University of Sydney Medical School establishes chair of integrative medicine

Complementary medicine’s role in healthcare, research and teaching takes a leap forward today with the announcement of the Maurice Blackmore Chair in Integrative Medicine at the University of Sydney. The Chair within Sydney Medical School, one of the country’s preeminent training grounds for future medical practitioners, has been made possible through a $1.3 million donation by the Blackmores Institute. “The Chair will undertake high quality, basic and clinical research into complementary and integrative medicines, and look to develop education programs which mean young doctors will graduate knowing what complementary medicines can and can’t achieve, and how they interact with other treatments,” says the Dean of Sydney Medical School, Professor Bruce Robinson. “Over the next five years the Maurice Blackmore Chair in Integrative Medicine will undertake research into the impact of complementary medicines in health outcomes, including how complementary and alternative medicines interact with the current standard treatments prescribed by medical professionals,” he adds. The role, named in honour of Maurice Blackmore, a pioneer of Australian naturopathy, is an Australian first and is set to fill a gaping hole in research and education into complementary therapies at a time when nearly two thirds of the nation are regular users. “With this support, we will be able to develop data and guidelines for consumers and healthcare professionals based on solid evidence,” says Professor Robinson. Professor Robinson believes that this initiative is also important in addressing the ongoing criticism, made by some medical professionals and science researchers, that there is no evidence for a lot of complementary therapies. “I really can’t countenance standing by on the sidelines being critical without rolling up my sleeves and getting in and gathering the evidence that is so sorely needed,” he says. Professor Robinson says that the support from Blackmores Institute is an unencumbered gift and strict governance is in place at the university to maintain independence in research. “Blackmores Institute is an appropriate supporter of this chair just as BlueScope steel would be in supporting the Faculty of Engineering.” Responding to the announcement, Blackmores’ Chairman Marcus Blackmore says  “integrative medicine with its focus on prevention and well-being holds serious promise as a solution to the ever increasing cost of healthcare in our community.     “The establishment of this Chair will provide for ongoing research and education in integrative medicine and we applaud the efforts of the Dean, Professor Bruce Robinson, for his foresight in establishing this Chair.   “It is our hope that our support for this Chair will contribute towards a holistic approach in medical practice that combines modern western medicine with established and proven practices in the area of integrative medicine.” Director of Blackmores Institute Dr Lesley Braun also commented on the announcement: “Blackmores Institute is very proud to be supporting this Chair at Sydney University. We see this as a milestone event and a very important step forward for the development of integrative medicine in Australia.” Already, Sydney Medical School’s researchers are examining complementary treatments in a modern context, including high-definition imaging of the brain stem to understand why acupuncture works. The Maurice Blackmore Chair in Integrative Medicine will galvanise these efforts and enable further collaboration and evaluation to translate these discoveries into holistic treatments through integrative medicine. The person ultimately appointed to the Chair will leverage the full spectrum of research and clinical expertise across the university and its extensive health and medical networks. He or she will draw on the university’s established research strengths, networks and expertise in biological, clinical and social sciences. “We will collaborate with our international partners in Canada, China and Asia, and proposed schools in the USA and UK,” says Professor Robinson. “The role will also work closely with leading centres within the university, such as the Charles Perkins Centre, the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, the Woolcock Institute, the Kolling Institute and our eight clinical schools.”  

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