Professor Susan Sawyer was appointed to the inaugural Chair of Adolescent Health at The University of Melbourne in 2005, the first chair of adolescent health in Australia which became endowed in 2015 as the Geoff and Helen Handbury Chair of Adolescent Health. She is Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital (2005-), a World Health Organisation collaborating centre in adolescent health (2015-). She was inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll in 2013 recognition of her contribution to adolescent health and medicine. In 2011, she was awarded the Victorian Premier’s Award for Excellence in Mental Health. She was the subject of a personal profile in The Lancet (2007),
Professor Sawyer’s medical training was at The University of Melbourne (1980-85), followed by specialist training in Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) (1987-92). She obtained sub-specialist training in Respiratory Paediatrics at the RCH (1991-93), followed by post-doctoral training at the Harvard School of Public Health and Children’s Hospital Boston, USA (1993-95).
She has raised substantial research funds (over $12 million in the past 5 years). She is widely published, with over 200 peer review publications, 30 book chapters and a recent textbook on adolescent health, together with various consumer orientated publications. She co-led the first (2007) and second (2012) series on Adolescent Health for the Lancet, and is a lead Commissioner for The Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, to be published in mid 2016.
Her major research interests focus on developing and evaluating models of health services for adolescents and young adults. Her early research interests focussed on young people with chronic illness; her doctoral studies explored how increasing survival in young people with cystic fibrosis alters the significance of health issues experienced in adolescent and young adult life. These interests led to her influencing clinical program models for adolescents and young adults with cancer, diabetes, congenital heart disease and spina bifida. She has a particular interest in clinical strategies that support young people’s emerging capacity for self-management, that ensure appropriate health risk assessment, timely transition to adult health care, adherence to treatment guidelines and engagement with mental health and palliative care services. Her recent influences have been around clinical practice models for young people with concurrent physical and mental health disorders, such as eating disorders, gender dysphoria, and high risk youth. She is especially interested in how clinical services can become better oriented to young people’s health needs. She is highly knowledgeable about the ethics of adolescent health research and has a keen interest in participatory research methods with young people.
Professor Sawyer has invested substantial energy into capacity building around adolescent health. A practicing adolescent physician, she has supervised large numbers of clinical trainees, multidisciplinary research trainees and doctoral students in adolescent health and medicine. She is recognised for her commitment to the development of innovative service models for adolescents with complex health challenges. She has been involved in various government, community and consumer committees to promote the health and wellbeing of adolescents including being the inaugural chairman of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Adolescent Health Committee (2003-2008) which established the framework for the establishment of a specialist training path for adolescent and young adult medicine in Australia. She chairs the Victorian Statewide Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Committee (2009-) and Diabetes Australia’s Youth Transition Committee (2010-).
She is highly active in global adolescent health. She led the development of a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Global Adolescent Health (Coursera/The University of Melbourne) in 2015. Professor Sawyer is an advisor to WHO (Chairman, Technical Steering Committee on Maternal, Newborn, Child & Adolescent Health [2011-] and member [2010-]). She has had various advisory roles with UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank, most notably in relation to health services for adolescents. She has advised the Singaporean and Malaysian governments on adolescent medicine which resulted in policy commitments and service developments in the region.
Internationally, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (2014-) and a past president of SAHMs’ International Chapter, which awarded her its International Chapter award in 2008. She chaired the Scientific Committee of the 9th International Adolescent Health Conference in Malaysia (2009) and is Vice-President (Oceania) of the International Association of Adolescent Health (2009-).