Archive for February, 2009

Complementary medicine: bringing the evidence together

February 19th, 2009

jonesLeading researchers and practitioners from around the world are coming together for the very first time to assess the evidence supporting the use of complementary medicine.

The first International Evidence-based Complementary Medicine Conference is to be held at the University of New England, NSW, from the 13th to the 15th of March.

The participants will include international authorities on complementary therapies such as Professor Alexander Panossian, Director of Scientific Projects at the Swedish Herbal Institute in Gothenburg, and Simon Mills from the UK, who established the world’s first university centre in complementary medicine.

They will also include eminent researchers and practitioners of orthodox medicine, such as Professor Frank Rosenfeldt, Head of the Cardiac Surgical Research Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, and Professor Kerryn Phelps, the first woman president of the Australian Medical Association. Professor Rosenfeldt will present the results of his research into improving the success of procedures such as cardiac bypass operations by using nutrients including fish oils and antioxidants.

The conference will thus provide ground-breaking insights into the interactions between orthodox and complementary therapies. One of its organisers, Associate Professor Graham Lloyd Jones from UNE’s School of Science and Technology, said one aim of the conference was to identify and explain both positive and negative interactions, so that positive interactions can be encouraged and any negative interactions avoided.

“Over 40 per cent of the Australian population now admits to using some sort of complementary medicine or therapy,” Dr Lloyd Jones said, “and this number is increasing. It’s vitally important, therefore, to assess the evidence supporting the use of these therapies – especially their use in conjunction with orthodox medicine.”

For example, Kerry Bone, an Associate Professor in UNE’s School of Health and Director of Research at MediHerb, will review the clinical evidence relating to the use of complementary medicines in cancer care – especially in the context of concurrent orthodox medical treatment.

“This conference will be highly relevant to the professional development and clinical practice of medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and natural therapists, providing them with new insights about the efficacy and safety of natural treatments,” Mr Bone said.

A session on “complementary medicine and the brain” will include talks titled “Natural products as cognitive enhancers” and “Herbal and nutritional treatments for depression and anxiety”. Other topics for discussion at the conference will include clinical evidence supporting the use of herbal medicines such as gingko, black cohosh and pine bark, the function of compounds such as omega-3 oils, and the role of complementary medicine in facilitating healthy longevity, improving aged care, and managing conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Lloyd Jones and his postgraduate students at UNE will present the results of their ground-breaking research on the bioactive components of plants used in traditional Aboriginal medicine.

For more information – and registration details – go to:

THE PHOTOGRAPH above shows Associate Professor Graham Lloyd Jones.

UNE fosters global perspective on rural education

February 13th, 2009

impeggThe experiences and needs of rural teachers in a number of countries are remarkably similar and point to specific types of support important to their teaching practice, according to a keynote speaker at the first International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education (ISFIRE).The symposium is taking place at the University of New England this week.

Associate Professor Patricia Hardré from the University of Oklahoma told delegates that experience in nine different countries showed the importance of support such as access to specialised mentoring taking into account the local culture of the areas to which teachers are appointed.

‘This helps teachers realise the role of local culture, and specific issues that may have an impact,’ Dr Hardré said. ‘It helps them to be not only better prepared and more aware of local requirements, but more confident in the teaching approaches they adopt.’

Ongoing professional development was also critical, Dr Hardré said – for good curriculum development and the educational development of students, as well as the personal development of the teacher. And rural teachers typically had much less access to professional development than their non-rurally-based counterparts.

She added that, in working with rural and remote communities, a ’symbiosis between teachers and community’ was also important. ‘Community leaders need to be identified and brought on board to work effectively with teachers in schools,’ Dr Hardré said. ‘This is an education that has to go both ways.’

The symposium also heard that, with a limit being reached on the extent to which small schools can be closed or amalgamated, the challenge for educational authorities and governments was in ‘developing policies that would provide these schools with the support they need to be successful’.

Professor Dennis Mulcahy from Memorial University in Canada spoke on this subject, highlighting a number of policy changes that he said would be needed in the areas of programming, resource provision, teacher education, professional development and distance learning to enable these schools to succeed.

‘Governments and educational authorities must go beyond the mere acceptance of the remaining small schools as a necessary if regrettable reality,’ Professor Mulcahy said. ‘They must embrace and celebrate these small schools as not only viable but as valuable resources for the sustainability and development of the communities they serve.’

Speakers from around the world are attending the four-day event, which offers an international forum for sharing research findings, innovative ideas and evaluated approaches to boost education in the bush. International data confirm that for many countries the learning achievements of students in rural areas are often significantly lower than those achieved by peers in metropolitan areas.

The symposium, which runs until Saturday 14 February, is a joint initiative between the National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR Australia) based at the University of New England, and NURI-Teacher Education Innovation Centre at the Kongju National University in South Korea (which will host the next symposium in 2011). More information is available at:

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Professor Youn-Kee Im, Head of the NURI Teacher Education Innovation Centre at Kongju National University in South Korea (left) and UNE’s Professor John Pegg, Director of SiMERR Australia. It expands to include Associate Professor Patricia Hardré (University of Oklahoma, USA) and Professor Dennis Mulcahy (Memorial University, Canada).