Christine Jenkins: International Women's Day 2019 Profile

Christine Jenkins is a thoracic physician with clinical and research interest in airways diseases, in particular how to improve treatments for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. She joined The George Institute for Global Health in 2012 following a 25-year career of designing and implementing clinical trials.

Christine was first attracted to her field by a mix of curiosity, respect for science and desire to find answers to common clinical questions.

“When I started medicine, I just wanted to be a doctor looking after people. I had no idea I would end up doing clinical research. Now I can’t imagine not doing it, the two seem to go hand-in-hand.”

“We must seek out and use evidence to help people do better, to tailor treatments to individuals but also to propose big picture solutions to big health issues.”

Christine draws constant inspiration to continue her work from both the colleagues and peers she works with, but also from the people who benefit most from the research.

“Patients give me a sense of purpose and are a driver for public advocacy, which has also been a significant part of my professional life.” 

Her future research agenda wish list focuses on the twin pillars of prevention and behaviour change, which she would like to see given much more prominence in the sector.

“As clinicians we have evidence about so many different interventions, but we have variable skills and too little evidence about what helps people to change their behaviour. This is key to helping prevent illness and achieving effective self-management when it does occur.”

Christine strongly encourages other women to consider a career in research.

“Research may have more ups and downs than many careers, however I’ve rarely ever had to ask if what I am doing is worthwhile, which many people in other professions do. I spend quite a bit of time on advisory boards where there are very few women, and I hope that changes.”

“I’d like women in medicine and science to be able to progress at just the same rate as their male counterparts, with an equal sharing of training, career opportunities and caring for family. That will be equal opportunity in my view. We can’t legislate for that, but I’d strongly encourage young men and women to seek partners who share that aspiration and are willing to commit to it.” 

In terms of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #Balanceforbetter, Christine says she considers ‘balance’ still a work in progress.

“One must balance so many different dimensions – work and life, friends and family, serious endeavours and fun, personal goals and a focus on others. The direction and purpose of research needs to be balanced also, between bench and bedside, local and global, targeted for individuals and yet broad brush to achieve better health for people around the world.”