A farewell note from Dr Jessica Browne

This week, the sun sets on my time as Senior Research Fellow at The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD). ‘To every thing there is a season’, as the saying goes.

by Dr Jessica Browne

When I first started at the ACBRD in 2011, the Centre was less than a year old. At this time, psychosocial research in diabetes was receiving limited attention. Alongside a dedicated and talented team led by Prof Jane Speight, and arm-in-arm with collaborators from near and far, I have worked on research projects that have shed light on the psychological, behavioural and social challenges of living with diabetes, and informed new strategies, resources and interventions to improve the lives of those affected by the condition. Some 6.5 years later, as I survey the diabetes landscape, I can confidently say that the research I have led and contributed to at the ACBRD has made a positive impact on the way we think about, talk about, and respond to diabetes in Australia.

One notable example of this has been my research on diabetes stigma, of which I am immensely proud. The ACBRD’s world-first program of diabetes stigma research, which I have led over the past 6 years, has highlighted that some people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes feel stigmatised as a result of negative stereotyping, blame, shame, discrimination, and being treated differently, or somehow ‘less than’, as compared to other people. This stigmatisation drives and reinforces health inequalities, as it creates unnecessary barriers to disclosure, self-management and healthcare engagement. By providing a descriptive evidence base, and new self-report tools with which to assess perceived and experienced stigma, we have opened up avenues for future research and intervention regarding the stigmatisation of people with diabetes. Diabetes peak bodies and the media have paid attention to our findings. I have worked with Diabetes Victoria to support their efforts to ensure their campaign messaging about and representations of people with diabetes are non-stigmatising. I have provided training for health professionals in understanding and addressing diabetes stigma in clinical settings. And my research has been featured in a special World Diabetes Day edition of the Washington Post in 2014.

Contributing to meaningful and impactful research that seeks to improve the lives of people affected by diabetes has been nothing short of a privilege. But my time at the ACBRD hasn’t been all about the work. I’m also proud of the professional and personal relationships I’ve built with my colleagues – now friends – at the ACBRD. Those of you who have spent any time with the team will know that they have heart. I extend a huge ‘thank you’ to ACBRD staff and students (past and present) who have made my workplace so pleasant, and so fun.

I also want to thank Diabetes Victoria for their support of ACBRD generally and me specifically over the years. Their vision to set up the ACBRD in the first place is testament to how much importance they place on psychosocial research in diabetes. As the ACBRD goes from strength to strength, I’ll now be watching from the sidelines (while busily trying to figure out how to do a new, quite different, job!). But I look forward to crossing paths in the future.

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