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PODCAST: A lap of Caulfield Park – Ashley speaks with Professor Sharon Lewin

Dashiel Lawrence
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Published: 8 October 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Ashley talks to Professor Sharon Lewin, director of The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, about dealing with the pandemic



PROFESSOR SHARON LEWIN probably sits towards the top of the list of dream Shabbat dinner guests for many of us, certainty when these things are allowed once more.

The director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity is one of Australia’s leading infectious disease experts and has become the go-to person for all things coronavirus.

But when asked the first time COVID-19 crossed her radar, she confessed that she found out about it much like pretty much the rest of us, through Google.

She told Ashley Browne on the latest Lap of Caulfield Park podcast that a patient of hers, a Chinese national, asked her what she knew about this “weird pneumonia from China” as far back as January 6.

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It hadn’t appeared on any of the various medical blogs she visits, nor had it been mentioned by her colleagues at APPRISE, the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research for Infectious Disease Emergencies.

“We keep our eye out for new strains of flu..and I thought that was weird that I had not heard about it through my professional contacts, so I went home that night and the only information was in The Guardian,” she said.

“I read about it and it sounded like a localised outbreaks in a seafood market in Wuhan. These things happen when you get an organism from the environment when you don’t have human-to human-transition.”

At the time, she thought there was no great risk. “It seemed an environmental thing, which is what the Chinese government was saying. But I thought it was interesting and I’d keep an eye on it.”

That she has. Under Professor Lewin’s guidance, The Doherty Institute, which is based out of the University of Melbourne, has been at the forefront of research and testing for COVID-19, as well as advising governments and health experts about how to manage and live with the ever-present virus.

In the podcast she also discusses:

  • some of the incredible progress made by the Doherty Institute

  • The intellectual challenges and stimulation of learning about coronavirus

  • Vaccine, testing and potential timelines and innovations

  • The daily numbers you should be watching out for

  • When and how Melbourne might catch up to the rest of Australia and how the country might re-open

  • What’s happening with HIV, which until this year, has long been her main focus

Listen here or find the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast or your favourite podcast provider.

About the author

Dashiel Lawrence

Dr Dashiel Lawrence is the Executive Director of TJI. A graduate of the Jewish Studies program at the University of Melbourne, he has been writing about Australia's Jewish diaspora for 15 years. His books include Australia and Israel: A Diasporic, Political and Cultural Relationship (2015) and People of the Boot: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Australian Jews in Sport (2018).

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