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On the evening of September 14th, 2017, out dear friend and colleague Dugald Seely, wearing a tuxedo with a black tie, was awarded the Rogers Prize at an elegant banquet in Vancouver, British Columbia.
There are so many aspects to that single sentence that are amazing that I find myself sitting at my keyboard unable to type further. Attempting to describe this singular event has blown my brain's circuits, so to speak, making it difficult to even start.
It is so rare for the right person to get chosen for any big prize that this in itself is a starting point. I so often find myself cheering for the runner-up, the honorable mention, the poor sucker who almost won, the loser as it were, that being on the winner's side is something of a shock. The one thing that makes sense about any of this is that Dugald Seely is unquestionably a true leader, advancing integrative health care in Canada, unarguably deserving of this prize. That part is indisputable.
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But let me break this stupefaction down further so our readers comprehend why I am incredulous. Let us start with the prize.
Since 2007 the Rogers Prize has been awarded every second year to a practitioner who has contributed to complementary and alternative medicine in Canada. Catch that last word, Canada.
This prize is only given to people who live in that country to the north of us. It's certainly a big country, but not many people live up there. Back in 2015 when their total population topped 35 million, Canadians got excited and celebrated. Keep in mind that California alone has as many people. Imagine spreading out all the people in California from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island and as far north as Hudson Bay. People are sparse and far between up there. The US has almost ten times Canada's population. Yet Canada has the Rogers Prize, well properly known as the "Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine," and we don't.
The Rogers Prize isn't just some somber plaque to hang on your wall. It is a cash prize: a two hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar cash prize. Granted that these are Canadian dollars awarded, but California has nothing to compete with this. The entire US of A has nothing to compare.
Our Canadian friends know that Lotte and John Hecht of Vancouver fund the Rogers award; and they all have let me know that these generous benefactors, while not anonymous, don't want publicity, so they mention this quietly.
The US did have the Bravewell Award of $100,000 for a few years that was last presented in 2013 to Dr. Oz (see Bravewell.org), and though the prize was for leadership in integrative medicine, only MDs ever received the prize. A country one tenth our size sees fit to present an award that is twice the amount of the Bravewell Award and then gives it to a naturopathic doctor. Actually plural, naturopathic doctors: Don Warren, ND, received a "Groundbreaker Award" this year as well. This says something about the relative appreciation of integrative healthcare and naturopathic physicians in our two countries, but exactly what does it say?
"The Dr. Rogers Prize recognizes" according to their website, "those who embody the same level of vision, leadership, and integrity as that of the late Dr. Roger Hayward Rogers. Among the first physicians to provide non-traditional therapies for cancer patients, Dr. Rogers was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in 2001, in recognition of his ground-breaking work."
Ponder that for a moment. Dr. Roger Rogers. In our country we would ridicule someone whose first and last names were nearly identical. In Canada, Roger Rogers is appointed to the Order of BC. In the US, doctors who encouraged the use of alternative medicine to treat cancer in decades past lost their licenses and were forced to practice in Mexico.
I asked Joe Pizzorno, ND, who served as one of the award jurors that chose Seely, about the differences between Canada and the US. He didn't think actual clinical practice differs appreciably, just that they, the Canadians, were ahead of us when it comes to integration and cooperation: "I don't see any difference between integrative medicine in the US and Canada. However, a case could be made that historically, Canadian integrative medicine organizationally started before the US. I think that Orthomolecular Medicine was first."
We might point out that Health Canada adopted the Determinants of Health concepts in the early 1970s.1 To put this into context, recall that JAMA had accepted tobacco advertisements in its journal up until 1954, and the American Medical Association didn't call for a ban on cigarette advertising until 1985.2 Tobacco advertising has been illegal in Canada since 1988. We've been playing catch-up with Canada when it comes to public health for quite a while.
But back to Vancouver, who would have ever imagined Dr. Seely dressed up in a black tie and tuxedo? This is amazing. Dugald has always been and always will be the guy with sleeves rolled up, the guy who is so hard at work that he doesn't dress up. Suits don't fit him. Looking at his photo holding the prize, I can't help but smile in disbelief.
The online bios of Seely call him a "clinician and researcher, the author of numerous scientific reviews on complementary medicine…." Talk about understatements. Plug "Seely, Dugald" into a PubMed.gov search and it spits back 72 citations. Does he have competitors within our profession? Well yes, Heather Greenlee has 87 citations, but she's a full time academic at Columbia University. Dugald is, as his bio says, a clinician who sees patients for a living.
Reading through his published work, you want to describe it all as 'research with a purpose.' Lise Alschuler, ND, is the one who pointed this out to me:
One important attribute of Dr. Seely is his consistent and long-term clinical practice. The reason that his research efforts are so clinically impactful is because he approaches the research as a clinician first and as a researcher second. All of his research answers clinical queries and has immediate translational value to the practice of oncology. The importance of this cannot be overstated. In times when new research is completed at an almost overwhelming rate, research that is informed by clinical needs becomes the fulcrum of change and practice innovation.
If you doubt Dr. Alschuler, read through that Pubmed list and notice the topics Seely's covered. His clinical trials have examined naturopathic medicine and cardiovascular disease (2013) and whether it is cost effective, whether naturopathic medicine is effective for chronic low back pain (2007), for anxiety (2009), for tendinitis in postal workers (2009 and 2013) and whether vitamin supplements can prevent HIV transmission from mother to child (2005). He has led teams of academic reviewers who have performed systematic reviews and evaluated among other things, black cohosh and breast cancer, selenium and lung cancer, Vitamin D safety in cancer patients, green tea and lung cancer, flax and breast cancer, Vitamin A and lung cancer, melatonin and cancer, ionic footbaths, green tea and breast cancer recurrence, soy and red clover in breast cancer, fish oil in prostate cancer, both in vitro and in vivo and analysis of Essiac, metronomic dosing of chemo in pediatric cancer, EDTA and cardiovascular disease (CVD), African herbs for HIV, ginseng use during pregnancy, cinnamon and diabetes, supplement interactions with chemotherapy in pediatric cancer, niacin for migraines, acupuncture for stroke, thermography for breast cancer screening, supplement interactions with CVD drugs, and black cohosh safety during pregnancy and lactation. He was also a key contributor to the guidelines for integrative therapy use during breast cancer treatment. This list isn't complete. I got tired of typing. Those of us who practice naturopathic oncology rely on Seely's work; to say it is invaluable in daily practice would be an understatement.
Dr. Seely is the founder and executive director of the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC), where he and his team of 26 are pioneering a contemporary cancer treatment model based on "scientifically grounded, evidence-informed complementary medicine." With the 2011 establishment of this first integrative cancer care and research center in Eastern Canada, Dr. Seely's team provides whole-person care to people living with cancer and addresses research gaps in cancer care.
Dr. Seely completed his MSc in cancer research at the University of Toronto and is a Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO). He is currently the vice-president of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (ONCANP). As a clinician scientist, Dugald has been awarded competitive grant and trainee funding from CIHR, CBCRA, the SickKids Foundation, the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and the Gateway for Cancer Research.
While Dr. Seely has led numerous research projects over the years, his largest and most exciting project is the ongoing Thoracic-POISE study. Just three years ago, in October 2014, Seely announced the $3.85 million grant that is allowing him to study the addition of naturopathic medicine to conventional care for lung, gastric and esophageal cancers. This is the largest research grant for naturopathic medicine ever awarded. The full title is a mouthful: "Thoracic Peri-Operative Integrative Surgical Care Evaluation" (or Thoracic POISE). The project's goals are twofold. First, it is pioneering the naturopathic interventions to use before and after cancer surgery. Second, it will fund a randomized controlled trial to evaluate if the integrative care approach reduces adverse events and improves disease-free survival. A multi-center network of Canadian thoracic surgery centers, partnering with naturopathic doctors, will collaborate over an 11-year period in this 300-patient study. [NCT02845479]
Dugald has brought this same pattern of using research to inform clinical practice to the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians where he chairs the research committee. He has been instrumental in pioneering an online database of clinical trials, which our membership uses to inform clinical practice. Known by the acronym KNOW for "Knowledge in Naturopathic Oncology Website," this is the largest and most expensive project ONCANP has undertaken. Let me confess here that it has been Dr. Seely's steadfast lobbying of ONCANP's board of directors, including myself, that has kept KNOW alive and kept me usually voting in favor of the project despite my fears that it could turn into a perpetual and bottomless financial sink hole. When this KNOW site is fully operational and everyone is praising ONCANP's foresight, much credit should go to Dr. Seely for his prescience.
We are banking on this prescience thing. It was from David Schleich, PhD, that I first heard the term prescience to describe Dr. Seely:
Dugald Seely knows that the Canadian naturopathic profession has had considerable savvy for several decades about the patient-driven need for wide access to natural medicine modalities and protocols. His tireless work enhances the profession's responsibility to blend the best evidence with the powerful practice traditions of CAM long in place in Canada.
Dugald Seely is a remarkably prescient and skilled research professional who knows what we have to get done now. The Roger's Prize is a special, strong statement about his gifts and his tenacity. (2017)
Aside from responsibilities already mentioned, Dr. Seely serves as the director of research and clinical epidemiology at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and is an affiliate investigator for the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Dr. Seely is also a section editor for integrative oncology in the journal Current Oncology and a past board member for the Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO). Dr. Seely was also appointed to Health Canada's Expert Advisory Panel for the Vigilance of Health Products on which he served three years.
Iva Lloyd pointed out to me via email that, "Under Dugald's leadership, as director of naturopathic research at the CCCM for over ten years, he has created the largest naturopathic research department in North America and one that continues to be recognized on the international research stage." In fact, no end of prominent people in the naturopathic profession have pointed out to me that Dr. Seely seems to be everywhere in Canada and has no shortage of associations with various entities that have long names that are capitalized and often turned into acronyms. We may have to add a glossary at the end of this article.
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