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NZ business leader in plant-based medicine earns PhD

Since founding natural healthcare company Artemis in 1998, Sandra Clair has played a key role in advocating for plant-based medicines to be recognised and regulated in New Zealand.

Her latest successful endeavour is earning a PhD in Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury (UC), where she has been researching ways to integrate centuries of empirical knowledge with today’s pharmaceutically based regulatory approach.

Ms Clair, who has an interdisciplinary master’s degree in medical anthropology from the University of Bern, Switzerland, is committed to working with New Zealand medicines safety authority Medsafe and the Ministry of Health to develop regulations that include traditional medicines and help shift perceptions about plant medicines.

“When I came from Switzerland I realised that there wasn't much plant medicine available here [in New Zealand], impeding on consumer choice in healthcare. This is contrary to other Western countries. Where I come from, they coexist with pharmaceuticals and are officially funded.”

She recently completed her doctoral thesis at UC, researching health policy challenges in regulating traditional plant medicines.

“I had been thinking about the issue of how to approach the regulation of traditional plant medicines for a long time, but I hadn't known how to tackle the methodology. It was through UC that I had access to experts who could help me with that issue. Having access to the tools and expertise I needed has been a key success factor for the project, including the development of a feasible method for the systematic collation and evaluation of empirical data for traditional health claims. I have felt incredibly encouraged to do this research at UC,” she says.

“This is a new area of investigation. Having received a generous UC scholarship to do this work and the encouragement from my supervisors has highlighted to me that UC is a genuinely progressive university. They are very ready to support ground-breaking research. They have backed the project because of the positive impact it can have in New Zealand. I have really appreciated the expertise and support at UC. It has been a good choice.”

Her business and work are founded on a passion for natural living and self-care.

“To me, plant medicine is not just a commercial opportunity. It’s about empowering people to look after themselves, and to be able to choose high quality natural medicines that meet therapeutic standards,” she says.

“Plant medicines are used by around 80% of people in the world and a normal part of primary healthcare. With the high prevalence of chronic diseases in New Zealand, integrating them into proactive primary healthcare is more important than ever.”

The Dunedin-based company director will receive her doctorate in one of UC’s December graduation ceremonies at the Christchurch Town Hall, which are held on 18 and 20 December, attended by thousands of graduands, their family and friends.

UC December Graduation ceremony dates

The University of Canterbury’s four December Graduation ceremonies will be held on 18 and 20 December 2019 in the Christchurch Town Hall’s Douglas Lilburn Auditorium as follows:

Wednesday 18 December 2019

· 10am College of Education, Health and Human Development | Te Rāngai Ako me te Hauora

· 2pm College of Business and Law | Te Rāngai Umanga me te Ture

Friday 20 December 2019

· 10am College of Engineering | Te Rāngai Pūkaha & College of Science | Te Rāngai Pūtaiao

· 2pm College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata


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