The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


28 May 2024

Meet the Doherty Institute’s inaugural Community Advisory Board 

The Doherty Institute has established a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to support the work of the Institute as a representative voice for people who have been affected by or at increased risk of infectious diseases to help shape medical research.

Comprising of six members, the CAB includes people impacted by a range of infectious diseases as well as immune-related disorders and illnesses where immunotherapy is crucial, such as cancer.

The University of Melbourne’s Professor Sharon Lewin, Director of the Doherty Institute, said the Community Advisory Board will provide a community perspective on research concepts and protocols, and help promote the Institute’s research in the community.

“The members’ contribution will improve how we engage with the wider community, helping to translate research findings into clinical practice, design joint community initiatives and identify research gaps,” said Professor Lewin.

“The team’s diverse experiences and perspectives are invaluable as we strive to address the needs of all communities affected by infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system. I am confident that, together, we can drive meaningful progress and make a significant impact on health.”

The six CAB members were recruited through an open call aimed at achieving diverse community representation. This included, but was not limited to, considerations of gender, age and ethnicity.

The members come from diverse backgrounds, bringing a range of experiences and perspectives including from First Nations communities, culturally and linguistically diverse groups, lived experience of infection and illness, and having cared for someone with an illness.

They are joined by the University of Melbourne’s Dr Miranda Smith, an academic specialist at the Doherty Institute, who is an expert In pandemic preparedness and has had extensive experience in working with community advisory boards.

“I am really excited about this opportunity. By pooling diverse knowledge, skills, and perspectives, we will create a powerful synergy to drive innovation and develop scientific solutions that benefit the community and make our research more meaningful” said Dr Smith.

Community Advisory Board Members

Cindy Ferguson (Co-Chair)

Cindy has a professional background in management and organisational governance. Since a breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, Cindy has been actively engaged in a range of medical and health research areas as a consumer/community representative. She is also a non-Executive Director of Dhelkaya Health, which provides hospital, aged care and community health services in regional Victoria. She hopes that her perspective of 'governance through a community lens' will serve to enhance the achievements of the Doherty Institute.

Jane Little

Following a diagnosis of viral hepatitis in 2010, Jane began public speaking to raise awareness and advocacy for treatment within the community. Jane sits on the Lived Experience Advisory Committee (the ‘LEAC’) for LiverWELL, who champion the interests of people affected by or at risk of viral hepatitis and liver disease, and continues to be an active public speaker. Jane says: “With the use of a direct-acting antiviral, I was fortunate to clear the virus in 2016. My lived experience, and this work, have led me to be a passionate advocate for community engagement. I am absolutely thrilled to be bringing this passion to the CAB, supporting the important work of the Doherty Institute.”

Joanne Khan

Joanne is a Nyoongar woman from Western Australia with extensive experience as a community and health advocate. Her expertise stems from her experience living with mental health, chronic disease and a neurological disease, as well as homelessness. Joanne has worked with government departments, non-profit organisations and health providers in consultation, co-design, policy and procedure reviews, and Nyoongar community representation.

Mohamed Mohideen

Mohamed is a microbiologist with a passion for health equity and the development of resilient and sustainable public health systems that serve priority communities. He supported the Victorian Department of Health COVID Vaccine Program as Head of Priority Communities and Engagement. Mohamed is interested in multifaith and multicultural communities and working with community to foster mental health, refugee rights and interaction between multicultural and Indigenous communities. Mohamed is Deputy Chair of the Faith Communities Council of Victoria and a Commissioner with the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Peter Button

Peter worked as a Director in local government across four states and has extensive knowledge of the Australian healthcare system at local, regional, state and national levels. He has been a clinical trial participant and has contributed to multiple projects as a consumer advocate in mental health, chronic disease, COVID-19, digital health and infection control. Peter brings strong connections to broader consumer and community networks. He looks forward to sharing insights, learning more about the Institute’s work and promoting it in the community, as well as providing community insights into the Institute’s work.

Ricki Spencer

Ricki is a transgender woman with lived experience of disability and 25 years of professional experience in social work and education. She is currently completing a PhD on transgender health and wellbeing for high school students. She holds key roles with health and wellbeing organisations including the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, Safer Care Victoria, Inclusive Rainbow Voices and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Living with long COVID and compromised immunity, she is passionate to contribute her insights to address the needs of people in a similar situation. Ricki looks forward to working with the other CAB members to co-design strategies aimed at improving the wellbeing of all people impacted by or at risk of infectious diseases, immune-related disorders and immunotherapy.