4th fact


Of about 32,000 births each year in WA, approximately 2,800 are preterm and this figure is rising.

WIRF Staff Profiles

WIRF Organisational Chart - 2016


 Heads of Units and Position Holders

Professor John Newnham
Chief Scientific Director, Women and Infants Research Foundation
Winthrop Professor, Maternal Fetal Medicine
Head, Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
The University of Western Australia

Professor Newnham is a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. He has research interests in the areas of fetal medicine, prevention of pre-term birth, fetal inflammation and maturation, and the developmental origins of childhood and adult diseases.

Deb Attard Portughes

Deb Attard Portughes is the inaugural Chief Operations Director with responsibility for implementing the directions of the WIRF Board, providing leadership to staff and effectively managing the Foundation’s day-to-day operations in-line with WIRF’s strategic direction.  

Deb has a strong and successful background in business development, marketing and fundraising and brings with her a wealth of experience in stakeholder management and leadership of both staff and volunteers.  She was previously the Development Executive for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) where she worked for over 13 years.

Before coming to Australia, Deb worked in Malta where she taught Creative Thinking techniques with Prof. Edward deBono. For 7 years Deb served on the board of POWA institute for creative thinking, here in Australia, this institute is based on Edward deBono’s thinking methods.  Deborah also worked as a family and commercial mediator and was an executive producer of a current affairs television program.

Professor Dorota Doherty
BSc (Hons) PhD
Head, Biostatistics and Research Design Unit
Deputy Director, Women and Infants Research Foundation

A/Professor Doherty heads up the Biostatistics and Research Design Unit at WIRF. The role of the Unit is to provide biostatistical consultation and collaboration in the design, conduct, analysis, interpretation and reporting of research conducted at King Edward Memorial Hospital and affiliated institutions. She provides a crucial coordination and oversight role for most of the research projects undertaken at the Foundation.


Professor Brendan Waddell 
The University of Western Australia
Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committee


Professor Jeff Keelan
BSc (Hons) MSc PhD MRSNZ
Head, Women and Infants Health Research Laboratories

Professor Keelan is director of the Women and Infants Research Laboratories. His research is focused on the formation and function of the placenta and its role in normal and complicated pregnancies. He has expertise in placental pharmacology, endocrinology, immunology and cell biology. Since his arrival in 2007 from Auckland, New Zealand, he has overseen the installation and inauguration of new cell and tissue culture facilities, the expansion of the laboratory's image analysis facilities, and the recruitment of Honours and PhD students to the laboratories.

Assistant Research Professor Matthew Kemp
BMedLabSc PGDipMedLabSc Otago,
Head, Women and Infants Research Foundation, Lotterywest Perinatal Research Laboratories

Matt’s biomedical research interests fall within the fields of obstetrics and reproductive medicine, with a specific focus on the infectious – inflammatory origins of preterm birth. Matt is presently developing a novel area of fetal biology centred about the role played by the fetal skin in preterm birth and neonatal disease. Matt presently supervises two PhD students and is himself completing a second PhD (Graduate School of Education, UWA) studying the environmental, a priori and social factors responsible for the construction of the postgraduate biomedical learning environment. 

Associate Professor Dr Craig Pennell
Certified Subspecialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine

Dr Pennell's research interests are in the areas of fetal medicine, intrauterine fetal therapy, genetic prediction of pregnancy complications, developmental origins of health and disease and mechanisms of perinatal brain injury. He has close affiliations with the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, where he carried out his postdoctoral studies, and the World Health Organisation through his involvement in the International Preterm Birth Genomic Project. He is also Scientific Director of the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine Study) Dr Pennell divides his time between doing research for the Foundation, practising as an Obstetrician at King Edward Memorial Hospital and postgraduate teaching at the Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Western Australia.

Dr Shaofu Li
BSc Beijing PhD UWA
Women and Infants Research Foundation - Laboratory Manager and Research Associate

Shaofu manages the laboratory and routine operations. He also assists in the supervising and teaching of research students. As a research associate Shaofu studies the effects of prenatal steroid administration. 





Richie Hodgson
Head, Marketing and Communications               

Richmond commenced at WIRF in September 2015 to assist in the development and implementation of the Foundation’s marketing and communications activities. He brings extensive communications, media and marketing experience within the health and medical research sectors, and has also worked  across a number of state and federal government departments and as a freelance journalist. He holds a Bachelor of Business in Marketing and Accounting.

Andrea Cole
Finance Manager

Andrea commenced in 2003 as the Accountant and is responsible for managing all financial aspects of the Foundation. Andrea has had 20 years of accountancy, administration and HR experience working in a variety of commercial organisations.

Annemarie Weekes
Manager, Café/Gift Shop

Annemarie joined WIRF in 2000. She runs the busy WIRF Café and Gift Shop located at King Edward Memorial Hospital. Annemarie manages a large team of over seventy volunteers and staff providing delicious food and drinks seven days a week. She also provides special catering for functions within the hospital and externally.

Jenny Reid

Volunteer Coordinator

Jenny commenced her working career as an Enrolled Nurse at Hollywood Hospital. After her training, she worked at Derby, Hollywood and Princess Margaret Hospitals and the Red Cross Blood Bank. Jenny then moved into the area of Volunteering, as Field Officer, then Promotions Officer with the Volunteer Services Department of the Red Cross and gained experience working with Volunteers in the metropolitan area and extensively throughout the State. Jenny joined WIRF in March 2015 as Volunteer Coordinator to support our team of almost 100 volunteers on site at King Eddy's.

Vanessa Walker
BookKeeper                                                                                      BBus(Accounting)

Vanessa came to WIRF in June 2015 as the Foundation's BookKeeper.  Vanessa brings a wealth of experience to WIRF in the areas of accounts, administration, marketing and business development having worked in small business and the NFP sector.  

Christine Spencer
Administration Assistant – Foundation’s Office

Chris has been with the Foundation since 1999 and wears a number of hats. As well as being our administrative assistant she is also the office manager, secretary, receptionist and events organiser. Thankfully Chris enjoys variety in her work at WIRF.