Medical School builds links with South America

15 October 2012

Sydney Medical School is looking to develop cross-university networks and clinical collaborations with partners in South America, promoting research into problems such as skin cancer that are widespread across the Southern Hemisphere.

A delegation of Sydney medical specialists including Professor Bruce Robinson, the Dean of Sydney Medical School, visited South America in September to take part in a seminar series focusing on the high levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the region. They visited Universidad Austral in Argentina, Universidad de Sao Paulo in Brazil and Universidad de Chile in Chile.

The delegates anticipate that their involvement will raise Sydney Medical School's profile in the region and capitalise on generous government scholarships for PhD students to pursue overseas training.

"We would like to recruit good students from these universities," explains Professor Robinson. "The best way to do that is through research, and we feel that the biggest shared research problem that we face is the explosion of NCDs."

Prospective research partnerships that may open up lines of communication with South American universities include clinical trials involving melanoma. Skin cancers take a high toll in both Australia and Argentina, "countries which are both populated by fair skinned people who really shouldn't be there", says Professor Robinson.

"In clinical trials we have more expertise than the Chileans and the Brazilians, but it's an area in which both countries want to develop," he says.

Sydney also has a substantial and successful history of academic partnership with South America, with more than 50 academics already involved in collaborative projects. Professor Chris Maher from Sydney Medical School, who was part of the delegation, has been supervising Brazilian PhD students since 2001 and oversees around seven postgraduates each year.

He is also widely known in South America as a driving force behind the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), the world's most comprehensive database of randomised physiotherapy trials, reviews and clinical guidelines.

In South America Professor Maher was able to meet some of Brazil's most promising PhD students. "The quality of these students is outstanding," he says.

Professor Robinson believes it is important for student mobility to be a two-way street. "We also want to try to offer our own students the opportunity to travel and study in these countries," he says.

Exchange initiatives lead to more than just income, he adds. "The very presence of a student stimulates a collaborative partnership between their supervisor here and their former supervisor or even dual supervisors in their home country."

Professor Maher says the development of a solid partnership is a long haul. "One visit does not make a collaborative partnership. One visit is being a tourist."

But he adds: "The delegation understands this and we have further meetings planned to capitalise on the start we have made and to develop the idea of partnership."

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 22050947583809495b5a344c06073e1136343f08485634036c2907