Prof Jennie Brand-Miller
In this occasional series, we ask some of the world’s leading GI researchers to tell their story. This month we look at the University of Sydney’s GI Group leader, Prof. Jennie Brand-Miller’story. What follows is an edited version of her Australia Day 2006 speech. Jennie is acknowledged worldwide for her expertise in the area of carbohydrates and health. Since 1981 she and her team have played a key role in establishing the scientific validity, benefits and practicalities of the glycemic index. Jennie is Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Sydney. She holds a Personal Chair in the Human Nutrition Unit of the School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences. Her research interests focus on many areas of nutrition – the glycemic index of foods, diet and diabetes, insulin resistance, lactose intolerance and infant nutrition. But Jennie has another story to tell.
‘Eight years ago I was ready to resign from my job and felt like resigning from life. I had worked hard at school, got a scholarship to the University of New South Wales, did a bachelor’s degree and then a PhD and landed my dream job at the age of 25 – a lectureship at the University of Sydney. But not everything was going my way, there were black clouds on the horizon. Slowly but surely, over the course of 25 years, I lost the hearing in both ears. Today I am profoundly deaf. The decline in hearing was an emotionally painful process. I was excruciatingly embarrassed. I dreaded being considered stupid, especially in a world of intellectuals at the university. I learned to avoid difficult hearing situations. Any gathering of people, any meeting, any noisy environment, was stressful. The telephone became a source of great torment. People's names escaped me and transcribing numbers, addresses and dates became impossible. I gradually lost the ability to enjoy television and movies. Public address announcements were impossible.
But since 1998 my life has done a complete ‘about face’. How come? I was given the gift of hearing – a cochlear implant or bionic ear – something only possible because of the achievements of Professor Graeme Clark. Graeme Clark developed the world first bionic ear from an early prototype to successful commercial venture (go to http://www.cochlear.com/). The cochlear implant was like jump leads to a car with a flat battery. Suddenly I had more confidence, more energy, more self-esteem and I was so proud of the cochlear implant and the fact that it was Australian technology. Instead of being humiliated by my hearing loss, I was suddenly proud of it and I what I could do. I wanted to tell everybody about my bionic ear. And I do.’