Born in Australia, Dame Valerie studied medicine at Sydney University, graduating in 1969. As the top graduate that year she was awarded the University Gold Medal, the first woman ever to receive this award in medicine. She worked for one of the first clinical epidemiologists in the UK, Charles Fletcher, WHO propelled her towards the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she worked for almost 20 years. In 1988 she became Director of the university Of Oxford Cancer Epidemiology Unit, previously directed by Sir Richard Doll. Her major research interests include the role of reproductive, hormonal and infectious agents in cancer and other conditions. She is Principal Investigator of the Million Women Study, investigating the effects of a range of women's lifestyle factors on health, with focus initially on the effects of hormone replacement therapy. Since 1991, she has led international collaborative studies of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers. She has served on many international committees, including the World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences, and various Australian cancer councils. Until recently, she chaired the UK Department of Health's Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening and is currently a member of the Board of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. In 2006 she was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) for scientific contributions to epidemiology. Other honours include being invested as Dame of the British Empire (DBE) and Companion of Australia.