From the Director

After some well-deserved downtime with the holiday break, the start of each year for our Institute brings about a chance for reflection, planning, engagement and renewal, a time to reigniting the fires for the exciting year ahead.

We look to our strategic plan and how it will guide and direct our projects over the next 12-months and beyond. Our strategic research initiatives will continue to increase awareness of the evidence-base for traditional, complementary, and lifestyle medicine, and the evidence of their safety, quality, and efficacy to the global community. In turn, building the knowledge base that will allow integrative healthcare to be managed actively through appropriate national policies that understand and recognise the role and potential of these medicines.

Increasing awareness and the evidence-base is why our Institute exists, to be the science of integrative medicine. We share this unifying goal and vision with our colleagues, partners, and supporters. An enduring supporter and donor to NICM HRI and a true leader and pioneer in the industry, Dr Judy Jacka shared this ethos and was devoted to it throughout her lifetime. At last week’s service to celebrate the life of Judy, we heard stories of how she forged the path and was dedicated to improving the lives of others through her practices, as a nurse, naturopath, and philanthropist. Judy was an exceptional and rare individual. Her pioneering positive outlook, generosity and selflessness will ensure an enduring legacy for all. Judy’s passing has been deeply acknowledged by the community and she will forever be part of our Institute and Western Sydney University. Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy and love are with her family, friends, and colleagues.

Thanks to support from Judy and the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies, we have seen the realisation of our Institute at Westmead, the creation of our conference centre and our integrative medicine program, and the launch of the first university-based academic integrative healthcare centre in Australia, Next Practice care of Western Sydney Integrative Health, opening last month.

It is through the generosity and shared vision of supporters and donors such as Judy, The Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies, Marcus Blackmore, The Blackmore Foundation, and Blackmores, that we can make a difference in healthcare through our research that advances the knowledge and understanding of evidence-based integrative medicine.

Earlier this month, Aunty Fran Bodkin also generously gifted to the Western Sydney University an incredible body of Indigenous knowledge and bush medicine, with the University officially launching the Dharawal Pharmacopedia fittingly at The Australian Royal Botanic Gardens (Mt Annan).

In other research news, in February we shared our vision for the Australian Cancer Plan 2023-2033, making a submission to Cancer Australia. Our submission recommended as part of their plan to consider a national research strategy for complementary and integrative medicine in cancer, integrative oncology, bringing together a collaborative network of interdisciplinary researchers, key cancer centres, and consumer bodies and community leaders, from across Australia to inform policy and accelerate progress. We also referred to the existing gaps in integrative oncology service provisions found from NICM HRI’s 2016 national survey and findings. Transformation of the complementary medicine landscape for people with cancer requires focused, affirmative action to address the large variations in unmet needs and service gaps across Australia. The submission and our ideas will be added to those shared by people who attend a roundtable and will help shape the focus and directions of the Australian Cancer Plan.

When we make submissions or conduct research, we always aim to have impact, and that our communities will thrive through our commitment to excellence, sustainability, equality, transformation, and connectedness. In 2022, we will continue to sustain our success by growing our reputation and contributions – regionally, nationally and internationally.

In this Autumn newsletter edition, you will also read about our latest research contributions and news highlights including which nutraceuticals and phytoceuticals are beneficial in the management of mental health disorders, as well as Western Sydney University’s recognition and celebration for the 18th year as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Our congratulations this issue is also extended to Professor Chun Guang Li and Dr Mike Armour with their appointment in January as NICM HRI Research Director and HDR Director, respectively. I am also pleased to announce and welcome to our staff Deborah Blackmore, NICM HRI Institute Manager, and Gemma Deakin NICM HRI Research Management Officer.

I hope you enjoy our autumn edition of our newsletter, and we wish you a restful and safe Easter break in the coming weeks.

With best wishes,

Professor Dennis Chang

23 March 2022