Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

In the Limelight: Kellie Thomas

PhD Candidate Kellie ThomasSupervisors: Associate Professor Jane Heller, Dr Emma Scholz, Professor Jacqui Norris (Sydney University)

PhD thesis title: Investigating selection pressures driving antibiotic resistance in the Riverina using a One Health approach

Relevant Current Employment: Project officer for a concurrent government funded research project on veterinary antimicrobial stewardship, a bit of locum vet work and a bit of teaching and marking here and there.

Career and studies untill now

My first undergraduate degree was in Fine Arts and I worked for a time in the film and television industry in Australia and Norway. I did a post grad writing course and moved towards media and communications for a time, before changing lanes to veterinary science. I got my veterinary degree at Charles Sturt University, graduating in 2016 and working in small animal practice, including a rotating internship at Sydney University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. As a student I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks at the Australian Animal Health Lab in Geelong. That experience, combined with the personal reward I felt from undertaking an Honours project in my final year of vet science, really piqued my interest in moving more into research.

Research interests

I’m interested in anything and everything One Health – the complex problems that impact human, animal, and environmental health and the ways in which different industries, species, resources, and nations interact to drive risk in these systems. I like being able to use qualitative research to dig-in and understand the how and why of quantitative findings.

My current research is on the sociological factors that impact on antimicrobial prescribing behaviour in human and animal health, the potential consequences of current antimicrobial usage on selection pressure for resistance in the environment, and how best to communicate the data we have on resistance trends into interventions that can engage prescribers on antimicrobial stewardship. Antimicrobial stewardship is essentially about shifting away from seeing antibiotics as the first line in managing all infectious disease, but rather providing a framework to avoid and minimise infectious diseases in the first place using good biosecurity and infection prevention and control, and when infections do occur, in being able to apply an evidence-based approach to antibiotic therapy that maximises health outcomes for the people or animals being treated, while minimising harm to the broader environment, population and future generations.

Professional links

Member of AVA Workforce Challenges Working Group

Member of Sustainable Vet Careers initiative

Co-founding member of the AMR Vet Collective

Co-founding member of the Charles Sturt Veterinary Alumni Student Network (VSAN)

A typical day for me ...

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a coveted COVID puppy, so my days start at 5.30am on the dot now when my five-month-old German Short-Haired Pointer wakes me, ready for her morning walk.

I’m actually studying by distance and based in Brisbane, QLD, so it gets pretty warm early here. I try to have the morning walk, a bit of home exercise, and breakfast done by 7.30am, then catch a bit of morning news over my coffee and I’m ready to start the day.

My initial research work involved direct visits to human hospitals, vet clinics, farms, and other stakeholder places of business throughout the Murrumbidgee, so we’ve had to pivot to some more desk-top based research for the time being.

Working from home has its plusses and minuses, as I know many people have come to know over the course of the year. I try to get a good solid four to five hours out in the morning before it gets too hot in my home office and I have to come downstairs to the air conditioning, or outside under the umbrella if there’s a breeze and the mosquitos aren’t too bad.

My work could involve anything from zoom meetings and stakeholder phone conversations, conducting interviews, coding interview data, reading recent papers or another qualitative research textbook that I’ve found on special online, cleaning and analysing data, or creating content for a website and online learning program I’m working on.

I put aside a bit of time each week now to work on some other projects that I am involved with that are all essentially focused on supporting sustainable veterinary careers. I have a journal club with some other researchers once a fortnight, who are based in Sydney and Melbourne, and that is really great. I try to only go into my email a couple of times a day as I find I can get caught up in responding to things on my email over getting through my scheduled work. I try to schedule each day at least the day prior and take a bit of time on Friday’s to plan the coming week; the goal being that I can then empty my brain as much as possible of all things PhD and work over the weekend. This occurs with varying success.

Recently a close family member has become unwell so that has been a big reminder of what’s important in life. I now schedule carer time each week. Sometimes life spills more into my workspace than it used to these days, and I am trying to be ok with that. I am spending more time with family, and friends, and making time for the things I enjoy, like reading or listening to audiobooks, getting outside into nature, beach trips with my dog, writing, swimming, long chats with friends over a cuppa or a glass of wine, and I have recently taken up singing lessons as a bit of a creative outlet. I enjoy my work and research but I am trying not to let it take up all of my time and energy.

My main project at the moment is ...

Along with my PhD I’m working on a project to measure and grow engagement among veterinarians with available online learning resources on antimicrobial stewardship.

My favourite part of my studies is ...

I love having the opportunity to sit with people one-on-one and talk to them about topics that matter to them during my interviews. And there is a special magic to the process of analysis and theory generation from coded interview data – it’s a bit like watching the photo print emerge in the developer; after a long time in the dark, suddenly it all comes together. I love that. It’s almost addictive!

When I am not studying I like to ...

Hang out with my pets, catch up with friends, travel (or at least I used to), snow ski, hike, swim, sing, write, read, take photographs, watch great films or addictive streaming series, have a coffee at my favourite cafĂ© – just absorb all of the good stuff!

When I am driving I like to listen to ...

I’m a bit of an audiobook tragic in the car – currently listening to Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massey. My 2020 Isolation playlist included Xavier Rudd, Meg Mac, Montaigne, Tom Rosenthal and Two-Door Cinema Club. On a proper road trip I’d probably delve into the 90’s and 2000’s era stuff, punctuated by great storytellers like Neil Young and Josh Pyke. In music, as in life, I like variety.


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