$250,000 Dr Rogers Prize to University of Toronto Integrative Leader Heather Boon, PhD

 Heather Boon, BSc, Phm, PhDThe $250,000 Dr Rogers Prize was awarded to long-time integrative medicine researcher and organizer Heather Boon, BSc, Phm, PhD (pictured). A Vancouver Sun article notes that Boon is a cofounder of and has been the co-chair of the Canadian IN-CAM network. She also was one of the visionaries who saw the value in an international organization for researchers in the field and formed the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research (ISCMR), for which Boon is the immediate past chair. Boon’s academic work includes a textbook on natural health products and some 150 academic articles that focus on the safety and efficacy of them. She is now dean of U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. Boon has been a leader in the university’s effort to create a Centre for Integrative Medicine.

The article notes that Boon is not afraid of controversy. She was recently lambasted by 90 of her academic colleagues for undertaking research on homeopathy for children with ADHD. She came back at critics with this balanced response, according to the Sun account: “I don’t think the criticism was warranted. I think that we have a phenomena, people claiming they’re getting better, and so like any scientist I’m curious about what’s going on.”

The Dr Rogers Prize, first awarded in 2007, is granted every 2 years to a Canadian who is a leader in complementary and alternative medicine. The Dr Rogers prize is named for an early integrative oncologist, Roger Rogers, MD, who practiced in British Columbia. As noted in the Sun, the award is backed by the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation.

Dr. Rogers PrizeComment: One of the areas where Boon has been impactful has been in the promotion of what some of us call “researching the way we practice;” that is, finding the right methods to look at whole-person and whole-system interventions. (This is the core of the GAHMJ mission.) She’s been a leader for more than a decade of a group of international researchers who have worked to define and promote whole-systems research for integrated care through a series of publications. Another area of Boon’s influence, not unrelated, is in looking at the whole systems from a horizontal, interprofessional approach.

An anchor document for the field that Boon took the lead in developing is a project that led to a widely cited paper entitled Integrative Healthcare: Arriving at a Working Definition. Notably, the second author on the piece is Marja Verhoef, PhD, Boon’s close colleague with IN-CAM and ISCMR who was awarded the Dr Rogers’ Prize in 2011. At that time, I was surprised that the award wasn’t jointly presented to the two of them, given the multiple close collaborations of the Verhoef-Boon team. Yet given each of their substantial individual commitments, the choice to honor them separately makes a great deal of sense. Congratulations, Heather! Well-deserved.

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