Meet the Researcher - Dr Michelle Kilpatrick

Friday, 5 March 2021 - 12:22pm

Dr Michelle Kilpatrick’s path to research has not been a traditional one. She started out her professional life as a French horn player in the opera and ballet orchestra in Melbourne. While there, she studied psychology by correspondence, curious about ‘what makes people tick’.

This interest grew into a desire to better understand important public health challenges and how people can be supported to make the most of their health and wellbeing.

Fast forward a few years and a PhD in Medical Science followed, while juggling her role as a mum, raising two small children in Tasmania. It is no surprise then that Michelle is relishing her other role, leading the RHH HIPPP (Health in Preconception, Pregnancy and Post-Birth) project which was the recipient of the Foundation’s Major Project Grant funding in 2019, funding a three-year study that will contribute to the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians for years to come.

Michelle and her co-investigators have been working closely with pregnant women and the RHH clinicians who care for these women throughout their pregnancies, aiming to understand how to best support women in making lifestyle changes to improve their health.

Michelle said it is important to empower women to improve their nutrition, be active and gain a healthy amount of pregnancy weight.

“Making choices like quitting smoking can have significant and long-lasting benefits for the mums as well as their babies and it is important that research continues.”

Michelle knows first-hand the challenges that women and families can face.

“My mum was a busy single parent, who put herself through university while on the pension. Despite not having much money or time, she cared about good nutrition and came up with cheap, creative, and tasty ways to prepare healthy food for me. I pass on that knowledge to my own two teenagers and I see every day the generational impact on our own health and wellbeing.”

The research team are currently busy developing exciting new resources for women and clinicians that the project has revealed are required by women and staff. The team will be launching the resources and training throughout the year and evaluating their usefulness and impact.

“Our RHH antenatal staff do such a wonderful job. If anything, we want to make their jobs easier in supporting women around challenges in lifestyle and health.”

Michelle’s own mum sadly passed away last year of a smoking-related illness, and she said her preventable death motivates her every day to make the most of the opportunity provided by the Grant to make a difference in the lives of Tasmanian women and their families.

“Even one sustained change in a health behaviour can make a lasting difference."

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