Connected Conversations | Adriana Milazzo

As a senior lecturer and infectious disease epidemiologist in the School of Public Health, Dr Adriana Milazzo has been studying and teaching students about infectious disease for many years. With public health currently in the spotlight, we talked with Adriana about how she has been actively involved in the frontline response to COVID-19.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Adriana, a senior lecturer and infectious disease epidemiologist in the School of Public Health. I live in Allenby Gardens with my husband, two teenage daughters and our gorgeous two-year-old cavoodle, Sadie. In my spare time, I love taking Sadie for walks along the beach, the girls to their netball games and I volunteer at Fred’s Van.

Prior to taking up an academic role at the University, I worked as a public health officer/epidemiologist in the Communicable Disease Control Branch at SA Health–my role there involved infectious disease outbreak investigation, surveillance and analysing data. I’ve been very lucky to share the knowledge and experience of working in infectious disease control and prevention in my teaching. I teach an infectious disease course for first year students, and I’m extremely excited that next semester I will incorporate COVID-19 case studies and examples.

My research is focused on infectious diseases and climate change. My PhD was on the impact of heatwaves on foodborne disease incidence. Currently, my research is on meningococcal and the aim is to assess the characterisation, management, and social networking patterns among close contacts of cases diagnosed with meningococcal disease. Evidence about social networking patterns among close contacts will contribute knowledge and a better understanding of disease transmission and potential populations for targeted vaccination. Because of my experience and research in infectious diseases, as well as strong links with SA Health, I’ve been involved in responding to COVID-19. I have developed online training modules for COVID-19 case investigation and contract tracing for the health department, reviewed COVID-19 disease control plans for industry, provided scientific expert review for a video on the COVIDsafe app for the Australian Academy of Science, and working with SA Health, SAHMRI and Doherty Institute on world leading ‘FFX’ study.


The Return to Campus Roadmap is now in place. What are you most looking forward to about being back on campus?

I’ve been mostly working at home, but on the odd occasion I have gone into the office to record online lectures, so I haven’t been totally isolated. Numerous Zoom meetings each week has kept me connected with colleagues, although I’m looking forward to seeing them in person. The other thing I miss is the Uni vibe and seeing students around the Hub and on our beautiful campus.


How do you set boundaries when working at home between your work life and your home life?

It has been challenging working from home, and sometimes I find that I have less personal or family time. I got into the habit of not switching my laptop off at the end of the day, and so I was working in between doing routine things around the home. I now make time in the late afternoon to take Sadie for a walk, which gives me a break.


Were there any outside of work challenges?

The girls were home schooled for the first week of term two and my husband was also working from home for the first couple of months, but we managed to survive—having separate rooms to work and study helped!


Is there anything from the past few months you would like to see implemented on a permanent basis?

Although ‘lockdown’ was difficult for many of us, I enjoyed the quietness of our streets, less hustle and bustle in the city, and so, I would like to see a reduction in the number of cars on roads, we need to slow down C02 emissions and begin to look after our planet.


What is the one thing you are most looking forward to doing or seeing when you are back on campus?

I’m looking forward to walking around campus and bumping into colleagues from other schools and faculties that I haven’t seen for a while.


All things considered; what good things have you discovered or learned during this time?

Isolation can be very lonely, and we need to support those who don’t have family and friends to keep them socially connected. It’s great to see that finally, public health is getting recognition and people are starting to understand what it is–it’s everywhere and affects our daily life. Control of COVID-19 and preventing community transmission and outbreaks is because of fundamental public health measures.


Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

Restrictions such as going out to dinner and attending concerts.

Quarantine–I had to self-isolate when I returned from an overseas holiday in March and it was difficult not being able to see extended family for two weeks.

Not having to get to the supermarket at 8 am to buy basic goods!


And the three things you won’t forget…

The enormous impact COVID-19 has had on every aspect of our lives, from mortality to loss of employment–it’s tragic.

Border closures, particularly global travel–this really is unprecedented.

Missing out on presenting at and receiving an Emerging Scholar award at an international conference on Climate Change in Venice which was to be held in April of this year.

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