Meet Alfred Deakin Professor Felice Jacka

The title of Alfred Deakin Professor is the most prestigious honour that the University can bestow on its staff. And recently, Felice Jacka’s position as an Alfred Deakin Professor was cemented in history. 

Prof. Jacka is a pioneer in the highly innovative field of research and practice known as Nutritional Psychiatry. It was Prof. Jacka’s vision and substantial efforts that founded this entirely new field of psychiatry and effected a paradigm shift in the way psychiatry is understood and practised.  

She now joins other IMPACT Alfred Deakin Professors including, Director Prof. Michael Berk, Prof. Wei Duan, Prof. Leigh Ackland and Prof. Rachel Huxley. 

Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin congratulated Prof. Jacka and the other 2022 recipients of this esteemed accolade. 

‘We are delighted to recognise the exceptional achievements of these staff by honouring them with the title of Alfred Deakin Professor,’ he said. 

‘This is a well-deserved, important acknowledgement of their outstanding contributions and commitment to the University. 

‘Deakin University is proud of the accomplishments and dedication of all Alfred Deakin Professors in their respective fields of expertise.’ 

Prof. Jacka’s research into nutritional psychiatry spans more than a decade. When Prof. Jacka first started questioning the links between diet and mental health disorders, the emerging idea faced scepticism from many within the mental health sector.  

However, Prof. Jacka persevered, and her research helped establish – for the first time – diet and nutrition as of importance to mental disorders.  

At a glance – Alfred Deakin Professor Felice Jacka 

  • Over 220 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including high-impact journals, the American Journal of Psychiatry, World Psychiatry, BMC Medicine and Lancet Psychiatry 
  • Over 10,000/16,500 citations (Scopus/Google Scholar) 
  • H-index of 55/69 (Scopus /Google Scholar)  
  • Average Field Weighted Citation Index of 3.4 
  • ISI Highly-Cited Researcher (2020 and 2021) 
  • Research cited in 82 policy documents from 52 organisations between 2009-2021 
  • Research cited in 15 international policy documents for United Nations, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and the European Commission 
  • Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2021 for her contribution to Nutritional Psychiatry in 2021 

Now, Prof. Jacka is widely recognised as the international leader in the field of Nutritional Psychiatry. Her work as featured in Time Magazine, the Oprah Magazine (cover), New York Times, Wall St Journal, The Atlantic, Scientific American, Scientific American Mind (cover), UK Guardian, CNN, NBC, Washington Post, in addition to a variety of television and stage shows, and Australian and international documentaries.  

She founded and became president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR), representing hundreds of researchers and clinicians across the globe. She is also immediate past president (inaugural) of the Australian Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders, representing researchers and mental health organisations across Australia and informing policy and research practice. 

Some of Prof. Jacka’s work includes the first studies to document the role of diet in adolescent depression – the primary age of onset for common mental disorders. This was 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 severe clinical depression. 

Prof. Jacka’s research has profoundly influenced clinical guidelines, including the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatry (RANZCP) clinical treatment guidelines. 

In 2017, Prof. Jacka set up the Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre, an internationally recognised centre of research excellence in Nutritional Psychiatry. The Food & Mood Centre, which is part of IMPACT, now comprises nearly 50 researchers, including HDR students, postdoctoral researchers, and research staff, and it is growing quickly. The research program spans basic, clinical, health services and public health research, with about 20 research studies currently underway. 

Prof. Jacka is spearheading a significant education and training initiative, with the first offering – a Free Online Course in ‘Food and Mood’ – already enrolling more than 75,000 students from more than 170 countries across the globe via Deakin’s Future Learn.