Dr Karen Whitfield

Conjoint Associate Professor

School of Pharmacy
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences


Honorary Fellow

Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence Email: Karen.whitfield@uq.edu.au

Dr Karen Whitfield is a Honorary Fellow within the School of Pharmacy and currently works at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital as Team Leader for the Pharmacy Women’s and Newborn Team. Karen completed a Bachelor of Pharmacy at Leicester UK in 1988 and pursued a career in hospital pharmacy.

Karen has worked at a number of different hospital including Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Infirmary, North Staffordshire Hospital Trust (Surgical and Paediatric Directorate Pharmacist), The Townsville Hospital, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (Assistant Director). She has also held a number of teaching positions including Teacher Practitioner with Medicines Services Queensland.

Her specialist interests include paediatrics and neonatology

She completed a Diploma in Hospital Pharmacy (1991), Masters in Clinical Pharmacy (1996) and completed her PhD at Aston University in 2002 under the supervision of Dr John Marriott and Dr Keith Wilson at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital UK, investigating sedatives in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Karen has presented work Nationally and Internationally at several Seminars and Conferences including, Life Long Learning for Pharmacists Conference (Croatia 2016), Neonatal and Paediatric Pharmacists Conference UK 2015), Society of Obstetric Medicine Australia and New Zealand (Melbourne 2015), Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (Perth 2014) SHPA (Darwin 2014), American Society of Health System Pharmacists (California 2010), Pharmacy Education Symposium Italy (2009), British Pharmacological Society Conference (London 2002).

Research Interests

  • Medication optimisation in neonates
  • Medication use in pregnancy and breast feeding
  • Research in to the impact of leadership training and coaching

Research Impacts

Research Interests

  • Altered pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic handling of medications in premature and term neonates
  • Essential micronutrient levels in human milk, including trace elements and vitamins
  • Essential micronutrient levels in neonates including trace elements and vitamins
  • Altered pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic handling of medications in pregnancy
  • Antimicrobial stewardship in neonatal intensive care units
  • Antimicrobial stewardship in obstetric patients

Karen invites potential majors and postgraduate students to contact her via email to discuss research opportunities.

Projects currently available for PhD/MPhil research higher degree students include:


  • Pharmacokinetic analysis of a select number of essential trace elements in neonates including of Chromium, Manganese and Cobalt
  • Investigation of vitamin D levels in neonates pre and post supplementation
  • Investigation of essential trace element concentration in maternal and neonatal blood and human breast milk
  • An investigation of the medicines information provided during pregnancy and breast feeding by health professionals.
  • High risk medications taken during breast feeding – an investigation into the benefit risk ratio


  • Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics study of heparin and low molecular weight heparins in the antenatal, peri-partum and postnatal period.
  • Medication taking behaviour during pregnancy and breast feeding (prescription and non-prescription medications)
  • Drugs levels in breast milk - this will involve investigating specific medications and analysis of levels in breast milk and any clinical implications for the infant
  • Management of narcolepsy during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Professional Development

  • Development, implementation and evaluation of competency frameworks in obstetrics and gynecology and neonatology
  • Development, implementation and impact of a leadership program for hospital pharmacists


  • Master of Science, University of Keele
  • Bachelor of Science, Council of National Academic Awards
  • Graduate Certificate of Education, James Cook University
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Aston University


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Master Philosophy

  • (2019) Master Philosophy

View all Supervision


Journal Article

Conference Publication

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision