Having dedicated her career to helping others, including addressing high suicide rates on the Sunshine Coast, Elise Jione of USC’s Thompson Institute has won a top award for her work.

Ms Jione, 32, the General Manager of the Institute, was last night named Young Business Woman of the Year at the 2021 Sunshine Coast Women’s Business Network Awards.

Institute Director Professor Jim Lagopoulos said the award was testament to a focused and ambitious leader who not only had great ideas but could also drive powerful change in a quiet and strategic way.

“Since the Institute opened in 2017 as a world-class facility for mental health and neurological research, Elise has led us through continual growth across our research, clinical services, education and advocacy,” Professor Lagopoulos said.

“The key to her success in managing a community organisation is that people are at the heart of everything she does.”

Three years ago, Ms Jione launched the Alliance for Suicide Prevention – Sunshine Coast, which now has 125 member organisations and over 2,000 people trained in suicide prevention.

Ms Jione said she made an early career decision after finishing volunteering at the Fiji Red Cross Society to dedicate her skills to helping others.

Her business background, which includes extensive expertise in finance and research management as well as strategic and operational leadership, has played an important role in this.

“Because I’m born and bred on the Sunshine Coast, I feel strongly about being able to give back to the community and applying my professional skills for a purpose,” she said.

“This focus wasn’t front of mind when I pursued business management studies out of school but, through my life experience, I was able to shape my career path towards something that was really meaningful, which not everyone gets to do.”

Ms Jione said the key to providing better mental health outcomes for the region lay in being connected and responsive to the community.

“It’s all about taking that step back and seeing your business and organisation from a bird’s eye view so you have that strategic view of where it is heading.”

Elise is also a Certified Practising Accountant and holds a Master of Business Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Health Sector Leadership from USC.

“My MBA really helped me take my knowledge to the next level and apply it in a practical manner,” she said.

Ms Jione will also help establish Australia’s first integrated centre for traumatic stress disorders in 2022, as well as implementing a range of strategic initiatives to continue the Thompson Institute’s growth and expansion.