Program Office

Program Office

Role of the Program Office

The PHRN Program Office, onsite at the University of Western Australia, leads national activities related to the development and operation of data linkage infrastructure. This includes policy development, client services, contracts and finance, and a privacy consultancy. The PHRN also support 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 is the inaugural Chief Executive of Australia’s Population Health Research Network and chairs the PHRN Participant Council. She is a past Director of the International Population Data Linkage Network (2019-2020) and current member of the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre Board.

Merran has an extensive background in science, health, and economics with strengths in strategic leadership and many years’ experience in Australia’s health and research infrastructure systems.  She is well versed in data management and oversaw 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 Australia’s peak national health information committees. 

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

Dr Felicity Flack - Senior Manager, Strategy and Services


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

Felicity has considerable national research data infrastructure, research ethics and governance experience, having worked in hospitals, research institutes and universities for more than 20 years.

Qualifications: BSc (Hons) PhD CF

 Ms Alexandra Wood - Manager, Contracts and Finance


Alexandra is currently on maternity leave.

Helen Pelusey -  Administrative Officer

Helen is responsible for all administrative functions including financial activities, event and travel organisation.  She provides executive support for senior staff, the Board, Participant Council and the NCRIS Health Group.

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

Qualifications: MA


Dr Kate Miller - Coordinator, Science and Partnerships


Kate is PHRN’s Coordinator for Science and Partnerships. She implements strategic projects and establishes relationships with our partners, industry collaborations and participants. She has extensive experience facilitating training and developed the online Data Linkage Researcher Training and the Ethics and Data Linkage training provided by the PHRN.

Previously, Kate worked at the Telethon Kids Institute as an epidemiologist with the Strep A Vaccine Global Consortium. In this role she led the development of standardised surveillance protocols to provide standardised case definitions for diseases caused by Strep A and guide researchers with the design and planning of clinical trials to measure vaccine efficacy and safety.

Kate undertook her PhD at the UWA using linked data to explore the relationship between ultraviolet radiation and type 1 diabetes.

Qualifications: BSc, MHP, PhD

Dr Erika Hagemann - Coordinator, Client Services


Erika facilitates and promotes access to multi- and cross-jurisdictional linked data for researchers. She works collaboratively with client services officers across Australia, and key external and internal stakeholders, to coordinate the application and approval process. She also manages the PHRN Online Application System (OAS) and is involved in strategic projects and activities which aim to improve and enable innovative data linkage infrastructure and research capacity.

Erika has over 20 years’ experience conducting research projects and considerable experience in ethics, governance, research establishment, and management within research institutes, hospitals, and universities. She has worked closely with a range of stakeholders including clinicians, community members, participants, researchers, students, service providers, data custodians, and representatives from government departments, organisations, and industry. Erika is driven to enable rigorous, impactful research that translates into better outcomes, policies, and practice which improves people’s health and wellbeing.

Qualifications: BAppSc (Hons), PhD

Mikhalina Dombrovskaya - Coordinator, Client Services


Together with Erika, Mikhalina advises researchers and coordinates the PHRN’s management of cross-jurisdictional research projects, including operation of the PHRN Online Application System. Maintaining positive relationships with our network of client service teams Australia-wide, she also promotes the PHRN's cross-jurisdictional linkage capabilities to researchers, guiding research teams through the application and approvals process.

Mikhalina previously worked in health and medical research, as well as government. She 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.

Qualifications: BBNSc (Hons), MPH 


Aggie Boukley - Manager, Contracts and Finance (maternity leave cover for Alexandra Wood)


Aggie manages the reporting, contractual and financial arrangements for PHRN and the Program Office.  She 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.

Aggie is also joint Operations Manager for The Raine Study, a longitudinal study based in WA where she has senior responsibility for all operational matters, including finance, human resources and corporate support. She also oversees all operational issues related to cohort follow-ups, data and biosample management, communications and participant engagement.  

Qualifications: BCom, CPA


Nikki Liley - Communications Officer


Nikki promotes the PHRN and related research undertaken, nationally and internationally. She produces content for social media, quarterly newsletters and the annual review and manages the website. She engages with PHRN stakeholders through NCRIS Health Communications and NCRIS Communications meetings and manages the logistics for webinars and other events.

Previously, Nikki provided freelance communications and worked for various government departments and health-related institutions including the Department of Health WA, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Qualifications: BA, GDipSoc, GDipJourn