A recent history of Academic Health Science Centres

The value of collaboration

Academic health science centres (AHSC) have been established in the USA and Canda for a number of years, migrating to Sweden and Netherlands and most recently, the UK before being the subject of active discussion in Australia over the past two years. Their performance has facilitated the growing interdependence between scientific discovery, better healthcare and training.

By collaborating across the traditional boundaries between education, health and scientific research, AHSCs have enabled the discovery of many innovative health improvements as well as providing care in new ways, through new knowledge exchange, technologies, protocols and even new roles, such as clinician researchers.  

Existing centres 

The examples of Mayo Clinic, Toronto Sunnybrook Health Science Centre and Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital are often cited.  Sunnybrook is partnered with University of Toronto and Massachusetts General with Harvard University.

In 2005, the top sixteen hospitals in the US were all academic linked health services (US News & World Report Best US Hospital 2005 Ranking). In recent years, the logic of collaboration across traditional health boundaries has migrated to Europe and the United Kingdom, with Singapore also adopting the AHSC framework.

Of particular interest to ‘Monash Partners’ has been University College London (UCL) Partners; a recently created AHSC. UCL Partners is the largest Academic health science centre in Europe. It was formed in August 2008. At the time UCL gave a clear and simple statement of the logic behind the innovation:

 “By pooling resources and expertise, the grouping will be able to produce more world-class research in key areas including cancer, ophthalmology, women’s and children’s health;  close partnerships between researchers and health practitioners will also enable new scientific discoveries to be translated more quickly into treatments. The partner institutions treat around 1.5 million patients a year between them, and the creation of UCL Partners provides a significant boost to NHS patients in London.”

The Victorian story

From 2009, through their common alliance with Monash University, Alfred Health and Southern Health (now Monash Health) and their associated research institutes, explored the possibility of establishing an AHSC in Melbourne.

Both the Alfred, through its Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct (AMREP) and Southern Health, through its planning for Monash Health Translation Precinct (MHTP), had already moved to deepen the links between health services and research, so moving to an AHSC was a logical step when, in 2010, the NHMRC identified its interest in fostering greater links between clinical care and translational research.  

In 2011, Monash University, Alfred Health and Southern Health, the Burnet Institute, Baker IDI, Prince Henry’s Institute, Cabrini Health and Epworth Healthcare established a steering committee to determine whether the collected organisations could develop a viable AHSC.

Over the last 12 months, the committee has successfully set the foundations to build the first AHSC in Victoria.

The Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre was incorporated in 2012.