Farewell Heather! And welcome Cuong!

It’s been a bittersweet fortnight at Spiritual Health Association. With much fondness and gratitude, and no small amount of sadness, SHA bids our outgoing Research Leader of seven years, Heather Tan, farewell on her retirement. And, with equal measures of excitement, we’ve welcomed Cuong La to assume the role of Research and Policy Leader.


Cuong brings to the role extensive experience in both academic research, and policy and advocacy, in public health and community development. He worked in Vietnam for UN agencies, international organisations and academic institutions focusing on health policy and advocacy on HIV/AIDS prevention and control for more than a decade.

In Australia, Cuong has worked as a researcher and project manager for various health and feminist organisations to promote health equity and social justice. He holds a Master of Human Sexuality Studies and PhD in Community Health.

When asked to reflect on a couple of the highlights of her time at SHA, Heather offered:

“My biggest sense of satisfaction with my work at SHA has been developing a research specific role at a time where this is much needed in the healthcare sector for the further integrating of spiritual care into whole person care. This development could not have occurred without the interest, willingness and persistence of managers in the workplace and the collaboration of University partners. Thank you all for that. 

“The opportunity to collaborate with international partners has also been great – helping to bring the attention of others to the good work we are doing in here in Australia and to bring some rather surprising outcomes. The PROM* project certainly comes to mind – lots of challenges but the recent possibility of the measure’s use in quite unpredicted ways – as does the international study of the impact of COVID.”

As she embarks on her next chapter, Heather passed the baton to Cuong with this advice:

“You’ve taken on a challenging but very satisfying role – one that is likely to continue to involve hard but very important work, both following up past work and engaging with many new opportunities.  

“As a peak body, now with a national focus, keeping the connections going – at the hospital level and with colleagues both nationally and internationally will be important.  Keep up the publications and the conferences – all vital communication opportunities. Go really well. You are working with a great team.”

Grateful for the wisdom, Cuong said,” I hope to continue the amazing work that Heather has begun, and to bring my academic and policy experience to contribute to the enhancement of the spiritual care workforce and advancement of the spiritual health outcome informed by the latest evidence and practice.”

Please join us in wishing Heather all the best for the next chapter of her adventures and welcoming Cuong warmly to lead an exciting new phase of research and policy leadership at SHA!


* Patient Reported Outcome Measures