Public Health: Nafisa Yussf

After arriving in Australia as a young refugee, Nafisa Yussf studied public health and now works at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.


Nafisa Yussf is driven by her passion for health equity. She graduated with a Master of Public Health in 2019 and is now a Social Researcher/Project Manager with The WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

Why the University of Melbourne?

I chose to study at the University of Melbourne due to its prestigious reputation and quality of the public health course.

What are your strongest memories of university?

Meeting the incredibly diverse and passionate students and staff. I loved the subjects that challenged me such as qualitative research, policy, epidemiology and evaluation and the opportunity to complete placements whilst studying.

As a working mother, it meant juggling many competing priorities whilst studying and the university offered flexible class options and staff were always approachable, supportive, and willing to assist.

Who motivated you at university?

My biggest supporters and inspirations were my professors, colleagues and the invited guest speakers.

What goals did you set, and have you stuck to that plan?

I was already working in public health (cancer prevention). My next career goal was to step into the social research sector, and I have been lucky enough to do so at the Doherty Institute.

Tell us more about your role and how university helped you prepare for it.

I lead the Victorian Perinatal Research Project, which aims to understand how perinatal services are delivered to Victorian women and their infants to improve care for pregnant women and their children.

My focus is on chronic hepatitis B mother-to-child transmission elimination, working in partnership with a range of key stakeholders, including the Victorian Department of Health, health services, clinicians, and women living with hepatitis B.

I am also a global advocate contributing to national and international policies and conferences on chronic hepatitis B elimination.

What is your driving force for doing your best at work?

Health equity. My passion is to address health inequity through policy and advocacy, community engagement co-design and translational public health research to improve the lives of communities – particularly those impacted by chronic hepatitis B.

What are some career highlights, and what’s next?

Working with communities and translating research to inform policy development and systemic changes by documenting the lived experiences of communities affected by viral hepatitis.

Additionally, I supported the COVID-19 pandemic responses in 2020, through the RMH COVID-19 Pathways Program and the Victorian Department of Health in developing effective and respectful community engagement strategies in partnership with communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Victoria, and residents of high-density public housing.

My future goal is to contribute to the elimination of chronic hepatitis B and liver cancer to improve the lives of communities disproportionately affected by hepatitis B.

What does being successful mean to you?

Contributing to making the world a better place for all and maintaining inner peace and happiness throughout.

What advice do you have for current students?

Find your true passion and work hard to achieve it. Find mentors and people you genuinely connect with. Volunteer if you can, to build stronger and connected communities.

What are you most proud of?

As someone who came to Australia as a young refugee girl (who did not speak English and was illiterate), I am really proud of my academic achievements and my passion to improve health outcomes for all Australians. I am also incredibly lucky and proud to be a mother of two incredible young girls.

What excites you most about the future?

More diversity and inclusivity in decision-making roles across the spectrum (e.g., politics, media, government, education etc) because representation matters.