08 October 2021

A UniSA researcher who “just scraped through high school” was last night named Australia’s emerging leader in science for her commitment to lung health and a vision for a smoke-free country.

Associate Professor Kristin Carson-Chahhoud has won the 2021 Australian Museum AstraZeneca Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science.

Considered the ‘Oscars’ of Australian science, the awards carry a total of $160,000 in cash and celebrate excellence across 16 fields, including research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.

Assoc Prof Carson-Chahhoud has established national standards for Quitline counselling, using the same innovative augmented reality technology behind Pokémon Go to effectively communicate health messages, replacing complex, paper-based information.

“Cigarette smoking is the only legal drug that kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer,” Assoc Prof Carson-Chahhoud says.

“My research proves that taking just five minutes to connect a patient with Quitline from their bedside improves quality of life, significantly reduces health care costs and helps them quit for good. It’s time we ended tobacco’s big hold on Australia.”

In a world-first study published in 2020, Assoc Prof Carson-Chahhoud found that smokers were six times more likely to quit the habit by using Quitline counselling in combination with the medication varenicline tartrate.

The acclaimed scientist is the first in her family to earn a university degree and was one of the youngest to attain Associate Professor status in Australia at the age of 32.

“I was two points shy of failing year 12 and did no science subjects at high school, but persistence and hard work has paid off.”

Assoc Prof Carson-Chahhoud gained university entry through the TAFE system and received a PhD in Medicine from the University of Adelaide before completing a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon. Both qualifications were obtained while she was working full time at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

She is currently an NHMRC Fellow at UniSA and Lead of the Translational Medicine and Technology Research Group within the Australian Centre for Precision Health.

“Being recognised through the Eureka awards is a huge honour,” she says.

“I feel so very privileged to be standing alongside giants of science and budding junior scientists and it was fantastic to see all three leadership awards taken out by female scientists.

“My hope is that these awards will help raise awareness about the huge issues facing our scientific and research workforce who are at risk of extinction following $1 billion in budget cuts earlier this year.

“For early and mid-career scientists, who are the next generation of our nation’s workforce, financial support to establish ourselves as the next generation of leaders is near impossible. We have the passion, know-how and desperate need for the work to be done, but not the financial backing for anything meaningful to actually take place.”

Full details of the awards are available at: https://australian.museum/get-involved/eureka-prizes/2021-eureka-prizes-winners/


Notes for editors

Assoc Prof Carson-Chahhoud is an NHMRC Fellow and Lead of the Translational Medicine and Technology Research Group within the Australian Centre for Precision Health. Her broad research interests include translational health research, evidence-based medicine, respiratory health, tobacco avoidance, Aboriginal health, public policy, hospital avoidance, and application of novel technologies such as augmented reality, holographic technology, and virtual reality to improve health outcomes. She is recognised by ExpertScape as being within the top 1% of experts worldwide for 'smoking', she has an H-Index of 28 and her research has been cited in other publications on over 3,500 occasions. 



Lead researcher: Assoc Prof Kristin Carson-Chahhoud M: 0412 708 879 E: kristin.carson-chahhoud@unisa.edu.au

Media contact: Candy Gibson M: +61 434 605 142 E: candy.gibson@unisa.edu.au

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