The $250,000 Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine is awarded every two years to celebrate the achievements of researchers, practitioners, and others in the field of complementary and alternative (CAM) health care. The largest prize of its kind in North America, the first Dr. Rogers Prize was awarded in 2007.
Open to individuals whose complementary or alternative medicine activities are carried out within Canada, the recipient of the Dr. Rogers Prize is an individual who embodies the vision, leadership, and integrity as that of Dr. Roger Hayward Rogers for whom the award is named. A Canadian pioneer in the field of CAM, Dr. Rogers was among the first to provide non‐traditional therapies for cancer patients. He was appointed to the Order of British Columbia in recognition of his ground‐breaking work.
Many treatments and practices that we now consider to be commonplace – even common sense - have historically faced opposition and resistance. Many were initially considered preposterous and were ridiculed, rejected and dismissed.
Ideas like those of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who in the mid 19th century documented that the practice of hand washing by doctors between patients reduced the mortality rate in obstetrics wards dramatically. The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed and his work was rejected. At the time, it was said to lack scientific basis and was dismissed as religious or superstitious. The evidence that hand washing was effective in saving lives was accepted after Dr. Semmelweis had been institutionalized and died. It was not until Louis Pasteur was able to develop and conduct experiments that clearly proved the correctness of the theory that it was widely, though not initially wholly, accepted as true.
In 1983 Doctors Barry Marshall & Robin Warren proved that Helicobacter pylori bacteria were responsible for stomach ulcers. This flew in the face of accepted wisdom that ulcers were caused by stress, spicy food and stomach acid. Also, everyone knew that bacteria could not survive in the acidic environment of the gut. The discovery was ridiculed. Dr. Marshall proved his point by experimenting on himself, ingesting the bacteria and developing ulcers, which were then treated with anti-biotics. It has taken many years to change the established medical practice for treating ulcers (see timeline). In 2005, Drs. Marshall & Warren won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work.
More recently in the news and most controversial is Dr. Paolo Zamboni's radically different approach to Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Zamboni is the Director of the Vascular Diseases Centre at the University of Ferrara in Italy. His approach, chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI), suggests that Multiple Sclerosis is a vascular disease caused by a blockage or leaking of the veins that drain blood from the brain. His treatment ‐ coined the "liberation procedure" ‐ involves inserting stents or balloons to open the malformed and blocked veins. Research is underway internationally in an attempt to duplicate his findings; meanwhile, people with Multiple Sclerosis travel far and wide to access the treatment.
Dr. Rogers cared for people with cancer who had been told that there were no further treatment options available to them and that they should get their affairs in order. His approach was centered around stimulating the immune system to recognize and deal with the cancer. He took this course of action knowing that the evidence had not yet been established but was adamant that these people had the ‘right to try before they die’. Dr. Rogers was committed to his patients, willing to challenge conventional thinking, daring to step outside the comfort and assurance of accepted practice in order to explore possibilities for people who had been relegated to palliative care. The idea of harnessing the immune system to fight cancer has caught hold and is now being researched by the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Dr. Brad Nelson, among others. The Centre Dr. Rogers established in the 70’s has evolved into Inspirehealth, which offers integrated cancer care to an increasing number of patients.
Click here to learn about previous Dr. Rogers Prize recipients.