Nicole Lee

Adjunct Associate Professor at NDRI and Director at 360Edge
October 2016
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... try not to work all weekend so I can spend that time with my 12 year old instead.

I wish I'd never... talked my ‘scaredy cat’ son into going on the ‘tame’ Scooby Doo roller coaster at Movie World on the Gold Coast - I thought I was going to die. His calm response as we disembarked: “let’s never do that again...”

I'd originally planned to work...  in computer science. I started a science degree in the Engineering faculty majoring in computer science but I found it so boring I had to change majors. Being one of only 6 women in a class of 300 also didn’t help make it attractive either. The only way I could avoid repeating first year was to major in psychology or ecology - but I’m not that partial to digging around in the wild so I chose psychology. In 3rd year I went to a lecture on applications of operant conditioning - it was only just starting to be applied to the alcohol and other drug field through cue exposure - so that’s how I got interested in the sector and in research.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... honesty, integrity and a sense of humour.

I'll never forget... trekking to Machu Picchu - I hate walking and camping, but that was worth it.

If I had more time, I'd... travel more.

I'm most scared of... karaoke. My friends keep threatening to take me - they love it. Public speaking is not a problem but there is no way I’m singing in front of anyone...

For my next holiday... we’re planning a cruise to Japan next year with three other families from my son’s school (4 tween boys loose on a large ship…what could possibly go wrong?) - but I’m going to try to sneak in a mindfulness meditation retreat in Bali before that if I can!

I can't get enough of... anything sweet. I’d eat dessert for dinner if I could.

I'm really terrible at... filing and diary management. Until I found my amazing office manager, I filed in random piles on the floor and double booked myself at least once a week. And I’m pretty bad at saying no to interesting work. My motto is say yes and figure out how to do it later - it drives my team crazy (but we do always figure it out and get to do lots of fabulous things in the process!)

Career wise, I’m most proud of... doing everything the hard way and still managing to make a success of it.  I didn’t go down the usual academic route. I completed my PhD without a scholarship and then went straight into a clinical research job and didn’t apply for a postdoc. And I juggled research with clinical work the whole time (with some service management and training thrown in), which made me neither a proper academic nor a proper clinician… but it gave me a set of skills that led me to exactly where I am now, which is perfect.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... that we work out how to effectively get what we know works into practice and become world leaders in implementation of evidence based practice and policy. I’d love it if we could somehow work out what works best for whom so we could make more efficient use of the limited resources.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... working together to reduce the stigma around alcohol and other drug use. We know that stigma is a barrier to treatment and a facilitator of relapse and harms. I think it is the single biggest barrier to evidence based policy, especially the introduction of harm reduction strategies and allocating sufficient funding for the sector. It’s an uphill battle when alcohol and other drug use and problems are viewed through a moral, rather than a health or human rights, lens.

Nicole Lee

Nicole Lee is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the National Drug Research Institute and Director at 360Edge, a specialist consultancy for the alcohol and other drug sector. Her focus in the sector is on the translation of research to practice and policy. Her main interest is in methamphetamine practice and policy responses and in comorbidity treatment. She has worked in the alcohol and other drug sector for 25 years, as clinician, academic, educator and service manager. Nicole is a practicing psychologist, and is the National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy.