Program Office

Program Office

Role of the Program Office

The PHRN Program Office is located at the University of Western Australia. The Program Office plays a central role in leading and coordinating the development of the new data linkage infrastructure and is also responsible for overseeing the administration of national projects. The various arms of the Program Office include policy development, client services, contracts and finance and a privacy consultancy. The Program Office also supports and encourages training and education opportunities for technical data linkers, researchers, data custodians and Human Research Ethics Committee members.

PHRN Program Office

Dr Merran Smith - Chief Executive


Merran has an extensive background in science, health and economics with strengths in strategic leadership and management.  She is well versed in data management and was in charge of the WA Department of Health’s Health Information Centre for more than 10 years.  While with the Department, she established data linkage as a core service and served on a number of Australia’s peak national health information committees.  Merran has been the inaugural Chief Executive of Australia’s Population Health Research Network since 2009. She chairs the PHRN Participant Council and is the Chair or a member of a number of other national groups.

Qualifications: Postgrad Dip (Bus), BSc, BA, MSc, PhD

 Ms Alexandra Wood - Manager, Contracts and Finance


Alexandra has a background in dealing with federal funding initiatives following her senior roles in not-for-profit organisations. She is a Chartered Accountant and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne.

Alexandra is responsible for managing the reporting, contractual and financial arrangements for PHRN and the PHRN Program Office.  She ensures ensures obligations under Head Agreement with the Commonwealth are met and provides support to the Chief Executive and PHRN Board to facilitate the implementation of the PHRN strategic plan and national investment in data linkage infrastructure.

Qualifications: BCom, GradDipCA, CA ANZ and CPA Australia


Dr Felicity Flack - Manager, Policy and Client Services

Felicity has over 20 years’ experience in national research data infrastructure and research ethics and governance working in hospitals, research institutes and universities.

Felicity provides strategic support to the Chief Executive and Board, develops national policies and coordinates the national strategic planning process. In addition, she is responsible for negotiating strategic partnerships with external collaborators that share common goals and manages communications for the national network.

Qualifications: BSc (Hons) PhD CF

Ms Helen Pelusey -  Administrative Officer

Helen has over 20 years’ experience in office administration.   She holds a Masters in Interpreting and Translating (French and German) from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. She has extensive experience as a senior administration officer in a research environment.

Helen is responsible for all administrative functions including financial activities and event/travel organisation.  She provides executive support for senior staff, the Board and Participant Council including management of PHRN correspondence and preparation of meeting agendas and minutes.

Qualifications: MA


Dr Kate Miller - Coordinator, Science and Partnerships


Kate joined the Population Health Research Network Program Office in September 2022 as the Coordinator for Science and Partnerships. Her role is to develop and implement PHRN strategic projects and activities and establish relationships with PHRN partners, industry collaborations and participants. She joins the PHRN from the Telethon Kids Institute where she worked as an infectious disease epidemiologist for the Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium. Kate led the development of standardized surveillance protocols designed to provide consensus case definitions for diseases caused by Strep A and guide researchers with the design and planning of clinical trials measuring vaccine efficacy and safety. Kate conducted her PhD at the UWA using linked data to explore the relationship between ultraviolet radiation and immune related disease. She also has extensive experience in developing and facilitating training, which includes the development of the Ethics and Data Linkage training provided by the PHRN.

Qualifications: BSc, MHP, PhD


Dr Erika Hagemann - Coordinator - Client Services


Erika has over 20 years’ experience in undertaking, supporting, and managing research projects that aim to improve the health, development and wellbeing of children and families. In her most recent roles, she developed access, approval, and implementation governance for the provision of data to researchers. Erika has considerable experience in ethics, governance, research establishment and management within research institutes, hospitals, and universities. She has always worked closely and developed strong relationships with a range of stakeholders that have included clinicians, community members, researchers, students, service providers, data custodians, and representatives from government departments, organisations and agencies.

In this role Erika coordinates the development and operation of PHRN projects and activities. She facilitates and promotes access to cross-jurisdictional linked data for researchers.

Qualifications: BAppSc (Hons), PhD

Mr Huw Willshire - Coordinator - Client Services


Huw has previous experience working in contract management in the private sector and also more recently in state government, in the areas of public housing and data linkage respectively.  Huw currently holds a secondary role with the Centre for Victoria Data Linkage’s (CVDL) technical team, where he is responsible for the curation of relational databases and virtual environments utilised for research and policy development. During his tenure with the CVDL, Huw has helped to build and maintain strong relationships with key stakeholders and has been pivotal in the management of over 100 state and national data linkage projects to date. He has a thorough understanding of jurisdictional health and information privacy legislation as well as the National Health and Medical Research Council's ethical guidelines regarding data linkage research.

Together with Erika, Huw provides advice to researchers and coordinates the PHRN’s national approach to the management of cross-jurisdictional research projects, including the operation of the PHRN Online Application System (OAS). Huw is fundamental in maintaining constructive relationships across our network of client service teams around the country, users of the OAS and researchers applying for cross-jurisdictional linked data.

Qualifications: BBehavSc(Psych), CertProjMgt, CertMgt (Government)


Ms Mikhalina Dombrovskaya - Coordinator - Client Services


Mikhalina has previously worked in health and medical research, and more recently in government, and has a keen interest in population health. In her role with the WA Department of Health, she helped clients navigate the complex pathways to gain access to linked administrative data for research purposes.

Together with Erika, Mikhalina provides advice to researchers and coordinates the PHRN’s national approach to the management of cross-jurisdictional research projects, which includes the operation of the PHRN Online Application System (OAS). Mikhalina is also responsible for promoting the PHRN's cross-jurisdictional linkage capabilities to researchers and she is available to speak with research teams who want to learn more about the application and approvals process. Mikhalina plays a key role in maintaining positive relationships with our network of client service teams around the country, users of the OAS and researchers applying for cross-jurisdictional linked data.

Qualifications: BBNSc (Hons), MPH