About Us

About Us

The concept of an “Academic Health Sciences Centre” as a model for delivery of cutting-edge Healthcare in a research-intensive environment is not new. It has been a feature of the North American landscape for many decades and is now taking root in Europe and the UK. University College, London, Imperial College, London, and Manchester University to name three UK examples, have recently established such centres with varying degrees of formality in terms of governance arrangements. There is a very active international  Association of Academic Health centres and its annual meeting was recently hosted by UNSW and the Health-Science Alliance (HSA) in Sydney. The recent NHMRC Discussion Paper on “Advanced Healthcare Centres” foreshadows basically the same concept, though possibly on a larger scale.

Fundamental to the rationale for such Centres is the belief that the best healthcare for the community is delivered in an environment where active research is also taking place. Such environments attract the brightest minds among healthcare providers and are also very attractive to those working in basic medical research because of the exposure to clinicians and the enhanced opportunities for translation from “bench to bedside”. Also fundamental is the desire to break down traditional “silos” between various research-active institutions (Hospitals, Universities and Medical Research Institutes) and patient-care centred institutions, chiefly the Hospitals and Community Healthcare  providers, and to facilitate communication and collaboration between these entities so as to enhance both the quality and relevance of research and the translation of that research into improved patient outcomes and smoother transitions for patients between hospital and community-based services/facilities.

The HSA grew out of what we see as a unique opportunity in NSW, namely a campus in which can be found three hospitals providing care for adults (Prince of Wales), children (Sydney Children’s Hospital) and women’s health (the Royal Hospital for Women), co-located with three Medical Research Centres (Neuroscience Research Australia, Black Dog Institute and Children’s Cancer Institute, Australia) and sitting alongside a major research-intensive Medical School (UNSW). The Nursing and Allied Health staff at the hospitals come from a number of universities, but the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), is one of the major providers and employs two of the three Chairs of Nursing on the campus and so it is a founding member of the HSA. The two Local Health Districts/Networks, (South-East Sydney LHD and the Randwick-based elements of the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network) and the two Universities, have all signed a Collaboration Agreement.

Discussions are currently underway with the relevant General practice Divisions, and clearly, establishing and strengthening links into general Practice and other Community Health services is a priority going forward.

The Medical Research institutes and other institutions involved (see Partners) have signed letters of affiliation with the HSA. Governance is provided by an overarching Council chaired by the Dean of Medicine at UNSW.  This Council reports in turn to the Randwick Health and Medical Research Institute, the “Randwick Hub” originally established to handle OSMR funding for medical research.

The vision is that in five years time, the health consumers of NSW and the Medical, Scientific, Nursing and Allied Health employees of the “Randwick-UNSW Health Campus” will view the Randwick campus in the way Americans regard Johns Hopkins Medical Center or the Harvard-affiliated Hospitals and Research Institutes in Boston. The individual Hospitals and Research institutes will retain their brands and their fund-raising and other activities, but the campus will be seen as more than the sum of the parts and as the place to go for the best health care and the place to apply for the best jobs and training in clinical Medicine and Medical research in NSW. The institutions involved will have developed an integrated Strategic Plan for Research which plays to their various strengths, minimises inefficiency and strongly supports the Strategic Plans for clinical services across SESLHD and SCHLHN. The institutions of the HSA will strive to ensure a smooth transition of patients between hospital- and Community-based facilities and will promote more effective translation of research findings into patient care.

Strategic Research Planning is well underway. Major research strengths have been identified and detailed planning is in process. At least in the first instance, we will focus on healthcare and research priorities that we do well already and that fit in with the Key Priorities of the SESLHD and SCHLHN.

The HSA has recognised strengths in the areas of Cancer medicine (Adult and Childhood) and Brain Sciences ( including Mental Health, neurology, neurosurgery, dementia & aging, Drug and Alcohol). It also has a number of emerging strengths amenable to rapid development such as Perinatal Health, Health Services Research (through UNSW’s Australian Institute for Health Innovation), Community Medicine (through UNSW’s Centre for Primary Health Care Equity) and the emerging Medicare Locals. Major capabilities which are essentially platforms across the whole enterprise are our clinical trials facilities with funding target for a $50M state-of-the-art dedicated Clinical Trials Centre (the Australian Advanced Treatment Centre) already more than half achieved and a combined UNSW-NSW Health Project Planning Group solidly at work on planning this project. Additionally we have strong Community Services and strong links (including two academic Chairs of General Practice) into the GP Divisions.

HSA’s capacity to implement translational research will be further enhanced through the contributions of the Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN). This NSW Cancer Institute funded initiative provides an innovative and supportive environment for the translation of research findings into real world outcomes.  The TCRN will develop a unique model of translational research that formulates and implements research-led improvements in patient care. The TCRN partners are strongly committed to the delivery of world’s best cancer care, and collaboratively provide a depth of clinical, educational and research experience and expertise that will provide benefits for individuals with cancer and their health care providers.