospital Foundation is thrilled to partner with DISSH on a multi-year commitment to advance the careers of three female researchers each year for the next three years.

Since its launch on International Women’s Day in 2018, the program has awarded more than $735,000 in grants to 15 outstanding female researchers – covering diverse areas such as paediatric vascular access, cerebral palsy, medulloblastoma, scar management, palliative care, and infectious disease.

Through the Mary McConnel Career Boost Program, we can support the advancements of women in paediatric research but ensure a brighter, healthier future for our children.

To learn more about our support of ground breaking research, head here.

Image: Children’s Hospital Foundation CEO, Lyndsey Rice, Dr. Natacha Omer, DISSH Managing Director, Lucy Henry-Hicks, Dr. Anna Francis, Director of Philanthrophy & Government Relations, Nadine Moore, Caitlin McConnel, and Children’s Hospital Foundation Board Chair, Jane Black (L – R).