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In 1982, a group of Australian parents came together to form what became known as the Diabetes Youth Foundation. Years later, the DYF became JDRF Australia.

One year after they formed, the DYF made their first ever “Getting Started” grant to the only paediatric endocrinologist in Australia at the time, Professor Martin Silink. The $7000 grant was given for the “Development of the Albumin Assay”, for early detection of kidney failure.

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This grant funded the development of a unique mail-order method of testing for kidney failure as a result of type 1 diabetes. In this system an individual would provide a urine sample on a special type of blotting paper and then mail the paper to Professor Silink for testing.

Professor Silink was also heavily involved with the DYF in the early years, helping to clarify regulatory, legal and accounting issues, as well as negotiating international affiliate agreements with the JDRF in America.

Most importantly, Professor Silink has always been a supporter of the real-life day-to-day practical needs of people with type 1 diabetes. In 1983, Professor Silink attended a panel discussion with JDRF founder Lorna Mellor on the topic “Food, Insulin and Diabetes – the Balance”.

On this panel, a mother of a child with T1D explained that her eight-year-old son was about to go on a three-hour cross-country walk with school. Since diagnosis, the thing her son had missed most was Mars bars, so she asked if having a Mars bar would be appropriate on the walk. Dieticians on the panel said No, talking about “the inappropriateness of sugar generally, of chocolate and especially something so loaded with sugar and fat”.

Professor Silink stood up and spoke. “It’s very important for children to feel normal even if they have type 1 diabetes. While chocolate bars are not ideal often, occasional treats would not do long term harm and that during sport or a long walk, the child would need extra sugar anyway.”

In later years, Professor Silink continued to add to his achievements:

  • First Australian and first paediatrician to be elected President of International Diabetes Federation (IDF) 2006-9
  • Led a campaign that resulted in the United Nations passing a Resolution affirming diabetes as a major global health threat
  • Founding member and first Secretary of the Australian Paediatric Endocrine Group (President from 1986-88)
  • President of the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes from 1999-2002, establishing the ISPAD Science School
  • Chair of the Life for a Child program, supporting children and youth with type 1 diabetes in 43 countries
  • Delivered over 125 lectures at international scientific meetings
  • Edited a book and co-authored over 150 papers

For his early commitment to the DYF (later JDRF) and involvement in setting up the organisation, JDRF says thanks. For his research into type 1 diabetes and the difference he makes in the lives of the Australian type 1 diabetes community, JDRF says thanks. For his advocacy on behalf of people with type 1 diabetes and the need to be normal, JDRF says thanks.

Professor Martin Silink, a true hero of the Australian type 1 diabetes community.

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