6 August 2019

Giles Medal 2019

The Giles Medal for Research Excellence has been established by the ACA as its most prestigious international award for scientific research. The ACA is pleased to announce that Professor Christopher Maher is the recipient of the Giles Medal in 2019. Professor Maher is ranked as the world’s most productive researcher concerning low back pain and is listed as the number one ranked expert concerning back pain worldwide.

Over his career he has contributed to the reliability and validity of patient assessment and has also undertaken research concerned with the improvement of the efficacy of the treatment and management of patients.

Coming from a clinical practice background in physiotherapy, Professor Maher is a Professor in the School of Public Health, The University of Sydney and Director of the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney Local Health District. He is also a Fellow of the Australian College of Physiotherapy (analagous to specialist status in medicine) and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. He holds a Visiting Professorial appointment at the University of Oxford and an Honorary Professorial appointment at Macquarie University.

The awarding of the Giles Medal to Professor Maher highlights the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration amongst health professions. With a career spanning over 30 years, he devoted his initial years to clinical practice, then to university academic work and the last portion to establishing what is now recognised as a world leading research group, who investigate musculoskeletal conditions and their management.

Professor Maher has had a total of 14,758 citations and 13,384 without self-citation spanning over 580 publications. His research includes studies into the best evidence for treatment and management of low back pain as well as leading a systematic review of the efficacy and safety of the use of paracetamol in three musculoskeletal conditions, raising concerns about the clinical practice guideline recommendation to use paracetamol for patients with low back pain.

Through Professor Maher’s research he has also provided the international clinical community with an evidence base on which to approach patients presenting with low back pain, identifying the shortcomings in evidence and providing a focus for research priorities concerning low back pain.

Although Professor Maher is humbled by the award and the time his nominators put into preparing a submission for the Giles Medal, it did come as a bit of a shock.

“It is a great honour to be nominated by your peers for a prestigious research award and I have to say this award came as a complete surprise. I later found out that one of my PhD students played a role in nominating me and it is very pleasing to know that they think that highly of me,” Professor Maher said.

By receiving this award, he hopes this will help encourage collaboration between chiropractors and physiotherapist, having previously collaborated with many chiropractors through his research into improving musculoskeletal health and physical activity.

The ACA is honoured for Professor Maher to present the Giles Lecture in person at the 2019 ACA Conference in Melbourne on Sunday 20 October. During his presentation he wishes to discuss his research that has made the greatest impact, a lot of which was completed in partnership with his chiropractic colleagues.

“One example is the PRECISE trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that showed that pregabalin is no more effective than placebo for sciatica. The first author was Dr Stephanie Mathieson a chiropractor who completed her PhD with me and is now supported by an National Health and Medical Research Council research fellowship.”

Profession Maher is especially looking forward to seeing how the presenters at the ACA Conference respond to the theme of Interdisciplinary Spinal Health, believing this approach to health is in the best interest of patients.

“I think modern healthcare is about integrative and interdisciplinary care and if we continue working within our own silos, we’ll probably feel comfortable, but we won’t be doing the best job for our patients.”

For more information on the Giles Medal and to register for the conference and witness the ceremony in person visit acaconference.org.au