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.

 Ms 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.

Dr Carina Marshall -  Coordinator, Science and Partnerships

Carina joined the Program Office in March of 2021. She has a background in population genetics and population research. She has worked in the higher education sector, government, and scientific and medical research, and has moved into executive and governance roles in the research sector. She is a certified AICD Company Director graduate, Vincent Fairfax Fellow for Ethical Leadership and Professional Research Manager (ARMS). Carina has particular interests in data and digital solutions, STEM education and outreach, and diversity and equity.

Carina Marshall

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.

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 COVID-19 Offering

Our network remains open. The network is interoperable & can source expertise, technology & data from around the country. Our expert staff are highly qualified & experienced in linkage of patient data, including population-based administrative data as well as linkage of research cohort data.

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IMPACT STORY | Linked data in the fight against COVID-19. How Australia’s national data linkage research infrastructure helped the nation battle a once-in-a-lifetime public health emergency.