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Professor Aileen Joy Plant (died 27 March 2007) was a leading Australian infectious diseases epidemiologist. She was professor of international health at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

Born in the Victorian country town of Warrigal, the fourth of eight children, her parents had a car dealership and petrol station. When she was 13, the family moved to a farm near Denmark on the south coast of Western Australia. She left school at 14 to work in a bank, and later completed high school. In her early 20s she began a medical degree at the University of Western Australia.

She worked at Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth and then at the Royal Darwin Hospital before undertaking a diploma of tropical medicine and hygiene in London. She returned to Darwin as chief medical officer and deputy secretary of the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services from 1989 to 1992. Her work in the Northern Territory engendered a lifelong commitment to Aboriginal health.

She always sought a balance between policy and research, describing as a professional highlight her role as founding director of the master of applied epidemiology programme at the Australian National University. Its graduates now fill key positions in Australia and internationally.

She was also instrumental in establishing the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, of which she was deputy director.

In 2003 the Vietnamese government awarded Aileen the "people's medal for health" for her work leading the World Health Organisation's SARS team in Vietnam.


She died, aged 58, in Indonesia.


The Australian Science Communicators honoured Professor Plant as its 2007 Unsung Hero of Australian Science for her contributions to medical epidemiology.

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