Overview and governance

The General Practice Academic Unit (GPAU) of the the Graduate School of Medicine was established with support of the Roberta Williams Chair of General Practice. The GPAU aims to foster excellence in general practice medical education and research, with a focus on the health care of rural and regional communities. The research arm of the GPAU is the Illawarra and Southern Practice Research Network (ISPRN). ISPRN includes over 90 general practices, mostly across the geographic footprint of Graduate School of Medicine in rural and regional NSW.

The Illawarra and Southern Practice Research Network (ISPRN) was originally established with a Primary Health Care Research Evaluation and Development Strategy Research Capacity Building Initiative grant from the Department of Health and Ageing in 2011 and is now supported by the University of Wollongong’s Graduate School of Medicine (GSMISPRN is a member research group of the Health Impacts Research Cluster (HIRC) which sits within the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health (SMAH) at the University of Wollongong. The HIRC’s aim is to improve the health of whole communities by research that informs and transforms clinical practice and health policy. HIRC brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to address the complex challenges that impinge on the health of communities. HIRC research includes investigating new initiatives in interdisciplinary care, identifying areas of high need for services and novel approaches to understanding chronic disease and its management.

The General Practice Academic Unit (GPAU)

Professor Andrew Bonney, Director

Professor Bonney MBBS (Hons), MFM (Clin), PhD, DRANZCOG, FRACGP, has over 20 years’ experience as a general practitioner working in a small rural town and Aboriginal community on the south coast of NSW. He is the Director of the Illawarra and Southern Practice Research Network (ISPRN) and was appointed as the Roberta Williams Chair and foundation Professor of General Practice at the University of Wollongong (UOW) in 2011.

Professor Judy Mullan, Deputy Director

Professor Judy Mullan is the Academic Director of Research at the Graduate School of Medicine.  She is also the Academic Director of the Centre for Health Research Illawarra Shoalhaven Population (CHRISP), in addition to her role as the Deputy Director of ISPRN. She was appointed as lecturer in Population Health at UOW in July 2008. She has completed a PhD in Public Health, a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, a Fellowship in Hospital Pharmacy and a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her academic experiences include teaching, supervising and mentoring both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Judy also has extensive experience as a pharmacist having worked as a hospital, community and accredited consultant pharmacist for over 20 years.

Associate Professor Joel Rhee, Associate Professor of General Practice

Associate Professor Rhee BSc(Med) MBBS(Hons) GCULT PhD FRACGP is an academic general practitioner with a special interest in primary palliative care, cancer care and aged care. He provides care to patients in residential aged care homes and independent living units at HammondCare Centre for Positive Ageing + Care. He is the current chair of the RACGP Cancer and Palliative Care Network and a member of the executive of the Palliative Care Network of the NSW Health Agency for Clinical Innovation. He also has an interest in medical education and assessment and is a clinical examiner and question writer for the Australian Medical Council.

Associate Professor Rowena Ivers, Chair of Phase 3

A/ Prof Rowena Ivers is the Chair of Phase 3 at the Graduate School of Medicine, UOW, where she supports medical students in their placements in primary care across the Illawarra/ Shoalhaven and rural sites across NSW.  Her main research interests include alcohol, tobacco, nutrition and health prevention and cancer care for Aboriginal people. She has received over $8m in grants from the NHMRC, MRFF, ARC and other agencies. She is also RACGP NSW Council representative for the Illawarra/Shoalhaven, on the RACGP National Research Ethics Committee and Quality Committee, and on the Coordinare Clinical Council.

Ms Alyssa Horgan, Research Officer

Ms Horgan has overseen the coordination of ISPRN for the past 9 years. She has extensive experience in the management and implementation of primary care research projects.

Dr Christine Metusela,  Research Fellow

Dr Metusela is a qualitative and mixed methods researcher with expertise in practice-based research and primary care, including health services research, Aboriginal health, and migrant sexual and reproductive health. She has a PhD in social science and is currently a Research Fellow in the General Practice Academic Unit, School of Medical, Indigenous and Health Sciences at the University of Wollongong.

Ms Rebecca Thorne, Associate Research Fellow

Beck has been an Accredited Practising Dietitian and worked at the University of Wollongong since 2008. She has primarily worked within the areas of research and private practice. Beck’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science and Nutrition) and Masters of Science (with Distinction) in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Wollongong.

Beck’s research experience includes nutrition-based randomised control trials, appetite-based feeding studies and research within general practice. She was worked across all areas of research from project design, to working in a lab, working as a clinician, to project management and final reporting.

Beck’s current role involves working with indigenous communities to support and improve the health of babies and their mothers


ISPRN is overseen by its Director Professor Andrew Bonney and by Deputy Director Professor Judy Mullan.

ISPRN is also governed by two working groups:

  1. Strategic Planning Working Group
  2. Advisory Working Group