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  
Dr Smith commenced as the inaugural Chief Executive of Australia's Population Health Research Network (PHRN) in April 2009. Prior to joining the PHRN, Dr Smith was a Director in the Western Australian Department of Health. She was in charge of the Department's Health Information Centre for more than 10 years and was responsible for establishing data linkage as a core Department of Health service during this period. She also participated in a number of significant nationally funded population health research projects. Dr Smith has served as Chair or Member of a number of Australia's peak national health information committees.


 Alexandra Wood - Manager, Contracts and Finance


Alexandra joined the Program Office in March 2017 leaving her role of Program Manager at the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) where she oversaw various federal funding initiatives.  Alexandra is a Chartered Accountant who completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne.  


Dr Felicity Flack - Manager, Policy and Client Services

Dr Flack joined the Program Office in July 2009. Prior to joining the PHRN, Dr Flack was the Manager, Research Governance and Ethics at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and the Executive Officer, Division of Clinical Sciences, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. She has a PhD in Microbiology and an ongoing interest in research ethics.


Dr Natalie Wray -  Coordinator, Policy and Client Services

Natalie joined the Program Office in 2012 (July) after working as a Research Officer with the Electoral Matters Committee at the Parliament of Victoria and as a qualitative health researcher at RMIT University, Monash University and the University of Melbourne. She has a PhD in Women's Health from the Key Centre for Women's Health (now known as the Centre for Women's Health, Gender and Society), a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Women's Health, located at the University of Melbourne. Natalie is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia. Her current research focuses on living kidney donation.


Ms Helen Pelusey -  Administrative Officer

Helen joined the Program Office in October 2015 as an Administrative Officer and is responsible for providing administrative, accounting and reporting support to the PHRN and Program Office. Helen has 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.  


A/Prof Judy Allen - Legal/Privacy Consultant

Judy is a consultant in health privacy and an Assistant Professor at the Law School of the University of Western Australia. She teaches torts and health law and her current research focuses on privacy and consent in health research. Judy has served as a member of the NHMRC HREC training subcommittee and the UWA HREC. She also sits on the board of the Mental Health Law Centre and the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Health Law and Ethics. She is a member of the Ethics Committee of the WA Genetics Council. In the past Judy has taught at the University of Melbourne and University of Auckland. She has also worked in the Department of Health WA providing policy advice on privacy.


Nicola Tew - Communications Officer


Nicola joined the Program Office in February 2017 as their Communications Officer and she is responsible for implementing the communications strategy for the PHRN. Nicola has a Bachelor of Science in Population, Resources and Technology from Murdoch University.   She has previously worked in similar roles for Woodside Energy Ltd and Aviva Ltd UK.






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PHRN is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and has taken steps to mitigate the risk of transmission to our staff. In line with advice on social distancing, all staff at PHRN program office have moved to work from home. Staff are currently all working in line with our usual work patterns and our landline numbers are being diverted to staff at home, so will either be answered, or it will be possible to leave a voicemail. Please bear with us as we move to this new way of working. We will be participating in any meetings we need to attend remotely via Zoom. We are reviewing our work plans in light of the current situation and will make changes as required to ensure we are serving our network, researchers and community in this changing situation.

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WA Department of Health is seeking to establish a contract for the provision of an expert resource which will provide consultation to the Department of Health and the Department of Jobs, Tourism and Industry on a joint initiative. The ‘Strategic Linkage Advisor’, will provide strategic linkage advice, research, analysis, stakeholder management and inter-governmental coordination on matters relating to data linkage.