Leading sports concussion expert Dr Andrew Gardner is a regular fixture in dressing rooms and board rooms across Australia, and it all started with a football sports scholarship to study at UNE. For it was in the UNE School of Psychology that the internationally recognised clinical neuropsychologist discovered his passion – a passion that today sees him leading the Hunter New England Local Health District’s Sport Concussion Clinic and consulting to elite rugby union and rugby league players.
“I came to UNE fresh from school and during my five years of study I experienced the greatest growth in my personal identity,” said Dr Gardner.
“I look back very fondly on the lectures and tutorials, living in Earle Page College, participating in all kinds of sports in the President’s Trophy, working at Sport UNE, and representing UNE at the University Games (in football).”
Dr Gardner graduated from UNE in 2006 with a Bachelor of Psychology (First Class Honours) and went on to establish and manage the Macquarie University sports concussion clinic, and spent a year as a research associate at the Harvard Medical School.
This year he was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council early career fellowship within the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle, where he is investigating the link between concussion and neurodegenerative disease in retired athletes.
Somehow Dr Gardner also finds time to run his private business NeuroGard, which provides concussion assessment and education.
He is a strong advocate for athlete welfare and public education about concussion, and has amassed an impressive body of research, particularly on sports concussion in semi-professional rugby union players.
Dr Gardner said his studies at UNE were formative.
“My experience at UNE set a strong foundation for me to successfully negotiate the rigours of post-graduate study and to pursue my research interests,” he said.
“Despite spending the first 18 years of my life growing up elsewhere, I sincerely feel like Armidale is my home town.”
Dr Gardner’s contributions have been widely applauded. His Doctor of Psychology thesis received the prestigious award for the Most Outstanding Dissertation for 2011 from the National Academy of Neuropsychology in the US – the first time this honour had been bestowed upon a researcher studying outside the US.
In 2013 he was invited by the Australian Academy of Science to the Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank on “inspiring smarter brain research in Australia”, and in 2015 Dr Gardner was awarded the Research Australia Discovery Award, which recognises the nation’s most outstanding early career researcher.