Churchill Fellowship Scholarship Recipient

What has been your journey since leaving Santa Maria College?

I really enjoyed my time at Santa Maria and am still very close with my friends from school. I graduated in 1999 and went to UWA to study for a Bachelor of Health Science and a Bachelor of Commerce. I became passionate about the role of public health in preventing disease and went on to do my PhD in epidemiology.   

What has been a highlight along the way?

After completing my PhD, I took a year off to travel with my partner (now husband!). When I returned to Perth I took a job at the Department of Health. Over the past ten years, I have worked on a number of interesting projects across the health system and have had the opportunity to travel to some of the most remote locations in WA as well as present at national and international conferences.

What led to your interest in health and its impact on the climate? 

In early 2019 the Minister for Health announced an Inquiry into climate change and health. As well as investigating the impacts of a changing climate on the health of Western Australians, the Inquiry was also asked how the health system can do more to reduce its own environmental impact.

I was appointed to the Inquiry team as the Project Director. The Inquiry was the first statutory inquiry anywhere in the world to explore this topic and it was an incredible experience to be involved in such a ground-breaking project.

Why did you apply for a Churchill Fellowship?

I was inspired to learn more about what other countries are doing in sustainable healthcare and decided to apply for a Churchill Fellowship to meet experts in health sustainability from around the world and study their success.

What does your project entail?

My Fellowship will explore how health systems can reduce their environmental footprint. In Australia, it is estimated that the health sector contributes around 7% of all national greenhouse gas emissions.  Hospitals are particularly resource-intensive as they operate continuously and need to meet high standards of hygiene to protect patients. As a result, they use a lot of energy and water and generate substantial quantities of waste, including plastics and single-use items.

I will be visiting hospitals and health organisations in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland to understand how they integrate environmental sustainability across their health systems.

I want to come back with examples of practical actions to help health services reduce their emissions and waste as well as ideas of how we can build sustainability into our standard models of healthcare.

What have you been working on whilst waiting to travel for your project?

With the current travel restrictions and global health and safety concerns, the Churchill Trust has given me extra time to undertake my project.

While I wait to travel, I am using this time as an opportunity to continue my work by establishing and building international relationships virtually and connecting and networking with other Fellows across Australia.

Sarah Joyce (1999)

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