Dr Megan Gow is busy – very busy. This mum of three primary-aged children trained as a dietitian, and is now a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellow researching maternal and infant health at the University of Sydney.
She is also a Senior Lecturer at the Children’s Hospital Westmead Clinical School, and Co-Chair of the Health in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Collective (HiPPP EMR-C) International Conference.
In addition, she manages to fit in a daily half-hour workout. How does she do it all?
“I actually just really love what I do,” said Dr Gow.
“I love writing papers, doing analysis, looking at data and trying to find answers to things. And when the answers are unexpected, I love trying to make sense of that as well.
“Even when I’ve been on maternity leave, I’m guilty of writing papers because I just like it.”
Dr Gow started her research career with a PhD looking into dietary interventions to treat childhood obesity and type two diabetes.
Although she had some wins, she also discovered there were many young people who simply weren’t successful with these interventions.
So she decided to investigate factors influencing their earlier development.
“For my postdoctoral work I wanted to change focus and look at the maternal health and pregnancy environment, and the role that’s playing in predicting and preventing childhood and adolescent obesity.
“A lot of my research now is focused on complicated pregnancies and the antenatal environment, and how that influences infant growth trajectories.
“As a dietitian I look at maternal diet and physical activity, and how that can influence infant health.”
She currently works within a research team at St George Hospital, looking at the nutrition and other data in large-scale studies on the impacts of complicated pregnancies.
As part of this team she is also taking part in an intervention trial to help women with preeclampsia improve the health of their circulatory system.
This involves providing dietary advice at six months postpartum, and following up after 12 months and again at three years to investigate the impacts on the health of mothers and babies.
Dr Gow also recently received a grant for a project using social media to provide health information to women with young children.
“We know these women are highly engaged with social media, so we’re trying to find out how to harness this,” she said.
This project was inspired by a talk given by CRE HiPP Director Professor Helen Skouteris on body image.
Dr Gow’s career highlight to date has been receiving her NHMRC Early Career Fellowship (now called Investigator Grants), which will support her work until the end of 2024.
“Having that solid five years to work on the research that you’re really interested in – it’s rare to get such long periods of funding.”
A commitment to regular exercise also helps fuel her work.
“During COVID we set up a home gym and I’m in there every lunch break for a half-hour workout. So that’s part of my day and I think that definitely keeps me sane.”
Dr Gow has two tips for anyone considering a career in research.
“Firstly, don’t be afraid to reach out to people that you want to work with, or who inspire you in some way.
“Just take that step and make connections with people. They can only say no, and usually that doesn’t happen as researchers want to help other researchers.
“Secondly, collaborating in a multidisciplinary team is important. To fully understand something, you can’t do it alone, and you need to work with people who have different points of view.”
Dr Gow’s leadership role in the HiPPP EMR-C International Conference also provides her with opportunities to network and build collaboration with a wide range of researchers and mentors from around the world.
Ultimately, all of this work contributes towards achieving her main objective: “Improving maternal health, as well as the flow-on of health benefits for the child.”
The HiPPP EMR-C annual International Conference is coming up soon on 18 October 2022. Click here for details and to register.