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Wagadagam woman's leadership in health research honored with prestigious award

Joseph Guenzler -

Renowned kidney researcher and clinician Professor Jaquelyne Hughes from Flinders University has received the Cranlana leadership award from the Lowitja Research Institute for her groundbreaking and life-saving work.

The proud Goemulgal ipeka (woman) belonging to the Wagadagam community on Mabuiag Island has committed her professional life to improving kidney health among Indigenous people.

The award was presented at the third International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing conference, a biennial event hosted by the Lowitja Institute, held on Gimuy-walubarra Yidi lands in Cairns.

These communities face a significantly higher risk of kidney disease, with five times greater likelihood of developing it and four times higher chance of mortality compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Professor Hughes' career has spanned two decades, championing a frontier in medicine that combines cultural and holistic knowledge with the clinical strengths of Indigenous medical professionals, marking a significant milestone in the field.

Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health Professor Jonathan Craig said the Cranlana award is a singular honour of which Professor Hughes is unreservedly deserving.

"Professor Hughes exemplifies research excellence and the power of innovation – of truly engaging with community, listening to their needs, responding to their priorities, and applying her clinical and research skills through a cultural lens to transform health care, how it's delivered, and how it's received," Professor Craig said.

"As a result of her efforts, many hundreds of lives have been saved and improved, and that will grow to many thousands as her methods take hold and extend across Australia.

"A core member of Flinders University's Rural and Remote Health team contributing to our long established and expanding health and medical research capabilities in the Northern Territory, Jaqui is the essence of an inspirational leader, and we are incredibly proud to see her talent acknowledged through this important award."

Professor Hughes said she was honoured to accept the award, which she dedicated to the community.

"The work I do is only possible with the support and leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – it is truly hand in hand that we are changing the health system for the better to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are receiving health care which addresses their whole being," she said.

"Through this way of working, we know that clinical care is more effective when it incorporates cultural considerations. Because of communities we also know that care is more clinically and culturally effective when delivered by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander professional.

"The opportunity created by the Cranlana Award delivers a wider international dimension to my research, enables deeper work with my own community in the Torres Strait, and further empowers advances that I may shape in driving overall health, cultural health and kidney health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research leadership and excellence, the Cranlana award includes a fully funded position in the Cranlana Programme's Executive Colloquium – an intensive six-day course designed to allow senior leaders to develop complex decision-making and leadership capabilities – and includes travel and accommodation.

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