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 de Costa has now moved from her role as professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the James Cook University College of Medicine in Cairns to the Cairns Institute, on the Smithfield Campus of JCU. She continues her supervision of PhD and other postgraduate students and her engagement in research in the area of women’s reproductive health. She also continues in her role as Editor-in-Chief of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Caroline was born and educated in Sydney. She has been a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist for 37 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 private practice. In 1999 she moved to Cairns and took up her present 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 2009 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, and in 2010 was awarded the President’s Medal of the Australian Medical Association partly in recognition of this work. 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.
Caroline resigned from undergraduate teaching in the JCU Cairns Clinical School from 31st January 2012 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).