Those of us who have worked with Karen know her to be a generous collaborator with an amazing passion for making the world a better place, both for those she works with and the families she helps with her work. Karen has had a long and distinguished career in nutrition promotion and public health. Commencing as a hospital-based dietitian, she has had varying roles in the health sector including as Deputy Chief Dietitian at the Austin Hospital in the early 1990’s. Her numerous public health roles have included leading the federally-funded Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP) in public health nutrition and working on the first Cochrane systematic review on childhood obesity prevention. She has also worked in media, appearing in a regular segment on Channel 9’s What’s Cooking show alongside one of Australia’s first celebrity chefs, Gabriel Gate. Always the innovator and advocate, Karen initiated the Food and Nutrition Special Interest Group within the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) that remains one of the most active and influential PHAA special interest groups. The final two decades of her career has been spent in academia, at Deakin University, teaching population nutrition and undertaking world-leading research in early childhood nutrition and obesity prevention. After completing her PhD in 2003, Karen was the recipient of research fellowships from NHMRC, Heart Foundation and VicHealth and numerous nationally and internationally competitive grants. She has published over 250 papers that have been cited more than 20,000 times and contributed to numerous policy documents. During her time at Deakin, she established and led the first free open online course on infant nutrition which continues to educate thousands of parents and health care providers annually.
Karen (together with Professor Kylie Hesketh) developed the INFANT program in 2008 to support families with their child’s nutrition and active play from soon after birth, across the first two years of life. Across her academic career, Karen grew INFANT into a scalable product which is now delivered across Victoria with support from the Victorian Department of Health, with more than 1000 facilitators in Australia and beyond trained to deliver the program. Karen will remain a champion of INFANT despite her retirement.
Karen was a founding member of EPOCH, with her INFANT trial one of the four trials around which the collaboration was initially built. Karen has played a major role in EPOCH, as a Chief Investigator on all stages of the collaboration and acting as Deputy Director from 2016 to 2018. Karen’s philosophy and practice of supporting and advocating for early and mid-career researchers aligns perfectly with the broader purpose of the EPOCH and EPOCH-Translate CREs to build capacity in the field and nurture the next generation of leaders. Karen has been an outstanding mentor to the EPOCH students, postdocs and broader team, championing them at every opportunity, as she has done with her own team. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Karen for her dedication to EPOCH and more broadly her dedication to health promotion and obesity prevention for young children. We wish her well in her future endeavours, continuing to advocate for the causes she is passionate about (hopefully at a slightly slower pace!) and taking more time for herself and her family.