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Enabling the success of academic health science centres in Australia: where is the leadership?

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Lack of policy development hinders the effective integration of research, education and health care delivery

The expanding health care demands of our community require that our health system have an expanding knowledge base, enhanced capability, greater process efficiency and more targeted application of clinical interventions. The search for new groundbreaking discoveries should continue unabated (for example, in replicating the success of statins in ameliorating coronary heart disease or antiretroviral therapy in controlling HIV infection). However, there is an equally important, immediate and ongoing daily need for all patients to receive better, safer and more efficient care from highly competent health professionals using existing knowledge and resources. This responsibility must be shared between health administrators, front-line health professionals, and academic teachers and researchers.

In recognition of this shared responsibility, at least four academic health science centres (AHSCs) have been established in Australia in the past 5 years. They comprise partnerships or collaborations between universities and their affiliated research institutes and health service organisations.

There is no universally agreed definition of an AHSC, but most are alliances of geographically co-located entities, with varying descriptions of what they actually do or hope to achieve. However, all AHSCs are committed to a…