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|Prof. Heather Boon|
Prof. Heather Boon
Dean, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Canada
144 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3M2
Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD is a Professor and the Dean for the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto. She is the Chair of IN-CAM (the Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research) and is the Past-President of the International Society of Complementary Medicine Research. She served as the Chair of Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Committee for Natural Health Products from 2006-2009. Her primary research interests are the safety and efficacy of natural health products as well as complementary/alternative medicine regulation and policy issues. She is the author of a textbook on natural health products and over 150 academic publications.
She had 3 presentations at ICCMR 2015.
Q1: What led you to this research area of CAM and Traditional Medicine?
A1: I’m a pharmacist. And when I was just finishing my pharmacy degree, a friend of mine asked me to purchase a traditional remedy for her. And I found it in the city that I lived and mailed it to her. Because this was a time when she couldn’t buy it where she lived. And then I thought, ‘What have I done?! I’m a pharmacist and I just mailed a medicine to my friend and I don’t know anything about it.’ Because what I learned in pharmacy school told me nothing about this traditional remedy. So I thought, you know as a pharmacist, I should understand little bit more about all of the medications that patients are taking, not just the western conventional ones. And that sent me on a journey which has taken the last twenty years of my life to do research in this area.
Q2: What’s the advice that you want to give to young researchers who’re pursuing studies in CAM?
A2: My main advice would be to be very excellent at the methods and the core knowledge that you learn. Mainly around research methods; because in my experience, no one is probably going to hire you because you do Complementary medicine research. They’re going to hire you because you’re a really good epidemiologist or you are a really good physiologist, or you are very good at some particular science or scientific method. And if your interest is in studying CAM or Traditional Medicine, then you will probably always be able to do that. And you can make a very big difference in that field.
But in terms of getting an academic position and setting yourself up for a career that allows you to do that research, in my personal experience and in the experiences of the students that I’ve seen, the most important thing is that you become very excellent in a specific field or a methodology that you then apply to Traditional Medicine because of your own interest. There are few jobs out there where they want you to study Traditional Medicine, but in most cases, it’s something that we do in conjunction with other things that we also study.
Q3: What was your most exciting moment as a researcher in CAM?
A3: It’s really hard to identify a single moment that was most exciting. For me, what’s been the most rewarding overall is all these international connections. So, conferences like the ICCMR, being involved in ICCMR, getting to meet people all over the world and realizing that they are asking the same kinds of questions. So for example, I did a lecture today about regulation and I was talking about our study that happens in Canada and all the issues that are coming up. And then when people come to me from Israel and from Korea and from all over the world and say, “You know what? We are struggling with the same things and your research is helping us think differently about that.” To me, that’s what’s most meaningful about all of this.
Current research projects include:
Q1: Statutory Regulation and Emerging Health Care Professions: What is the impact on practice?
A1: The health care system in Ontario is undergoing a significant change in the area of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Three CAM practices are in the process of either becoming regulated for the first time (Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture, Homeopathy) or changing their regulatory status (Naturopathy) under the Regulated Health Professions Act. These three cases provide an opportunity to explore and compare:
Q2: SAFETYNET: an Academic and Professional Partnership Building a Culture of Safety for Spinal Manipulation Therapy
A2: Recent surveys estimate that 50% of Canadians have received spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), most commonly for back and neck pain. Despite its popularity, no safety reporting and learning mechanisms exist to allow regulated professions who provide SMT to monitor and reduce related harms. Although they recognize its importance, regulatory bodies state it is difficult for them to identify and remediate harms due to time and budget constraints. The ultimate goal of this team grant is to develop, pilot, evaluate and support a culture of safety for regulated professionals (chiropractors, physicians, physical therapists, osteopathic doctors and naturopathic practitioners) who provide SMT. Dr. Boon is leading a team of qualitative researchers and students to explore the safety culture of all the regulated practitioner groups currently providing spinal manipulation to patients in the Province of Alberta (Canada). In addition her team is exploring patients perceptions of the risks associated with spinal manipulation and the process of informed consent.
Q3: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of homeopathic treatment of children and youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
A3: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most prevalent mental disorder in children worldwide, with boys more likely to be affected than girls. Most recent Canadian data suggests that almost 3% of Canadian children are diagnosed with ADHD. While many children find effective treatment through either stimulant medications or behavioral interventions, approximately 30% of diagnosed children are not well-served by these treatment options. Two-thirds of those with ADHD have been reported to be using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments of some kind. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with a wait list (usual care) control is designed to investigate if there: a) are any specific effects of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of ADHD; b) are any specific effects the homeopathic consultation alone in the treatment of ADHD; and c) is an overall effect of homeopathic treatment (homeopathic medicines plus consultation) in the treatment of ADHD.