Amy Jo Vassallo

Dance injury researcher

By Rockwell McGellin

Amy Jo Vassallo knows the importance of being flexible – and not just because she is passionate about dance. Her career in medical science has seen her work in government, hospitals, and research centres, and finally led her to studying what she loves as part of her PhD.

Her medical science research, inspired by her own experiences as a dancer, is trying to better understand the kinds of injuries that are common among dancers.

“I’ve always been interested in the human body and how it works, and I think my early dance training – and associated injuries! – is what prompted that fascination,” Amy says.

“Dance is a physically demanding activity that has many health benefits, but also has an inherent risk of injury. Some can be minor, but others can be life changing.”

“By better understanding the magnitude, causes and effects of dance-related injuries we can more effectively prevent them.”

Amy started her career with a Bachelor of Medical Science at the Australian National University (ANU), and took her skills to the next level with a Master of Community and Health Development. Her postgrad knowledge led her to a job with the ACT government offering policy advice on health, where she found working in government to be a learning experience in its own right.

“It really opened my eyes to the inner workings of the health system,” Amy says.

That big picture consideration taught me that evidence isn’t just about the data, but also about community consultation and ensuring your research is relevant.”

Amy believes that the key to her career in medical science is that she’s never stopped learning.

“If you had told me in high school that I would be using statistics on a regular basis and actually enjoy analysing large amounts of population health data I would not have believed you!”

“But as my career has evolved, so have my skills.”

After a working as a research officer at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Amy found herself fascinated by the idea of pursuing medical science research of her own. This inspired her to start her PhD in dance injury research, but she still doesn’t know where it will lead.

“I’m starting to realise that I genuinely don’t know what my future career goal is or what I want to be when I grow up. But I certainly know what I don’t want, and I’m taking the opportunity during my PhD to meet and talk with as many inspiring people in health and science as I can to try to work it out.”

Medical Science Researcher Amy Jo Vassallo

“As my career has evolved, so have my skills.”

Considering medical science? Amy’s advice:

1. Do it! It’s a much broader, diverse, interesting and exciting field than you might expect!

2. Get to know people in the field you’re interested in, they genuinely enjoy talking about their work and want to share their experience with others.

3. Be a yes person, take advantage of any opportunities that may come your way.

AMY’S TIMELINE

>> Bachelor of Medical Science, Australian National University

>> Master of Community Health Development, University of Canberra

>> Policy adviser, Canberra hospital & ACT Department of Health

>> Postgraduate Diploma in Nutritional Science, University of Canberra, part time

>> Research officer, National Center for Immunisation Research and Surveillance

>> PhD, studying dance injury epidemiology, University of Sydney