The NHAA Naturopathic Symposium 2023 attracted national and international practitioners and students in the fields of Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine. For Ian Breakspear, Senior Learning Facilitator – Naturopathy & Western Herbal Medicine, the symposium’s Awards for Excellence brought some exciting surprises.
Ian received the Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine Article of the Year Award, together with postgraduate student Laura Dwyer, and for his contribution to the profession, Ian was awarded Life Membership of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA).
Ian Breakspear receives NHAA Life Membership
The Board of the NHAA awarded Life Membership to Ian in recognition of the outstanding contribution he has made to naturopathy and herbal medicine in Australia.
‘It's a massive honour,’ Ian says. ‘I was awarded a Fellowship to the Association in 2006 for my contribution to the profession. Life Membership is usually granted to people who have reached retirement age. However, I started early in this field when I was 17, and that gave me a lot of advantages in some ways.
‘Three of us were presented with Life Membership at the Symposium Gala Dinner – Linda Bates and I and Professor Kerry Bone, who was an influential figure for me in the later years of my studies and the early stage of my career. I felt very proud to stand beside Kerry on stage to receive this award.’
Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine Article of the Year Award
Ian and former student Laura Dwyer received the award this year for their article, ‘Systematic review of harm from case reports and clinical trials of the oral use of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Turnera diffusa and Achillea millefolium’, published in the NHAA’s Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine (AJHNM), 2020, volume 32, number 4.
Offering an overview of the article, Ian says, ‘There's a particular chemical in Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Turnera diffusa and Achillea millefolium which – as a result of bureaucratic confusion – was considered potentially dangerous by the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] back in 2018. So a joint industry and profession team worked with the TGA to clarify the restrictions, and at the same time, Laura and I undertook research into the safety of these herbal medicines. Our conclusion, as explained in the article, is that there appears to be very limited evidence of harm in humans from the oral ingestion of A. uva-ursi, A. millefolium and T. diffusa.
‘To cut a long story short,’ Ian explains, ‘the regulatory change that led to that restriction in 2018 was one of those bureaucratic misunderstandings that happen every now and then. It required a solid scientific argument, which we put forward, to reverse it. And in 2020 the TGA accepted that argument and access to these valuable herbal medicines was restored. It was a great demonstration of how academics, the profession, the industry, and the government can work together for positive change.’
How mentoring can help students and practitioners publish in professional journals
At the Symposium Ian was also a member of a panel discussion titled ‘AJHNM mentor program: opportunities for mutual learning, expansion of networks and other benefits’, chaired by the journal’s editor Dr Susan Arentz. The NHAA’s Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine recognises the importance of mentoring emerging writers, so they develop the skills and confidence to research and write journal articles to a professional standard.
Ian Breakspear has mentored many students and says, ‘The AJHNM mentoring program is open to naturopaths and herbalists who want to be published in this peer-reviewed journal. For students and practitioners who are new to scientific writing and publishing, it helps them develop confidence and bring their work up to a standard that is acceptable for publication. The process of academic publishing can be a little daunting at first, particularly dealing with feedback in the peer review. So having a mentor to guide you through the process is really valuable.
‘Without mentors, I think we would have fewer clinicians writing for the NHAA journal. And we want more Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy professionals to write about their work, disseminating the lessons they've learned from practice and the observations they have made. By sharing our knowledge and experience widely our profession can continue to improve.
‘I was very fortunate because I had a lecturer who guided me in my studies and mentored me through first few years of my practice. Informally, I’ve had support from other colleagues over the years too. I want to remind students that you can reach out to your lecturers now and to your colleagues when you graduate. There are many forms of mentoring, such as business mentoring when you're setting up your own practice, and clinical mentoring. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to mentor you, and later in your career you can mentor those who are new to the profession.’