IMPACT researchers awarded OAM

Two IMPACT researchers are among the Australian’s recognised in The Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2021. Both, Professor Eugene Athan and Professor Felice Jacka were awarded the Order of Australia Medals (OAM).

The Order of Australia recognises Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement. The awards are an opportunity to celebrate those inspiring people who make our nation what it is.

Clinical Professor Eugene Athan, OAM for service to infectious diseases medicine

Professor Eugene Athan is a member of our Fundamental Biosciences team and Professor of Infectious Diseases in the School of Medicine at Deakin University.

Professor Athan was inspired to research infectious disease by the great inroads the global scientific community have made in understanding and treating challenging infections such as HIV, TB, viral hepatitis and malaria. 

Dr Athan’s experience is vast, having worked in Southern Africa and supported international health emergency teams in Africa, the Pacific and Asia. He also co-founded the GCEID (Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases). His work in the area of cardiac device infection has been published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association.

In 2020, Professor Athan rose to the challenge to lead research into Victoria’s regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the regional clinical lead, he has put in an extraordinary amount of hours into this work in addition to secondments to the Federal Department of Health and Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. 

Now, he is the Director for the Public Health Unit overseeing the successful contact tracing system and the vaccine rollout for the Barwon South West region. He was awarded a $1 million Victorian Government research grant for a COVID-19 case-control study that is now underway. 

Professor Felice Jacka, OAM for service to nutritional psychiatry research 

Professor Felice Jacka is the theme leader of our Food & Mood team and Director of the Food & Mood Centre.

Professor Felice Jacka first started researching the links between diet and mental health disorders 10 years ago. Professor Jacka is founder and president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR).

Professor Jacka has been responsible for the development of a highly innovative field of research establishing diet and nutrition as of importance to common mental disorders.

These include the first studies to document a role for diet in adolescent depression – the primary age of onset for common mental disorders – the first study to identify both maternal and early life nutrition as important predictors of children’s mental health, and the first trial to show that dietary improvement can address depression.

“I’m also absolutely passionate about helping policy-makers bring about changes to improve the global food environment. Unhealthy foods are the cheapest, most ubiquitous, heavily marketed, socially acceptable and designed to be very difficult to resist. My life’s dream is to help transform the food system and environment into something that, across the board, is working in the best interests of individuals and families.”

Professor Felice Jacka

Professor Jacka’s current research focuses closely on the links between diet, gut health, and mental and brain health. This work is being carried out with the ultimate goal of developing new, evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies for mental disorders.

Professor Jacka has published nearly 200 scientific articles. Last year she was one of the ISI Highly Cited researchers for 2020, putting her research in the top 0.1% in the world for scientific impact. 

Find out more about Fundamental Biosciences theme here

Find out more about our Food & Mood theme here