A/Prof Jackie Curtis, the new Director of Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, was previously Clinical Director of Youth Mental Health at South Eastern Sydney LHD. She is an international expert in physical health care for people who experience severe mental health disorders.
Tuesday 28 April 2020:
Leading Sydney clinician/researcher to head ground-breaking collaboration
Associate Professor Jackie Curtis MBBS FRANZCP has been appointed Director of Mindgardens Neuroscience Network (Mindgardens) commencing April 20th, 2020, in a move that prepares the unique partnership to radically expand its impact on the treatment of mental health, neurological and alcohol and drug disorders.
A/Prof Curtis, a psychiatrist, was most recently the Clinical Director of Youth Mental Health at the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District – one of the four founding partners in Mindgardens along with UNSW Sydney, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and the Black Dog Institute. Her research and clinical work over several decades has focused on early psychosis and youth mental health, including improving the cardiometabolic health of people living with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, with the aim of reducing health inequalities and increasing life expectancy. Dr Curtis is also a Conjoint Associate Professor in the School of Psychiatry at UNSW Sydney.
Mr John Grill AO, Chairman of the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, said, “I am delighted that Jackie has agreed to take on this essential role. After an international search it became clear that Jackie is uniquely qualified to take Mindgardens to the next level. She is an outstanding clinician and researcher and her work, which bridges long-standing gaps between physical and mental health care, exemplifies the Mindgardens approach of leveraging expertise across multiple disciplines to improve the lives of patients. Jackie is a powerful advocate and collaborator, and I and the Mindgardens board members look forward to working alongside her.”
The Mindgardens Neuroscience Network offers clinical services to patients through its partner organisations, supported by research programs, and training and educational initiatives, drawing on the expertise of the four partners. It was formally launched in December 2019 and is backed by $7 million start-up funding from the Commonwealth Government. Mr Grill said the next priority was to scale up Mindgardens’ capacity and add major new projects to increase its impact on patients’ health and influence in the research community.
A/Prof Curtis said, “I am delighted to be joining Mindgardens at this critical stage. In my own clinical experience I have witnessed the potential of the partnership to transform the way we care for people. By working together we can ensure the latest research insights are applied rigorously and consistently to patients’ treatment. At the same time, we are committed to closely monitoring how people respond to treatment so we can continuously refine our protocols. This feedback loop will ensure the safest and fastest possible translation of new discoveries bi-directionally, between the laboratory bench and the bedside, and also out into the community. This maximises investment in research and ensures efficient use of health system resources.”
Mental health, drug and alcohol and neurological disorders shared many common features and brain pathways, said A/Prof Curtis, and Mindgardens would encourage teams from all disciplines and specialties to collaborate through real-time networking, shared research infrastructure and enhanced opportunities for teaching and learning.
“I’m excited at the potential to share Mindgardens’ discoveries across the whole of NSW and beyond by hosting clinicians, researchers and students to join our work, and potentially in future accepting patients with complex issues who may benefit from being treated within the Mindgardens model,” A/Prof Curtis said. “People’s experience is what drive us, and patients and their families and carers are equal partners with researchers and clinicians in the Mindgardens collaboration.”
Mr Grill thanked Black Dog Institute’s Director and Chief Scientist, Scientia Professor Helen Christensen AO, and Professor Peter Schofield AO, CEO at NeuRA, who served as Interim Joint CEOs of Mindgardens during its start-up phase. “Peter and Helen have done an extraordinary job in taking the Mindgardens concept and bringing it to reality,” Mr Grill said. “We will continue to benefit from their expertise as the leaders of two of the four partner organisations, and I know that Jackie will be able to count on their wisdom and guidance as she steps into her role.”
Jackie Curtis Career Highlights
- Developed and implemented the internationally recognised Keeping the Body in Mind program, demonstrating that antipsychotic-induced weight gain can be prevented with lifestyle intervention
- Co-founder and Co-Chair of the iphYs international working group advocating for improved physical health for youth experiencing psychosis
- Invited committee member, WHO working group for the international guidelines: management of physical health conditions in adults with severe mental disorders