Meet Megan Ford – the woman championing some of Australia’s most important COVID research | has spoken to some of the nation’s most formidable females for International Women’s Day.

These women come from very different backgrounds, working in fields such as sport, business, science, and entertainment.

But all are smashing the glass ceiling with their relentlessly positive attitudes and inspiring achievements.

This is Megan Ford.

Executive Director of Clinical Trials, Megan Ford, is a leader in science and an advocate for research, whose work is vital in Australia’s fight against COVID-19.

The 49-year-old started her career as a registered nurse before a family tragedy spurred her to go into the medical research field, where she continues to champion essential studies.

She’s currently working at The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research.

Ford spoke to in the lead-up to International Women’s Day, about her career in science, vital medical research, and the fight against coronavirus.

Initially, she was a nurse and her experience on hospital wards is what prompted her later career trajectory.

“I worked in medical oncology and haematology wards and back then when someone was diagnosed with cancer their outcome was pretty grim,” she said.

“We were doing some clinical trials in the ward that I was working in and I was really fascinated by the science and the benefit that the research brought to patients.

“I guess I just fell into being involved in that space moving forward.

“Then my granddad became sick and there was no real treatment for him, so that really did (send) me down the pathway of research and science.”

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Ford feels lucky that she’s always been given opportunities to work and expand her knowledge base in this field.

In her current role at the Ingham Institute, in the southwest Sydney suburb of Liverpool, Ford works with a team of enthusiastic and intelligent people delivering world-class research.

She explained to that it was important the work she did was meaningful.

“I feel really fortunate to work there and with the community in southwestern Sydney, I have been able to use my clinical expertise and been encouraged by who I work with to make changes that can bring life-saving treatments to people,” she said.

“I love what I do and I will encourage people to find what they love to do because it is really important.”

Working with COVID

Over the last year, COVID-19 has brought challenges to her profession that just over 12 months ago would have seemed unfathomable.

“I had only been in my role for six months when COVID hit, I think it’s been a really challenging time and probably been one of the most significant changes in clinical trials that I have seen in my lifetime,” she said.

“At the core of everything we do is to find real-life solutions for the problems that impact our community.”

While she concedes that Australia has been fortunate in the COVID-19 fight, it has not been without struggle.

The institute was asked to participate in multiple clinical trials in relation to the novel coronavirus.

These included everything from diagnosis to treatment and collecting data and Ford credits the team’s collaborative efforts for their ability to deliver.

“The speed at which the clinical trials were being proposed and started and recruited into was like nothing we have ever seen,” she said.

“A clinical trial would normally take three to six months to start up – we were starting up in four to six weeks.

“It was a huge effort from everybody involved – there was a real community spirit to be able to make sure we could do everything we needed to do,” she said.

Ford’s team is currently working on research surrounding attitudes to the COVID vaccine, which is currently being rolled out across Australia.

They are surveying people who have the vaccine, and the results will shape how they roll past the next wave of vaccinations.

“That’s a nice piece of work that will address people’s perceptions and also the barriers for them in terms of having the vaccine,” she said.

Ford also spoke about what it was like being a woman in science.

She says when she first started her career, men were doctors and women were nurses. But she believes in 2021, this has shifted.

Ford also believes attitudes to nursing have changed with her former career afforded a lot more respect as a profession than it was in previous decades.

She grew up in a family of five women and her father, and they were raised so that gender did not matter with an emphasis on education and hard work.

“I have been the only woman on teams where you have to be the advocate for equality,” she said.

“The older I get the more determined I am to speak up and encourage others to do the same.

“The majority companies I have worked for have had good gender equality and where they haven’t, I have been in leadership roles where I can help make a change.”

She said while science had traditionally been a male-dominated profession, she believes that has changed significantly.

Ford offered some concrete advice for women on International Women’s Day.

“Be the girl who just went for it,” she said.

“If someone gives you an opportunity just take it.

“I think as women we often think we need to have all the skills to perform a role or a task but really we don’t.

“You’ll learn what you need to along the way.”

Ford recommends finding a mentor, as throughout her career that guidance helped her become the formidable woman she is today.

“Also, if you see something that isn’t right speak up – your voice is important,” she said.

“Your lone voice may just encourage other people to the same who may have previously stayed quiet on something they didn’t feel was right.

“Be that person that does speak up.”

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This content was originally published here.