Professor Debra Thoms has held varied roles in senior management based in Australia. She has worked as a clinician in remote Australia and as CEO at the Australian College of Nursing. She was a General Manager at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, as well as within the Health Departments of South Australia and New South Wales. In addition to her professional achievements, after qualifying as a registered nurse, her academic career continued with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Psychology followed by postgraduate studies in nursing and health management at the University of New South Wales. Debra then completed a graduate certificate in bioethics at University of Technology Sydney. In 2005, she was selected to attend the Johnson and Johnson Wharton Fellows Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Thoms’ exemplary professional leadership skills have been evident in her roles as inaugural Chief Executive Officer at the Australian College of Nursing, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer for New South Wales Health. She was then recruited as the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer for Australia at the Department of Health for four years until 2019. She is currently the Acting Head of the Nursing School in the Faculty of Health at the Queensland University of Technology.
In addition to her managerial and clinical experience and holding the most senior nursing position in Australia, Professor Thoms’ contribution to nursing and healthcare has been recognized by an Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Technology Sydney, and her appointment as Adjunct Professor.
On a regional level, Professor Thoms has had a long-standing advisory role with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Development, and worked closely as member, expert adviser and mentor with the South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer’s Alliance (SPCNMOA). In the South Pacific region she has played a crucial role as Chair of the SPCNMOA, and represented SPCNMOA and Australia at the Pacific Directors of Clinical Services meetings and Pacific Heads of Health Meetings each year.
At the international level, Professor Thoms has represented Australia at the WHO World Health Assembly (WHA), and was a member of the WHO Executive Board for Australia from 2015 to 2019. She was the only nurse on the WHO Executive Board at a time when the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife was being suggested, and was instrumental to the executive board announcing this resolution that was approved at the 72nd WHA in 2019.
Profession Thoms was a member of the steering committee for the State of the World’s Nurses Report providing advice and guidance on the timing of the report process and ensuring the report’s relevance for the global nursing profession. She has also represented Australia at the Commonwealth Ministers for Health Meeting in 2019.