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Saving sight. Changing lives.

CERA Profile – Dr Cathy McCarty

Then: Honorary Principal Fellow (1993 to 2001)

Now: Principal Research Fellow at Essentia Institute of Rural Health

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo


1. Tell us about your current position.

I am a Principal Research Scientist at Essentia Health, a large integrated health care provider operating in primarily rural areas in five US states.

2. What do you enjoy most about your current job?

I love the variety. I am regularly asked to consult in clinical areas where I have little or no previous research experience so I am always learning.

3. How different is the work you are doing today compared to that you were doing at CERA?

While at CERA, most of my research was focussed on discovery. I have moved more recently into translational research – trying to implement research discoveries in health care systems.

4. How has your time at CERA impacted on your career and what you’re working on today?

My position at CERA was my first job out of graduate school with a PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics. I had no research experience in ophthalmic epidemiology prior to joining CERA. Ophthalmic Epidemiology will be a major component of my research portfolio until I retire because of my time at CERA. I am currently conducting a pilot study of genomic medicine in people with a family history of AMD.

5. What work were you doing at CERA?

I was the Head of the Epidemiology Research Unit and the Principal Investigator for Visual Impairment Project.

6. Do you have any memorable anecdotes you might be happy to share?

There are so many! Here are a few.

Does anyone remember the collection of snow globes that grew every time some travelled to someplace new and brought one back for display in the lunch room?

I still have an image of Hugh Taylor driving the moving van to transport equipment and supplies back to CERA from one of the VIP field sites. He was never afraid to dive in and get his hands dirty when we were doing field work.

Do people remember Hector Maclean and his chocolates? My son had his first taste of chocolate after Hector administered a flu vaccine to him and gave him a packet of Smarties.
I remember Yury Stanislavsky telling every woman that they had the most beautiful eyes that he had ever seen when he conducted the ophthalmic exams for the VIP. What a smooth talker!

So many people helped me not to embarrass myself trying to understand Australian slang and language usage. Who knew that something so simple as a “pot plant” could be so misinterpreted?! In the US, a pot plant is a very specific type of a plant – a marijuana plant! Jill Keeffe set me straight on that one.

7. What advice would you give a young researcher starting at CERA?

Think broadly. Be open to the many opportunities available to you at CERA. Do your best and have fun!

8. You have an hour to spend in a bookstore. What section do you make a beeline to?

My first two choices for reading genres are non-fiction and poetry. If I have an upcoming trip, I will go to the travel section and peruse guide books for the area that I will be visiting. When I am travelling, I love to visit the local section of a bookstore to check out local authors and information about the area.

9. How would your [parent; spouse; child] describe you in seven words or less?

My Father described me recently to a dinner guest as “brilliant and independent”. I think the second adjective was a direct result of my moving half-way around the world to join CERA!

My 14-year old son, who was born in Australia, describes me as “optimistic, fun and awesome”. I hope that he still describes me that way at the end of his teen years!