“… choose your battles, have confidence and stick with your vision and look after yourself, your colleagues and your younger staff at all times”
Professor Sharon Lewin is the inaugural Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital; Professor of Medicine, The University of Melbourne; consultant infectious diseases physician, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia; and an National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia Practitioner Fellow. She is an infectious diseases physician and basic scientist and was previously Director of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Alfred Hospital and Monash University (2003-2014) and co-head of the Centre for Biomedical Research, Burnet Institute (2011-2014).
Sharon leads a large multi-disciplinary research team that focuses on understanding why HIV persists on treatment and developing clinical trials aimed at ultimately finding a cure for HIV infection. Her other research and clinical interests include understanding how the immune system recovers following treatment of HIV and the interaction between HIV and other important co-infections including hepatitis B virus. She is widely recognized for her innovative work in understanding how HIV hides on treatment using novel laboratory models and leading several early phase clinical trials of cancer drugs that alter HIV genes.
Sharon was the local co-chair of the XXth International AIDS Conference (AIDS2014), the largest health conference ever held in Australia. She is a member of the Council of the NHMRC and chairs the NHMRC Health Translation Advisory Committee. Sharon was named the 2014 Melburnian of the Year.
What support structures did/do you have in place that have facilitated your success?
I have been extremely lucky in that I have always worked for and with some amazing people. Collaboration is key to a successful career in science and I would not be where I am today without working in a great and enabling institution, having the opportunity to continue my clinical practice, working in a team in the laboratory and national and international collaborators. My family is also a huge support for me.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in science?
I think women are naturally good enablers and collaborators, so I would tell them to use these attributes to their advantage. In addition, finding and maintaining a focus is extremely important, as is seeking a mentor for guidance.
What are you most proud of in your science career?
I was incredibly privileged to be the local Co-Chair of the 20th International AIDS Conference in 2014 along with one of my mentors and colleagues, Professor Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. The conference attracted 14,000 people, was the largest health conference ever held in Australia and I hope left a number of legacies for people living with HIV.
If you could give one piece of advice to the current government what would it be?
Increase the funding for medical research!
Do you have a mentor? What is the most important advice they have given you?
I have a few mentors – recent and long standing and from different professions. Not just clinicians or scientists. Some key words of advice have been to choose your battles, have confidence and stick with your vision and look after yourself, your colleagues and your younger staff at all times.
Follow Sharon on Twitter: @SharonLewinPDI