23 Oct 2018

Grant, coveted speaking role for sexual health researcher

Dr Lenka Vodstrcil talking on bacterial
vaginosis at scientific conferences
by Anne Crawford 

Monash University’s Central Clinical School (CCS) researcher Dr Lenka Vodstrcil has been awarded the inaugural CCS Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) travel grant to attend a sexual health conference in South Africa in December.

Dr Vodstrcil, who is a Research Fellow with the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, will be funded to go to the invitation-only Keystone symposium on the “Role of the Genital Tract Microbiome in Sexual and Reproductive Health”, to be held in Cape Town.

The exclusive conference is part of the Keystone Symposia Global Health Series, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The GEDI grant, added to the latest round of nine awards, acknowledges the additional burden carer responsibilities can place on academic travel. It is part of the commitment CCS is making to equity regarding carer responsibilities.

Dr Vodstrcil’s research career has been interrupted by taking leave to care for two young children, meaning she has worked the equivalent of one year in the last four years. She is now the primary carer two days a week, working three days a week.

“It’s the first international conference since I had my first child,” she said. “I’m at the point now where I’m trying to build on my CV so I can be competitive for external funding. It’s a really important time in my career.

“Being able to submit to, and attend conferences is something funding bodies look at in terms of your success,” she said.

Dr Vodstrcil is establishing herself as an epidemiologist with expertise in molecular biology, specifically in understanding the role of the genital tract microbiota and sexual and reproductive health and disease.

“I think the Faculty, Monash and the CCS really try to help women at this stage because we’re at a cross-roads and we’ve fallen behind a little bit in some of these things.”

Within a day of hearing she had won the travel grant, Dr Vodstrcil was invited to become one of the main speakers at the event.

“This was a great honour for me,” she said. “Being an invited speaker as well as receiving the award is really important for my CV, and will strengthen my funding applications.”

Dr Vodstrcil will speak about her work into bacterial vaginosis, a common condition, and specifically about a randomised controlled trial investigating whether hormonal contraception, in the form of the pill, can support a healthy vaginal microbiota and help prevent the condition coming back.

“Antibiotics can get rid of it in the short-term but in the long term most women get it back. Our preliminary findings show the pill supports a healthy microbiota,” she said. “But sexual activity is maybe resulting in bacterial vaginosis recurring.”

Dr Vodstrcil is also presenting her findings at the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Infections (IUSTI) Asia Pacific Sexual Health Congress early next month.

The GEDI committee was launched in June this year. To find out more about it:

CCS intranet GEDI page  


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