November 12, 2021

Q&A with Dr Faye Zaibak, Director, Research Operations

In this week’s ‘Q & A’, we chat with Dr Faye Zaibak, Director, Research Operations, who has been in this post for just over two months.

What’s your coffee order?

Tea, no milk or sugar. I am really loving my ginger tea at the moment.

Tell us about your time so far at Northern Health?

I am blessed to have such a hardworking and dedicated team. I have not met most of the team or researchers in person, as they are seconded to COVID-19 response, which presents a challenge to the continuation of our essential service. Everyone is willing to help the office, and I am grateful to each and every one of them. I see such great research potential at the Northern. I hope to continue all the great work achieved to date, and work with the team to ensure Northern receives the recognition it deserves.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is a great deal of legislation and regulations that we must follow to ensure we work with integrity and are safe, compliant and ethical. The Research Office is the engine that keeps research moving. One of the big projects we are working on is accreditation with the National Clinical Trials Governance Framework. The tasks in my day vary significantly, all tasks have the following goal; to make research accessible to our patients and easier for our researchers. I believe passionately that it is only via high quality research that we can truly make an impact on the lives of our patients. We have a very big challenge ahead of us as a team, to move the office into a role that develops and supports research projects, so researchers and the organisation can realise their potential, and efficient and timely ethics and governance approval is seen as just one of the many rewards for our efforts.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work?

Seventy per cent of my team are seconded to COVID-19 response and those left behind in the office are going above and beyond to facilitate research. I am very proud of all the team, working for the greater good for the benefit of the hospital and our patients. Research across the sector has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Project recruitment has decreased, some projects have had to be put on hold or adapt to virtual protocols, project approval time has been delayed and training opportunities put on hold. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it is the value of quality research and the impact that great research can have on saving lives. Most importantly, we have learnt that the Northern has an important role to play in advocating and supporting our community’s access to the latest research and that the Northern has the talent and commitment to achieve this goal.

What was your career before Northern Health?

I started my career as a researcher working at the University of Melbourne, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Cord Blood Bank. My supervisor, the late Panos Ioannou, was part of the team that cloned and sequenced the human genome. It was such an exciting time to be a researcher. Inspired, I established my own research program directly after completing my PhD, under the mentorship of Professor Williamson. We were the first in Australia to successfully culture cord blood stem cell lines, that are still used today. I had caught the research bug well and truly. I believe research is an important pillar of a successful academic and medical facility, an opportunity for talented staff to make a difference in the lives of our community.

Moving to research management was a natural progression for me as I could better serve to facilitate research. I have worked in Universities, Hospitals and in Medical Research Institutes in roles including as manager of biosafety, ethics, grants, research performance and infrastructure; as Acting Director of Research; and General Manager of Research. In such a highly regulated environment, the research office plays an important role in facilitating and supporting research. I feel honoured to be back at my local hospital. There is so much more we can do to support research to the benefit of our community. I am excited about working with the team at Northern to ensure we are engaged learners and inspired researchers.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

On Saturday, I hosted a Harry Potter themed dinner. The front yard was all decked out for Halloween too, we did not give out treats this year, but put on a spectacular show for the local children. I love entertaining and theming up social events with family and friends. Christmas is particularly special in my household, and of course the house is all decked out to spread the festive cheer.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love nature. I have built a 13 metre succulent wall in my backyard with over 100 species. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed by the wonder of nature. Every day there is some new bloom to admire.

If you could describe Northern Health in one sentence, what would it be?

Committed to serving and supporting the community.