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.  These interests align with Sandra's teaching responsiblities.  

Recently Sandra's research interests have expanded to include human animal interactions.  In mid 2020 she founded the JCU Animals on Campus Research Group, creating an institution wide forum for discussion and collaboration between JCU staff and students focused on exploring animal assisted interventions to promote student learning, academic performance and JCU community well being.

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.   Sandra continues to maintain 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.    She is also involved in research activities around  termination of pregnancy services.

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.


  • TM5502: Tropical Public Health (Level 5; TSV)
  • TM5525: Communicable Disease Control (Level 5; TSV)
  • TM5536: Public Health in Humanitarian Emergencies (Level 5; CNS)
  • TM5557: Disaster Health Management (Level 5; CNS)
  • TM5562: Reproductive Health in Developing Countries (Level 5; CNS)
  • 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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 28+ 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.

Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre Limited - Research Seed Grants

Exploring the potential for dog assisted interventions in a FNQ hospital rehabilitation setting: a co-design study

Indicative Funding
$48,784 over 2 years
There is increasing interest in animal-assisted interventions (AAI) as a complementary, non-pharmacological intervention in health care settings. While biological, psychological and social benefits of human animal interactions have been demonstrated, the evidence base for AAI in health care settings is weak, partly due to low participant numbers. Our project involves two parts: 1. A scoping review to report on dog-assisted interventions (DAI) for people undergoing rehabilitation in hospitals. 2. An exploratory case study involving consumers, staff and key informants to identify the perceived benefits and challenges to implementation of DAI.
Sandra Downing, Mary O'Loughlin, Sue Devine, Edward Strivens, Madeleine Downey and Em Bould (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Medicine & Dentistry)

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) - ASEAN-Pacific Infectious Disease Detection and Response (APIDDaR) Program

Securing the frontline for health secure communities

Indicative Funding
$795,776 over 3 years (administered by Red Cross Australia)
The aim is to build capacity to detect/respond to infectious disease outbreaks through frontline public health (human and animal) workforce which includes community members, volunteers, community health workers, environmental health workers, biosecurity and environmental officers and primary health care staff. This will be achieved through: Strengthened capability at community/primary care levels to anticipate outbreaks; Improved response at early stages of potential outbreaks; A quality timely and thorough response to outbreaks at the frontline level ; An operational learning and feedback process for continued improvement and currency of detection of and response to infectious diseases outbreaks.
Maxine Whittaker, Lisa Natoli, Allen Ross, Effie Espino, Lars Henning, Sarah Larkins, Sarah-Jane Wilson, Sandra Downing, Tammy Allen, Mahmudur Rahman, Sayera Banu, Nadia Ali Rima, Asharul Islam, Sukanta Chowdhury, Syed Moinuddin Satter and Veronica Bell (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Red Cross Australia, Icddr,b, Research Institute of Tropical Medicine, College of Medicine & Dentistry and Australian Research Centre for Medical Engineering (UWA))
Health security; Infectious Diseases; Surveillance Systems; Community Engagement; One Health; Health workforce development

Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre Limited - Research Assistance Scheme

Use of telemedicine to improve access to medical termination of pregnancy services in Cape York: an pilot implementation study.

Indicative Funding
$36,810 over 1 year
Despite estimates that one in four Australian women will have an induced abortion during their reproductive life, access to safe abortion care is limited, particularly for women living in rural and remote settings. The use of telehealth to deliver medical termination of pregnancy services into health facilities where there is no registered provider has been successful in other countries, but has not been attempted in Australia. This project will evaluate the implementation of a medical termination of pregnancy service delivered via telehealth into Cape York health facilities.
Sandra Downing, Cate Nagle, Darren Russell, Kim Veiwasenavanua and Caroline de Costa (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, College of Healthcare Sciences, Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Torres & Cape Hospital & Health Service and College of Medicine & Dentistry)
Telemedicine; Medical pregnancy termination

Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation - Research Grant

Women?s experiences of accessing surgical termination of pregnancy in far north queensland

Indicative Funding
$2,100 over 2 years
This qualitative study is a partner-study to an already existing project looking at the experiences of women with medical termination of pregnancy (MTOP) at Cairns Sexual Health Clinic (CSHS). The overall aim of the two projects is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of women accessing any termination of pregnancy via the CSHS. It is anticipated that these studies will identify areas for service improvement.
Sandra Downing and Hayley Dyke (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences and College of Medicine & Dentistry)
Abortion; Surgical termination of pregnancy; Rural Health

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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