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About Caroline

Caroline de Costa BA MBBS PhD MPH FRANZCOG FRCOG FRCS(Glas) is former Director of the Clinical School at James Cook University College of Medicine, Cairns Campus in North Queensland, Australia. She was Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University from 2004 until January 2021.

Caroline had now moved to The Cairns Institute. She continues her supervision of PhD and other postgraduate students and her engagement in research in the area of women’s reproductive health. In June 2023 she retired from the role of Editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, having spent seven and a half years as Editor.

Caroline was born and educated in Sydney. She was a practicing specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist for 43 years. She studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in Dublin, and graduated MB BS (London University) and LRCP&SI in 1973. After completing residency in Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua-New Guinea, she returned to Ireland and undertook specialist training there and in the United Kingdom. In 1980 she returned to Port Moresby for a further 18 months before moving back to Sydney where she spent 17 years in public and private practice. In 1999 she moved to Cairns and took up her professorial appointment in 2004.

In her medical practice Caroline has been and continues to be committed to improving outcomes for Indigenous women in the area of obstetrics and gynaecology. She established the first specialist obstetric, gynaecology and women’s health clinic at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, Sydney, a service since expanded and run very successfully by Dr Sue Jacobs after Caroline moved full-time to Cairns. Between 1994 and 2012 Caroline took part in the outreach specialist obstetric and gynaecological service (FROGS) established by Professor Michael Humphrey through Cairns Base Hospital, in particular providing regular consulting and surgical services in Weipa, Napranum, Cooktown, Innisfail and Yarrabah. She has conducted research into possible interventions to reduce the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome amongst the children of Indigenous women in Far North Queensland and was closely involved with staff at Apunipima Cape York Health Council in translating research findings in this area into positive ways to improve maternal and fetal health. Although she has now largely retired from clinical practice, current research and publications have included the topics of vitamin D levels in pregnant women in Far North Queensland, knowledge and practice of abortion and emergency contraception in Far North Queensland, maternal mortality in Papua-New Guinea, vaginal birth following caesarean section and caesarean section on maternal request. Caroline has a particular interest in caesarean section, including the history and social implications of this common operation as well as techniques and risks of the surgery. She has authored or co-authored three books on this subject.

Caroline is firmly committed to the pro-choice position on abortion rights for women. She has been awarded honorary life membership of Children by Choice, Brisbane, and is a member of Reproductive Choice Australia. She has been active and successful in public movements to reform abortion law. In 2010 she was awarded the President’s Medal of the Australian Medical Association partly in recognition of this work. In 2014, she was similarly awarded the President’s Medal of RANZCOG. Also in 2014, she was awarded the Sidney Sax Medal of the Public Health Association of Australia and also the Order of Australia (AM) for her work in the area of women’s reproductive health. In 2022 she published the 3rd edition of Clinical Cases in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women’s Health, co-authored with Stephen Robson, Boon Lim and Kiarna Brown.

Caroline resigned from undergraduate teaching in the JCU Cairns Clinical  School from 31st January 2021 but she continues to teach and supervise postgraduate students in her new role with The Cairns Institute (CI) on the JCU Smithfield Campus, and to carry out research in conjunction with CI colleagues, as well as colleagues and students in the University of Papua-New Guinea School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Caroline is also a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and the author of several textbooks. In 2013 she published the second edition of Clinical Cases in Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women’s Health, co-authored by Stephen Robson and Boon Lim (publisher McGraw-Hill) and the French translation of The Diva and Doctor God, (Sarah Bernhardt et le Docteur Pozzi), Glyphe Editions, Paris (translated by Francine Siety).

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