Plenary Speaker Biographies

Opening Plenary - Rational thinking about health care

Richard Smith

Richard Smith

Richard Smith is director of the United Health Chronic Disease Initiative, a programme with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that has created 11 centres in low and middle income countries that work to counter chronic disease (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and common cancers).

From 1979 to 2004 he worked at the BMJ and was the editor of the journal and chief executive of the BMJ Publishing Group from 1991 until he left. A member of the board of the Public Library of Science from 2004 to 2011, he continues to blog for the BMJ and to publish regularly. An adjunct professor at Imperial College Institute of Global Health Innovation and a visiting professor at Warwick Medical School, he is chair of Patients Know Best (a start up that is using information technology to enhance the clinician patient relationship), chair of the Oversight Committee of the Cochrane Library, and a member of the boards of the UK Research Integrity Office, C3 Collaborating for Health, the Klevis Kola Foundation, and Children’s HeartLink.

Having qualified in medicine in Edinburgh, Smith worked in hospitals in Scotland and New Zealand before joining the BMJ. He also worked for six years as a television doctor with the BBC and TV-AM and has a degree in management science from the Stanford Business School. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in 2000, and, coming from a family of comedians, he enjoys making porridge, soup, marmalade, and trouble.


Catherine Marshall

Catherine Marshall

Catherine Marshall is a New Zealand based guideline adviser and health consultant with a strong interest in guideline implementation and consumer participation in health care.

Catherine started her health career as a policy adviser in the NZ Department and then Ministry of Health. During her work there she specialised in consumer rights and ethics, including the design and set up of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act, The Code of Rights and the Commissioner’s Office.

In 2001 Catherine was appointed inaugural CEO of the New Zealand Guidelines Group. While at NZGG, she promoted closer ties between guideline developers, policy makers and consumers and was closely involved in the development of sixteen evidence based guidelines. Catherine was one of the people behind the decision to hold the first NZ Stronger Consumer Voices Summit which was the scene setter for the new Consumer Collaboration of Aotearoa.

While at NZGG, Catherine was actively involved in setting up the Guidelines International Network serving as a Board member for 9 years and she continues to be an active leader within G-I-N. She was appointed as Honorary Patron of G-I-N in 2004 and a Life Member of NZGG in 2006.

Since leaving NZGG, Catherine and her partner own a small rural property in Central Hawke’s Bay. She continues her guideline implementation projects in both New Zealand and Australia as well as providing advice and training around the world. She is also currently working on a project to promote better sooner more convenient health care services in her local rural township of Waipukurau.


Plenary 2 - Cochrane Editorial Unit

Julian Elliott

Julian ElliottDr Julian Elliott is Head of Clinical Research at the Monash University/Alfred Hospital Department of Infectious Diseases and HIV Clinical Advisor, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia. Dr Elliott’s research focuses on improving the currency and coverage of systematic review, through an approach termed ‘living systematic review’. This work has included development of novel software tools, mechanisms for inclusion of non-traditional authors and tailored platforms for end user engagement. He directs an active program of clinical HIV research, including a large cluster randomised controlled trial of cardiovascular risk reduction in people living with HIV. He was previously Technical Advisor in HIV treatment, care and research to the Cambodian Ministry of Health and has served as a technical consultant to WHO, UNAIDS and the World Bank.



Karla Soares Weiser

Karla Soares WeiserKarla obtained her medical degree in 1987 in Brazil, and then completed a residency in psychiatry. During 1992-1994 she completed a MA degree in psychiatric epidemiology, and between 1994 and 1997 completed her PhD in a programme supported jointly by the Universities of São Paulo (Brazil) and Oxford (England). During that period she worked intensively with the Cochrane Collaboration. Karla was also involved with the activities of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, and participated in a series of courses organised by the Centre on methodological design and analysis of randomised trials. In June 1997 Karla was awarded her Doctorate, with merit, and worked with the Brazilian Cochrane Centre (São Paulo, Brazil) and the Ibero-American Cochrane Centre (Barcelona, Spain), teaching and providing methodological support for reviewers. At the end of 1998 she moved to Israel. Karla has continued to work closely with the Cochrane Collaboration, specifically with the UK Cochrane Centre (Oxford), where she has been a Visiting Fellow since 2000. Karla also helped to organize the 15th Cochrane Colloquium, which took place in São Paulo in October 2007. Over the years, Karla has accumulated broad, hands-on experience relevant to the preparation of systematic reviews, she is an author in 9 Cochrane Review Groups and has published 23 Cochrane reviews. More recently, she has started a small company ( that undertakes research work in evidence-based health care.


David Tovey

David Tovey

David has been the Editor in Chief of The Cochrane Library since January 2009. He worked previously as Editorial Director for the BMJ Evidence Centre, which is the division of the BMJ Group that produces Clinical Evidence and its counterpart for the public BestTreatments, BMJ Point of Care, and Best Practice.

At the BMJ, David was initially Deputy Editor of Clinical Evidence under Fiona Godlee, moving to the Editor role when she became Editor of the BMJ.

David worked as a General Practitioner in an urban practice in South London for 15 years until 2003. During that time he also undertook roles in continuing professional development for primary care professionals, and was a clinical governance lead for a Primary Care Group.


Harriet MacLehose

Harriet MacLehoseHarriet is a Senior Editor in the Cochrane Editorial Unit, which supports Cochrane Review Groups and other entities to ensure that The Cochrane Library continues to meet the varied needs of users, and appropriately reflects the commitment of Cochrane Review Group teams and authors. Harriet was previously Assistant Editor, and later Deputy Co-ordinating Editor, for the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine for eight years and a Journals Editor for Wiley-Blackwell. Harriet has a PhD in microbiology from the University of Manchester and a MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.       




Peter Tugwell

Peter TugwellDr. Peter Tugwell is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology & Community Medicine at the University of Ottawa and is a practicing rheumatologist at the Ottawa Hospital. In 2001, he became Director for the Centre for Global Health at the Institute of Population Health. He has built a research program and multidisciplinary team around his Canada Research Chair in Health Equity.

Dr. Tugwell is co-director of a WHO Collaborating Centre for Knowledge Translation & Health Technology Assessment in Equity.  Dr. Tugwell is Coordinating Editor of the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group and is Founding Co-convenor of the Campbell & Cochrane Health Equity Methods Group and serves on the Steering Committee of the Campbell Collaboration. In 2002 he was appointed the North American Editor for the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, and he is also a Section Editor for UpToDate.

Dr. Tugwell's publication record includes over 500 journal articles, monographs, and book chapters.


Plenary 3 - Beyond healthcare decisions: systematic reviews as a tool for informing future research and research methodology

Julian Higgins

Julian Higgins

Julian Higgins is a Senior Statistician at the UK Medical Research Council's Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge and Professor of Evidence Synthesis at the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York. He is currently Methods Groups representative on the Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group and Co-convenor of the Cochrane Methods Board and Methods Executive. His broad range of interests in the field of meta-analysis include investigating heterogeneity, handling missing data, individual participant data, Bayesian approaches and network meta-analysis. His systematic review methods interests include question formulation, assessing risk of bias, data collection and interpretation. Julian is co-editor of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, and co-author of the Wiley-Blackwell text bookIntroduction to Meta-analysis. He was a founding trustee and is past president of the Society for Research Synthesis Methodology, and is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology and of Research Synthesis Methods.


Professor Thomas Lumley

Thomas LumleyThomas Lumley is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland, and was previously Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Washington, Seattle. His research interests include clinical trials, meta-analysis, genomics, semiparametric statistics, and statistical computing. His 2002 paper on network meta-analysis introduced the term and some of the fundamental techniques. 





Georgia Salanti

Georgia SalantiGeorgia Salanti is Assistant Professor at the University of Ioannina Medical School, Greece. After obtaining her PhD in applied statistics from the University of Munich in Germany she worked as Research Associate at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, UK. Georgia is a Co-convenor of the Cochrane Statistical Methods Group, the Comparing multiple Interventions Methods Group and the RevMan software Advisory Committee. She has organised and taught in more than 30 courses on Statistical Methods for Cochrane Reviews worldwide. Georgia's research interests are on statistical methods for meta-analysis, with focus on the issues of bias in network meta-analysis.




Plenary 4 - It’s about connections

Professor Bruce Arroll

Bruce Arroll

Bruce Arroll is a Professor in the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care at the University of Auckland. He is a graduate from the University of Auckland and spent a year at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario 1981-2. Having attended the meeting that established the Australasian Cochrane Centre he has been involved in three Cochrane reviews.  He is part of the Cochrane Primary Care Field (Shared with Auckland, Nijmegen and Dublin) which developed the PEARLs (Practical  evidence about real life situations) which are minimalistic summaries of Cochrane reviews aimed at primary care clinicians. They include the “answer” in the title and a take home message and are written in less than 200 words. They go to over 2000 primary care clinicians every two weeks. The field also develops clinical prediction rules and has a diet and nutrition sub-field. To sign up for the PEARLS go to

Bruce spends 3 half days per week in clinical practice working at Greenstone Family Clinic in Manurewa in South Auckland.  


Catherine McIlwain

Catherine McIlwain

Catherine McIlwain spent ten years working on patient communications as a research analyst developing behaviour change campaigns. Catherine’s training includes a Masters Degree in Public Health and Bachelors Degree in Sociology focusing on consumer engagement in developing contexts. First as a field officer in Tanzania and later as a health advocate for non-English speaking Hispanic migrants, her work merges theories of social change with the practical application of patient-centred care through participatory processes. More recently, Catherine worked as a Senior Advisor for The Campbell Collaboration and is now working with the Cochrane Consumer Network and Cochrane review groups to integrate consumer participation into the review process. 



Dr Ashley Bloomfield

Ashley Bloomfield

Dr Ashley Bloomfield is Acting Deputy Director-General Sector Capability and Implementation at the Ministry of Health, which includes accountability for work on integration, primary care, and a range of population and personal health programmes.  Previous roles in the Ministry include Chief Advisor Public Health and Public Health Leader in the National Screening Unit. He is a graduate of Auckland School of Medicine with specialist qualifications in public health medicine. During 2011, he spent a year at the World Health Organization as an advisor on non-communicable disease prevention and control.




Dr Norman Swan

Norman SwanHost of the Health Report, on ABC Radio National, and Tonicon ABC Television (News24), Dr Norman Swan was born in Scotland, graduated in medicine from the University of Aberdeen and later obtained his postgraduate qualifications in Paediatrics.

Norman has been Australian Radio Producer of the Year, received a Gold Citation in the United Nations Media Peace Prizes, has won three Walkley National Awards for Australian journalism, including the prestigious Gold, and Australia's top prize for Science Journalism, the Michael Daly Award, twice.

In 2004 he was awarded the Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, an honour that had only been given three times and the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow made him a Fellow. In 2006 he was given a Doctorate of Medicine Hon Causa by the University of Sydney during its medical school’s 150th anniversary.

Norman was co host of the social affairs programme,Life Matterson ABC Radio National for five years and is a guest host on Late Night Live and Radio National’s news and current affairs Breakfast programme. He also edits his own newsletter, The Choice Health Reader, which is published in partnership with CHOICE.

On television Dr Swan hostsTonicon ABC News24, and hosted the predecessor of Catalyst,Quantum. He has been a guest reporter on both Catalyst and Four Corners. He hosted Health Dimensions on ABC Television, and created, wrote and narrated a four part series on disease and civilisation,“Invisible Enemies”, made for Channel 4(UK) and SBS Television. This has been shown in twenty seven countries. He co-wrote and narrated “The Opposite Sex”, a four part series for ABC Television and for the past three years has been medical host of The Biggest Loser on Channel 10.

Norman Swan has been the Australian correspondent for the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal and consults for the World Health Organisation in Geneva. In late 2008 Norman co-chaired a global meeting of Health Ministers in West Africa which pursued the goal of making health policy evidence-based. He has been a Board member of The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for three years.


Closing Plenary - Better global health

Professor Mike Ardagh

Mike Ardagh

Mike Ardagh is a Fellow of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and has a PhD in Bioethics. He is Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Otago,Christchurch, and Specialist in Emergency Medicine at Christchurch Hospital. He is National Clinical Director of Emergency Department Services (a position also known as ‘Target Champion’), to assist with implementation of the ‘Shorter Stays in the Emergency Department’ health target. He is Chair of the Rhise Group (Researching the health implications of seismic events) which was formed to encourage collaborative research regarding the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.




Steffan Crausaz

Steffan Crausaz

Steffan Crausaz was appointed Acting Chief Executive in August 2011 for PHARMAC. Before taking up the position Steffan was manager of Funding and Procurement, leading PHARMAC’s negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. Prior to joining PHARMAC in 2003, Steffan trained as a pharmacist in the UK. A graduate of Cardiff University, he also worked in the pharmaceutical industry (branded and generic) while undertaking his Masters in pharmacoeconomics and pharmaceutical policy. Steffan lives in Wellington with his wife and three young children.





Professor Rod Jackson

Rod Jackson

Rod Jackson is a Professor of epidemiology at the School of Population Health, University of Auckland. He is medically trained and has a PhD in Epidemiology. Rod teaches both public health and clinical epidemiology to undergraduate and postgraduate students and health professionals. He has led the development of the ‘Graphic Approach To Epidemiology’ (GATE) which he and his colleagues use as the basis for courses in epidemiology and in evidence-based practice / critical appraisal ( His main research interest is the epidemiology of cardiovascular diseases. He is one of the architects of New Zealand risk-based clinical guidelines for managing CVD risk. His current research is based on PREDICT - a web-based decision support system being used to help primary and secondary care practitioners systematically manage CVD and diabetes risk at the 'moment of care'. PREDICT simultaneously generates a CVD research cohort that currently includes over 200,000 people and is growing at 1-2,000 per month.



Professor Jonathan Craig

Jonathan Craig

Professor Jonathan Craig is a Paediatric Nephrologist at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and holds a personal Chair in Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney. He has a passionate belief in the need for evidence-informed healthcare policy, practice and research prioritisation. His major research interests are focussed on improving the evidence-base underpinning the prevention and treatment of kidney disease in children and adults, and child health more generally. He has published about 300 papers and is currently on the editorial board for the American Journal of Kidney Disease, and Nephrology. He has recently co-edited the textbook ‘Evidence Based Nephrology’ and is the evidence-based medicine section for the ‘Oxford Textbook of Nephrology’. He is on the Board of Kidney Health Australia. Jonathan is the Coordinating Editor of the Cochrane Renal Group and is the current Co-Chair of the Cochrane Collaboration. He recently received the TJ Neill award for outstanding contribution to science in nephrology in Australia and New Zealand and the International Distinguished Medal of the National Kidney Foundation of the US.