Sandra Downing is a registered nurse, midwife and field epidemiologist with particular interests in public health in emergency humanitarian settings, women’s and children’s health in low resource settings and sexual and reproductive health.

Sandra completed a two year placement in the Centre for Population Health at the Burnet Institute for her Master of Applied Epidemiology.  During this time she was responsible for implementation of the National Family Planning Network as part of the Australian Collaboration for Chlamydia Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance (ACCESS), conducted a study for the World Health Organisation (WHO) into the barriers to the delivery of the hepatitis B vaccine birth dose in five major Papua New Guinea Hospitals and conducted a review and analysis of regional tuberculosis data for the Secretariat of Pacific Communities.

Moving to Cairns, Sandra spent three years as Research Coordinator at the Cairns Sexual Health Service (CSHS) managing clinical trials, conducting local research and fostering research capacity within the clinical setting.   During this time she received a Queensland Nursing Council Novice Researcher Grant to conduct a randomised control trial investigating whether SMS reminders with or without incentive payments would improve rates of re-screening for clients diagnosed with chlamydia.  

Sandra maintains a strong mentoring and capacity building role within CSHS.   In 2014 she was formative in securing funding for a clinic led demonstration project across multiple Queensland sites to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the model for delivery of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection in high risk men who have sex with men.   This project has recently been awarded additional funding to scale up and offer PrEP to up to 2,000 Queenslanders.   She is also involved in research activities around the termination of pregnancy service.

As a field epidemiologist Sandra has worked in a variety of international settings with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) implementing mortality and morbidity surveillance in emergency settings, responding to outbreaks and conducting nutrition and food and livelihood security surveys.     She works with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in outbreak responses and training/capacity building through the Global Outbreak and Response Network (GOARN) and belongs to the ARM – Australian Response MAE Network.    

Sandra commenced her tenure at JCU in 2012.  She is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences and a member of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Education and Research Capacity Building and the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine.


  • TM5536: Public Health in Humanitarian Emergencies (Level 5; CNS)
  • TM5557: Disaster Health Management (Level 5; CNS)
  • TM5562: Reproductive Health in Developing Countries (Level 5; TSV)
  • public health
  • humanitarian emergencies
  • field epidemiology
  • reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health
  • disaster health preparedness, response and recovery
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2018 - JCU Certificate of Recognition: Teaching Excellence - TM5536 Refugee Health
  • 2018 - JCU Certificate of Recognition: Subject Excellence - TM5536 Refugee Health
  • 2017 - Australian Award for University Teaching - Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning
  • 2017 - JCU Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning
  • 2016 - JCU Certificate of Recognition: Subject Excellence - TM5536 Refugee Health
  • 2015 - JCU Certificate of Recognition: Teaching Excellence - TM5536 Refugee Health
  • 2011 - Australian Sexual Health and HIV Nurses Association Kendra Sunquist Nurses Award for best poster. Australasian Sexual Health Conference. Canberra.
  • 2009 - Sexual Health Society of Victoria award for best poster in social/behavioural research. Australian Sexual Health and HIV Nurses Association Kendra Sunquist Nurses Award for best poster. Australian Sexual Health Conference. Brisbane.
  • Australasian Epidemiological Association
  • Public Health Assocation of Australia
  • MSF Australia Association Member and Coordinator of the Far North Queensland MSF Association Network
  • Australian Red Cross Emergency Services Member and Volunteer Trainer
  • 2018 - Learning and Teaching Grant - (Lead) - $9,814 - Embedding Career Development in Curriculum
  • 2017 - Learning and Teaching Grant - (Lead) - $2,650 - External Peer Review of Teaching, TM5502 Tropical Public Health
  • 2017 - HIV Foundation Qld Research Grant - (Co-investigator) - $36,124 - Improving monitoring and management of cardiovascular and renal risk factors in HIV positive clients attending the Cairns Sexual Health Service
  • 2017 - Learning and Teaching Grant - (Lead) - $9,572 - Mapping the First Year Post Graduate Journey: supporting the transition into higher education
  • 2017 - Learning and Teaching Grant - (Lead) - $9,857 - Transforming Assessment Practice
  • 2013 - HIV Foundation Qld Grant - (Co-investigator) - $90,000 - Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Demonstration Project

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Other research outputs

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 19+ research outputs authored by Ms Sandra Downing from 2008 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation - Research Grant

Disaster Risk Reduction: Building Community Resilience through Health Student Support in Shelters (HSSS)

Indicative Funding
Cyclone prone regions necessitate the need for robust preparatory plans and disaster risk mitigation policies. Cairns has two emergency shelters that offer public safety during a cyclone event. Currently manned by city council workers, we proffer that health students could offer valuable assistance.
Caryn West, Andrea Grimes, Karen Yates, Vanessa Sparke, Sandra Downing and Ben Ryan (College of Healthcare Sciences, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and Queensland Health)
disaster; Resilience; student nurses; evacuation shelters

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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