My name is Athena Brunt, and like many of you, my greatest ambition in life is to help people. As passionate members of the Liberal National Party, we do this by advocating for small government, economic freedom, and contributing to effective policy formation with rigorous debate in the hope of bettering our local communities, state, and country. Like you, I believe that economic freedom is the single-most effective way of improving our quality of life and bettering the world we live in. I also believe that medical research is another incredible tool with which we can use to transform and better the lives of others, and ourselves. So when I’m not on the hustings fighting for freedom, I’m in the laboratory fighting against disease, using science to improve the world we live in.
As a doting granddaughter, I always hated seeing my grandparents struggle with arthritis and sickness as they grew older, so I decided I was going to do something about it. I decided that when I grew up I’d figure out a cure for all the diseases that made my grandparents sick, and to do that I’d have to become a medical doctor. As I grew older, I realised that inventing cures isn’t as easy as I thought it would be when I was in kindergarten, but I also realised that being a doctor wasn’t necessarily the best – or only way – to fight disease and discover cures. When I began my studies at Griffith University, I realised that most of the innovations of modern medicine were actually discovered or invented by scientists.
I was enthralled and inspired by the magnificent possibilities of medical research – that as a single person, or together with a small team, you could work incredibly hard to produce a discovery or invention – that might only be perceived as a small change in the grand scheme of things – but has the power to change the lives of many. This is why I decided to become a medical researcher. After finishing my Bachelors degree in Health Science, I went on to research the genetic regulation of bone cell development, and it is during this honours year that I fell in love with bones and orthopaedic research. After completing my honours degree, I went on to work as a research assistant on a project investigating novel therapies for stress fractures, and it is then that I developed a vision of the particular research that I would like to pursue.
In 2014 I began my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in orthopaedic research at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland and Griffith University on the Gold Coast, in collaboration with the Queensland Bone Bank in Brisbane. Together with my supervisors, my research seeks to revolutionise bone transplantation.
I have been incredibly humbled to have the honour of being the 2015 recipient of the Enid Dowling Foundation Bursary. The Enid Dowling Foundation Bursary has allowed me to undertake fellowships at two prestigious research laboratories in Lyon, France, and Sydney, Australia, to carry out vital research in support of my endeavours to transform bone transplantation, provide better surgery outcomes, and improve the lives of millions of people in Australia and the rest of the world who suffer from bone diseases, trauma, and cancer.
Being an Enid Dowling Foundation recipient has thus-far been an incredible experience, which has not only allowed me to undertake these two fellowships, but has also opened doors to many opportunities which wouldn’t have previously been possible. Before I even embarked upon my first fellowship, our research laboratory was able to gain funding from our university to purchase new infrastructure equipment due to the specialised training I would receive in Lyon, France. Our lab is now equipped with a special machine that allows me to grind bone (or almost any material) into a fine powder at ultra-low temperatures of -200˚C. This was made possible by my Enid Dowling Foundation Bursary. This machine will now be used in research applications by me and made available to many other researchers in the state, and across the country, for which I will be able to provide the necessary training and expertise.
This is only one of the many wonderful experiences and opportunities from my term as the 2015 Enid Dowling Foundation Bursary recipient, and I’m excited to share my adventures with you in future blog posts. Hopefully you’ll be able to share my passion for bones, the scientific wonder that lives within all of our bodies, and the incredible things that are happening at the frontiers of medical research.
Yours in freedom, science and discovery,