Alumni in profile

Image of Martyn Kirk

Martyn Kirk
Bachelor of Applied Science (Chemistry and Aquatic Biology) 1988
Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education

As an Epidemiologist, graduate Martyn Kirk and his surveillance team are responsible for protecting the health of millions of Australians.

Based in Canberra, Mr Kirk is employed by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing as the Coordinating Epidemiologist of OzFoodNet - Australia's surveillance authority for foodborne diseases.

'In my job, I oversee a network of 18 epidemiologists working in State and Territory health departments,' he said.

'Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease, which in my case, is infections and intoxications that are spread by contaminated food.

'That means reviewing data on foodborne infections each day to see if there are outbreaks occurring across State and Territory borders. I also oversee applied research studies to determine the causes and burden of various foodborne infections, such as those caused by Salmonella ,' he explained.

Graduating from the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education (WIAE) in 1988 (prior to its merger with Deakin University three years later), Mr Kirk said he remembers his time spent down on the Victorian Western District coast fondly.

'I originally did the course at WIAE because it was one of only two universities in the country to offer aquatic science. I also wanted to be a beach bum and never have to move away from the beach. The lecturers told me that everyone who comes out of the course becomes an analytical chemist, but I didn't believe them!

'I have many great memories of my time at Warrnambool - especially the surf at Port Fairy Lighthouse and Peterborough at the Well. The lecturers were good too, particularly John Sherwood, Frank Stagnitti, Peter Kew, and Brad Mitchell.

'The course was great from an academic and life development point of view. I became a Christian while at university, which was a wonderful thing. I certainly needed God in my life! I also got a job as soon as I finished my course with the Victorian Health Department, Water Technology Unit, where I eventually became interested in the link between water and health and which eventually led me into epidemiology via the Australian Field Epidemiology Training Program.'

Mr Kirk said that he maintains a real passion for his field of work and that it has provided him with numerous career highlights.

'I love the fact that I am continually learning about new agents of disease or food vehicles, or even small things like how vast the globalised food supply is,' he said.

'I also enjoy the international interaction that I have in my work in infectious disease epidemiology. Foodborne disease outbreaks sometimes spread from country to country via internationally distributed food and require us to work with our international partners in other countries to solve the outbreak.

'I've been fortunate to have experienced various highs throughout my career so far including becoming a member of the World Health Organization's Foodborne Disease Epidemiology Reference Group in 2007; chairing a global Consultation on Foodborne Disease Burden at the World Health Organization's headquarters at Geneva in 2006; speaking at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, in 2004; and establishing the OzFoodNet network for Australia.'

Although it has been some years since he graduated, Mr Kirk said that he has managed to keep in contact with Deakin over the years.

'It has been a while since I was at WIAE, but I know that there are some great graduates coming out of Deakin nowadays, including my wife who studied at the Melbourne Campus at Burwood - and she is a great nurse! I would heartily recommend the University campus life and courses there,' he said.

As for the future, Mr Kirk said he plans to undertake a PhD, spend time with his family and work overseas with the World Health Organization.

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26th November 2009