The Kirby Institute’s Dr Lucia Romani is among five scientists who have been named L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellows for 2023. The Fellowships recognise the achievements of exceptional women in the early-to-mid stages of their careers and include funding to support their research.
Dr Romani will use her award to further her research investigating the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the impact they have on perinatal birth outcomes in Fiji. Dr Romani’s research explores novel public health interventions to reduce the impact of STIs on pregnant women, including expanded community-wide treatment with azithromycin, a commonly used and well-tolerated antibiotic. Her clinical trial will also monitor antimicrobial resistance to STIs, including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes gonorrhoea infection.
Gonorrhoea can cause serious birth complications, including preterm labour, miscarriage, and stillbirth, but can be treated with antibiotics. “A critical challenge we have is that gonorrhoea is becoming increasingly resistant to some antibiotics,” explains Dr Romani. “Our research aims to improve the health of communities in the Pacific region, while monitoring the global antimicrobial resistance problem. Through this study, and with the support of L’Oréal, we will be able to determine whether azithromycin is suitable for STI control in Fiji. This research has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of women and their babies, and ultimately save lives.”
In addition to her work on STIs, Dr Romani is Group Leader of the Global Health Trials Research Group at the Kirby Institute, and works extensively on the control and elimination of neglected tropical diseases in the Pacific region, where she is recognised globally as an expert in her field. These diseases disproportionally affect populations living in remote and low-income settings.
The L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program aims to improve the representation of women in scientific careers and inspire more young women to pursue careers in science.
L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand’s CEO Alex Davison says, “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Global For Women in Science Awards. The stats show women are underrepresented in science; there's a long way to go. We’re so proud to fund these fellows and celebrate the achievements of these incredible scientists”.
"It's really important for girls and young women to see women thriving in STEMM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine] careers,” said Dr Romani. “I am humbled and honoured to receive this award alongside four exceptional Fellows. I hope to inspire and encourage the younger generation to break gender barriers and pursue a career in scientific research”.