Aussie woman at the forefront of Australia's coronavirus research

Kristine Tarbert
·Features and Health Editor
·5-min read

Megan Ford has spent the last two decades working in clinical trials and is now the Executive Director of Clinical Trials at The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research.

The 49-year-old started her career in medicine as a registered nurse, and alongside her incredible team, has headed up 17 clinical trials specifically related to Covid-19 in the last 12 months, while also being involved in 500 trials in across various other areas.

Megan Ford in a lab as the Executive Director of Clinical Trials at The Ingham Institute
Megan Ford is the Executive Director of Clinical Trials at The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research. Photo: Supplied/Ingham Institute

Megan fell in love with the field of clinical trials after predominantly working in medical oncology and haematology.

"I was fascinated by the science but also the research, and what benefit the research brought to the patients who had pretty grim outlooks back then," she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

She's worked for hospitals, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies, in roles that range from monitoring studies, project management, and then management and leadership positions.

"Now I'm in a leadership role, which is great because I do like to be involved in shaping the way that we do that research and what that looks like," she tells us.

On being a woman in the medical industry

Megan says she's had both positive and negative experiences being a woman in the medical industry, but overall she has seen plenty of progress.

"Overall, I've had pretty positive experiences. But I have been in situations where I felt like my voice was irrelevant, and unheard. And that's pretty confronting," she reveals.

"And I think when you're younger, you don't really know how to deal with that. But the older you get, the better you get to learn to adapt to those situations. And that really does come with experience."

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The mum to a 16-year-old daughter adds she's been very fortunate having worked with many strong women in leadership roles in the past, and had wonderful role models and mentors that have been both male and female.

"When I first started in my nursing career, women were nurses and men were doctors," she says.

"And you know, there still is that. There still is that where it's definitely more male dominated in some areas in medicine. But I really have seen a change in that. There are a lot more heads of departments and heads of research that are female.

"Our leadership team [at the Ingham Institute] is definitely more weighted to women."

megan ford at the Ingham Institute
Megan joined The Ingham Institue six months before Covid hit. Photo: Supplied/Ingham Institute

On getting more women doing medicine

When it comes to what advice she would give young women looking to get into medicine, Megan stresses the importance of not worrying about whether or not you think you have every skill needed already.

"This is something that I firmly believe in, and try and instil into my daughter, is to be the girl who just goes for it," Megan says.

"I think as women, we often think that you need to have all of the skills to perform, but you actually don't, and you'll learn what you need to along the way."

Check out more of our great International Women's Day 2021 coverage here

She also can't stress enough how much it can help to have a great mentor.

"If you find those good mentors, and role models, then that will be something that helps to guide you," she explains.

"I think if you find someone who inspires you, just in even in your day to day life, then you should try and take some time to get to know them, or what their journey's been.

"And if there's someone that you think would be a good mentor for you, then ask them to be your mentor. Because most people are very generous in their time."

On fighting the coronavirus pandemic

Megan joined The Ingham Institute just six months before the covid-19 pandemic hit and says the past 12 months have certainly been challenging.

Working in close partnership with the Southwestern Sydney Local Health District, Megan and her team ran a host of Covid clinical trials to help diagnose, treat, and collect data.

"One of the pieces at the core of everything we do is trying to find real life solutions for people and problems that impact the community," Megan explains, adding the speed that clinical trials were being proposed, initiated, and recruited for was like "nothing we've ever seen in the industry".

Two female scientists making medicine at a laboratory. Doctors working together at pharmacy lab wearing protective work wear.
Scientists working together at pharmacy lab wearing protective work wear. [stock image] Photo: Getty

"And working out how we could do that in a way that protected our patients and kept them safe, but also protected our staff, because that was really important as well. So that was pretty challenging."

Megan says despite the challenges of the pandemic, the past year has seen her team "do things that would have taken us years to do" and changed the way they run trials.

"I've worked with really inspiring and dedicated people and honestly the work that they do is just world class," she adds.

"They have adapted immensely and what we've dealt with and had to do, and it's not just about Covid, but what's been happening in medicine is really quite inspiring."

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