Dr Julia Lappin

Senior Lecturer, UNSW Sydney
December 2018
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... live the life of a working mum:  go running in the park, walk the dog, watch my boys play cricket, decorate a Christmas tree, do a lot of washing, restock the fridge, and try to get a bit of secret Christmas shopping safely stashed away!

I'd originally planned to work... as a paediatrician or psychiatrist- this was my dilemma when I completed my medical training 20(ish!) years ago. I now work with young people with mental health problems, so I guess my interests guided me back to doing both.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... passion for what they do, integrity and a willingness to work around and over obstacles to complete a task. I hugely value the diverse skills held by different members of the clinical and research teams I work in. There is something very special to me about genuine collaboration and sharing of ideas as part of a team.  

Career wise, I’m most proud of... clinically-based research I’ve been involved in which has genuinely improved the quality of life of people with severe mental illness. I work with people who have had psychotic illness, who often become marginalised and socially excluded. There is much to be done to improve their quality of life- not only in minimising their distressing symptoms, but also in enabling them to have equitable physical healthcare and a role in society.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... making genuine progress in translation of research findings into clinical practice. Research needs to be applicable in real-world settings. To make change there needs to be better recognition of the value of research embedded in clinical practice, and of the role of implementation science. Until academic metrics reflect the value of translation and implementation in their measures of impact, the field won’t move on.

Dr Julia Lappin

Dr Julia Lappin is a senior lecturer at UNSW Sydney in the School of Psychiatry and at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). She has recently been appointed co-lead of the Children and Adolescent Wellbeing sub-theme of the UNSW Medicine Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction Theme  and SPHERE Clinical Academic Group (CAG).

Dr Lappin joined NDARC in 2014 from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, UK where she led service development of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust’s Early Intervention Pathway. In the UK she was an investigator on the AESOP-10 study, which tracked outcomes over 10 years in over 500 individuals with first episode psychosis. Dr Lappin cites physical healthcare and holistic care in severe mental illness as key interests for translation of research into practice.

Concurrent with her research position, Dr Lappin is a consultant psychiatrist and clinical lead for the Bondi Junction Early Psychosis Program, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. She works as part of a multi-disciplinary team providing holistic care for youth who experience severe mental health issues.

Her clinical practice is informed by evidence-based research: early intervention, promotion of physical healthcare in recognition of the mortality gap faced by individuals with severe mental illness, and provision of pharmacological, psychological and vocational care to improve clinical and social outcomes. The team collaborates closely with Headspace and with community sector youth organisations and youth mental health early intervention services nationally. 

Dr Lappin’s research focuses on improving outcomes in severe mental illness, particularly psychotic illnesses. She is interested in improving physical health outcomes in individuals with mental illness and is part of the Keeping Body In Mind (KBIM) team which has rolled out physical healthcare initiatives across mental health services within SESLHD under the leadership of A/Prof Jackie Curtis (SESLHD & School of Psychiatry, UNSW).  At NDARC, Dr Lappin has led a number of projects on substance use and mental health comorbidity, including methamphetamine psychosis.