New professorship established at medical school

By Sharon Gray

With the help of a $150,000 donation from SmithKline Beecham Pharma, a new professorship in biological psychiatry will be established in the Faculty of Medicine.

Representatives of the pharmaceutical company visited Memorial Sept. 15 to make the presentation to the Opportunity Fund. Ger J. van Amersfoort, president of SmithKline Beecham Pharma, said his company has a strong commitment to spend money for research and development in all regions of the country. He noted that Newfoundland could potentially receive up to $10 million per year from industry investment in research, but that the province currently gets only between two and three million annually.

"What you should have is a business plan for the coming years that builds up the infrastructure for research activities."

The dean of medicine, Dr. Ian Bowmer, noted that community support from the Canadian Mental Health Association contributed to the success in obtaining funding for the new professorship. He said the SmithKline Beecham Professorship in Biological Psychiatry will create a new collaboration between neuroscience and psychiatry at the medical school.

The scholar chosen for the professorship will build on existing research strengths in neuroscience and develop scholarship and research activities in psychiatry. The job will also involve communicating mental health research findings and their implications for care and treatment to the community.

Dr. Verna Skanes, assistant dean of research and graduate studies in the Faculty of Medicine, said the SmithKline Beecham Pharma donation will help to create a position which will in itself attract research dollars. She said the donation will go towards salary and efforts are ongoing to raise another $100,000 to fully fund the position.

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