Dr Alan Gemmill

Dr Alan Gemmill

Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research, Parent-Infant Research Institute.

Chief Investigator J

Dr Alan Gemmill is recognized as leading researcher on screening. CI Gemmill co-leads national delivery of the MumSpace initiative with CI Milgrom. This federal initiative provides free online perinatal mental health resources including preventive apps and online treatment programs for depression and anxiety, most of which he was instrumental in developing and evaluating at the research stage - a major accomplishment in translational health research.

Top 5 Publications

Milgrom, J., Danaher, B., Seeley, J., Holt, C., Holt, C., Ericksen, J., . . . Gemmill, AW.. (In Press). Internet and Face-to-Face Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Postnatal Depression Compared to Treatment-As-Usual: A Randomised Controlled Trial of MumMoodBooster. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23 (11), e17185, Epub ahead of print doi: 10.2196/

Karyotaki, E., Efthimiou, O., Miguel, C., Maas Genannt Bermpohl, F., Riper, H., Patel, V., Mira, A., Gemmill, A.W., … Cuijpers, P. (2021) Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression: An Individual Patient Data Network Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry, 78(4):361-

Furukawa TA, Suganuma A, Ostinelli EG, …Gemmill, A.W., …&Cuijpers, P (2021) Dismantling, optimising, and personalising internet cognitive behavioural therapy for depression: a systematic review and component network meta-analysis using individual participant data. Lancet Psychiatry. 2021;8(6):500-511.

Bleker, L., Milgrom, J., Sexton-Oates, A., Roseboom, T.J., Gemmill, A.W., Holt, C.J., Saffery, R., Burger, H. & de Rooij, S.R. (2019). Exploring the effect of antenatal depression treatment on children's epigenetic profiles: findings from a pilot randomized controlled trial. Clinical Epigenetics, 11(1): p. 019-0616.

Milgrom, J., Danaher, B.G., Holt, C., Holt, C.J., Seeley, J., Tyler, M.S., Ross J., Ericksen J. & Gemmill A.W., (2016) Internet cognitive behavioural therapy for women with postnatal depression: a randomised controlled trial of MumMoodBooster. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(3), e54.

Overall Track Record in the last 5 years

Career summary and Contribution to the field of research:  I have led several randomised clinical trials for treatment and preventive intervention programs for maternal mental health difficulties. As a biologist by training, I have been able to make important contributions to the field of perinatal mental health in a relatively short time and my training in behavioural ecology has proved valuable here. The two distinct stages in my postgraduate career have been linked by an overarching interest in the “costs of reproduction”: - the spectrum of pathological phenomena that accompany reproductive processes. In particular, I have published a series of papers (and now an edited book) that have made a lasting difference to the understanding of issues of identification and treatment of perinatal mental illness and have been successful as leading CI on research grants.    From 2001 – 2005, I was closely involved in the implementation of the beyondblue National Postnatal Depression Program in Victoria and Tasmania.  I had input into the design including the tools and procedures set up to deliver this major public health initiative. I also helped establish those procedures at major public hospitals, oversaw much of the data collection, executed its analysis and prepared the results for publication (Milgrom, Gemmill, et al., 2008. Antenatal risk factors for postnatal depression: a large prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 108). Ongoing work focuses on: e-Mental Health solutions; protecting child developmental outcomes by treating maternal mental disorders in pregnancy; and screening programs for perinatal mood disorders.

Over the last few years the direction of my work has led me to be increasingly focussed on questions around effective identification of perinatal mood disorders. Specifically, the questions around whether and how population level screening programs may help increase the notoriously low detection and treatment rates among perinatal women. My major contribution to the identification of perinatal mood disorders began by addressing the internationally agreed prerequisite conditions for the successful implementation of screening programs. I began by publishing some of the earliest work quantifying the acceptability (tolerability) and non-acceptability of depression screening among a large cohort of depressed and non-depressed perinatal women (Gemmill et al., 2006. A survey of the clinical acceptability of screening for postnatal depression in depressed and non-depressed women. BMC Public Health, 6). I then addressed the accuracy properties of the most common screening tool for postnatal depression in what is probably the most careful evaluations available (Milgrom, Mendelsohn, & Gemmill, 2011Does postnatal depression screening work? Throwing out the bathwater, keeping the baby. Journal of Affective Disorders, 132).  Recently, in collaboration with CIA, provided an invited review on all of the major issues surrounding the implementation of screening in BPCOG (Milgrom & Gemmill 2014. Screening for perinatal depression. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 28) and I have been a leading voice in moderating the sometimes controversial debates around the potential harms, costs and benefits of screening in the peer-reviewed literature (Gemmill 2014. The long gestation of screening programmes for perinatal depressive disorders. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 77).

My track record of work in this area led to me be commissioned by Wiley Blackwell (along with CIA Milgrom) to edit a major new international book covering all aspects relating to perinatal depression identification and screening in particular (Milgrom & Gemmill Eds. 2015. Identifying Perinatal Depression and Anxiety: Evidence-based Practice in Screening, Psychosocial Assessment and Management. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell). I took a major role in inviting and putting together the composition of the contributor teams who authored the book’s main chapters as well as contributing two chapters (with CIA). This was a major endeavour that required close, iterative collaboration with many internationally recognised experts in their respective fields, from diagnostics to health economics to biomedical statistics and much more besides. The many scholarly contributions to this book bring the whole field up to date with the highest standard of knowledge and evidence available and identifies the major future research questions that need resolved. These lead directly to the need for high quality, well conducted randomised trials of screening programs – historically these have been surprisingly rare yet studies such as the one proposed in this application are ultimately the only reliable way to evaluate the potential utility of prenatal depression screening programs. In the longer-term 5-year program of my work I hope to establish a validated evidence-based model of clinical decision support for perinatal mental health and answer the critical questions regarding reductions in maternal mental health morbidity, the impact on infant wellbeing and development and the cost-effectiveness profile of perinatal depression screening.

Supervision and mentoring: My other activities include acting in a direct supervisory role for students in the University of Melbourne Advanced Medical Science course, and I had major input to the Unit Description for this course as offered at PIRI. I have also acted as an examiner of AMS and PhD theses and provide extra supervision to postgraduate students and sit on PhD advisory committees at PIRI.

Peer review involvement: I sit on grant review panels, for example for the beyondblue National Priority Driven Research grant rounds. I am regularly asked to peer review submissions to academic journals in my field. Recently these have included: Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Journal of Affective Disorders, European Psychiatry, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Depression research and treatment, The Lancet Global Health and Journal of Medical Internet Research.  I am an Editor of ISRN Psychiatry.

Professional Involvement & standing: I am an active member of the International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health. Because of my research interests and expertise, in 2014 I was invited to join the Perinatal Mental Health Data Development Working Group. The group was set up to determine the most useful data items relating to perinatal mental health that could be developed for national collection and inclusion in the National Minimum Dataset on all Australian births collected by the National Perinatal Statistics Unit and AIHW. In 2015 I was invited to become a member of the steering committee for National Paternal Depression Initiative and have continued in that role.