NICM Newsletter 9

Message from the Executive Director

I am pleased to report we have returned from Brisbane energised by the quality of discussion and ideas arising from the National Collaborative Centre networking forum held on 18 June and the National Symposium – Supporting health priorities and industry growth, on 19 June.

My warm thanks to the session chairs and speakers who set the scene for a stimulating and informative day. We were pleased at the opportunity to bring together the new Director of the Office of Complementary Medicines at the TGA, Michael Smith, our collaborative centre and research priority leaders, industry associations and leaders, including the new CEO of Blackmores, Christine Holgate. It was also good to hear the thoughts of Professor Vivian Lin, President of the Chinese Medicine Registration Board of Victoria, given the recent announcement of inclusion of Chinese Medicine Practitioners under the national practitioner regulation scheme. A warm thanks also to Professor Tony Smith from our Scientific Advisory Committee for helping to open the symposium, and our wonderful office manager, Natalie McCarthy for her excellent organisation. I am aware of the many requests to access the presentations from the symposium, which will be available on our website.

It is easy to get lost in the detail of what you are doing, and the two days in Brisbane brought home how much we have achieved in a relatively short period by working with our many partners, as well as setting our directions forward. As part of this, we have started to work with Access Economics since the symposium on selecting appropriate candidates for our initial cost-benefit studies. AE were awarded the tender to undertake the work from a very competitive field. We will have an update on progress in the next newsletter. As many of you are aware, NICM is in the process of developing a Complementary Medicine and Integrative Healthcare CRC proposal for the 12th Round of the Cooperative Research Centre program. We were fortunate to be joined by Professor Mary O'Kane by video link during the symposium. In addition to her many roles, Mary is the NSW Chief Scientist and Scientific Engineer and led the 2008 review of the CRC program. Her insight into the program and how we might shape our approach were invaluable and we thank her for taking the time to join us. An outline of the proposal and form to lodge Expressions of Interest can be found on our website We have actively sought proposals and appreciate the challenges associated with a tight deadline.  Please also keep an eye on our website for developments and email us with your feedback.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the recipients of the inaugural NICM research excellence awards, and thank the independent selection committee for managing the process for us. The awards are an important means of recognising the hard work and contribution of individuals in advancing the complementary medicine research agenda.

I would also like to congratulate the Chair of our Scientific Advisory Committee, Emeritus Professor John Chalmers AO on the recognition of his extraordinary contribution to cardiovascular medicine and research in Australia and internationally at this year's National Heart Foundation conference. Together with Professor Garry Jennings, Professor Chalmers was awarded the prestigious Heart Foundation Research Medal for his work which has had profound consequences for the understanding of both the causes of high blood pressure and of the clinical effects of blood pressure reduction, and more recently glucose lowering. John has provided outstanding leadership and support for NICM in developing its programs, and we applaud the recognition of his own research. My congratulations also to Professor Lun Wong, a renowned acupuncturist and Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, who has recently been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to Chinese medicine in Australia as an educator and practitioner.

NICM's reputation is spreading widely and positively in Asia, the US and Europe. In May I attended the North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine where I shared a closing address with Professor Josie Briggs (US NIH NCCAM) on future directions of complementary medicine research. The United States boasts many substantial initiatives in integrative medicine with significant representation at the conference by medical deans and integrative care hospital units from across the country. Strategic integration of the services of a range of healthcare providers, including complementary medicine, is increasingly viewed as an additional opportunity to help address the burden of chronic disease and reduce spiralling health costs.

This newsletter is relatively short due to our focus on the development of our CRC proposal. However, I would also like to draw your attention to the release of the Draft National Strategy for Medical Research and Public Health Research by the NHMRC – see story below.

Alan Bensoussan
Executive Director

Research Excellence Awards

Awards categories

Leadership in Research and Collaboration
Awarded to: Professor Marc Cohen, RMIT University 
Commendation: Professor Basil Roufogalis, University of Sydney

The Award for Leadership in Research and Collaboration recognises the role and impact of outstanding leadership and the ability to build collaborations and networks across multiple sectors and interests (mainstream and complementary medicine research, industry, corporate, philanthropic, consumer) for the strategic development of complementary medicine.

Translational Research
Awarded to: Associate Professor Caroline Smith, University of Western Sydney

The Translational Research Award recognises efforts and progress in complementary medicine research that contributes to improved health outcomes and /or the national research and innovation agenda.

Emerging Researcher 
Awarded to: Dr Tony Zhang, RMIT University

The Emerging Researcher Award recognises outstanding post graduate researchers who personify the creativity and insight required to make constructive and positive impacts on the complementary medicine research sector.

From left Professor Basil Roufogalis, Associate Professor Caroline Smith, Professor Marc Cohen and Dr Tony Zhang

National Registration and Accreditation Scheme

At its meeting on 26 March 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on the health workforce, establishing for the first time a single national registration and accreditation system for ten health professions, being chiropractors; dentists (including dental hygienists, dental prosthetists and dental therapists); medical practitioners; nurses and midwives; optometrists; osteopaths; pharmacists; physiotherapists; podiatrists; and psychologists. This year, COAG agreed to the inclusion of some partially regulated professions from 2012, including Chinese medicine practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners.

Chinese medicine is a growing choice for patients and requires better integration with mainstream medical practice. NICM welcomes the commitment by the Council of Australian Governments to a national approach to the regulation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, which will promote public safety through consistent education and practice standards.

Draft legislation for the new scheme was released in mid-June, with submissions on the exposure draft closing on 17 July. Current activity is primarily focussing on the first 10 professions being included in the scheme, with a consultation and development process to follow for professions currently partially regulated that will be included from 2012. Information about the new system can be found at the National Health Workforce Taskforce,


The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is preparing its triennial Strategic Plan for the period January 2010 – December 2012. This will be released in the coming months for comment, and complementary and integrative medicine researchers are strongly encouraged to read and respond to the Plan, including proposed priority research issues.

In the lead-up to the Plan, the Council has released a Draft National Strategy for Medical Research and Public Health Research. The strategy consultation paper outlines how the Council intends to fund research and researchers. Developed through the NHMRC's Research Committee and Council, the Strategy consultation paper has taken into account the recommendations of the three reviews of NHMRC research funding and peer review processes:

An International Perspective on the NHMRC's Research Strategies (The Zerhouni Review) PDF File
Report of the Review of Public Health Research Funding in Australia (The Nutbeam review) PDF File.

Submissions are due by 28 August and instructions on lodging submissions are available at NICM intends to lodge a response and welcomes your views to inform our response.

Please email comments to the General Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Integrated Care Grants

Thanks to the international review panel and everyone who submitted a proposal for funding under the NICM Integrated Care Research Grants program. Outcomes will be announced later in July.