For Dr David Joske, some of his earliest memories involve playing on the UWA grounds. With his father the Dean of the Medical School, and his mother a Masters student and teacher in humanities, Dr Joske spent a bit of time on campus as a child, a connection that continues to this day.
Graduating from UWA in 1983 with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery, Dr Joske, now a Clinical Haematologist and Medical Co-Director at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, has dedicated his career to cancer care and helping those with the disease.
In 2001 he established SolarisCare which offers free complementary therapies and support to cancer patients and this year won EY’s (WA) Social Entrepreneur award for this work.
“Although excellent resources have long been available to treat cancer medically, it became clear to me that the emotional and supportive care needs of cancer patients and their families were often overlooked.
“So SolarisCare was born – a drop in centre in Sir Charles where cancer patients could receive free support and advice and supervised complementary integrated therapies that would support their mainstream treatment.
“It was a radical idea at the time, and still is in some respect. But the idea has continued to grow and over the last 15 years we have opened three additional clinics in Albany, Bunbury and St John of God,” he says.
Dr Joske says the clinics are filling a role that had traditionally been ignored by mainstream medicine.
“In addition to the conventional treatments I was prescribing, I knew my patients were trying alternative therapies, but didn’t want to talk to me about it as they feared a negative reaction.
“This wasn’t the best environment for patients whose lives had quite literally been turned upside down, and I wanted to find a way to support them better on their journey,” he says.
Since SolarisCare opened its doors, Dr Joske and his team have treated over 10,000 people and the clinics have played a pioneering role in integrated oncology.
“I copped a bit of flack, there are still a lot of people around who do not believe that alternative – or to be more accurate, complementary therapies have a place in cancer treatment, but I know through the feedback of our patients that we are helping.
“We aren’t trying to claim cures, but we can play a role in changing a patient’s mindset and help empower them as they battle this disease.
“My favourite piece of feedback I’ve heard is ‘If I were a cat I’d purr’. Our role is to help them get on top of their situation, and we know we can improve their quality of life.”
Dr Joske says the clinic operates mainly through fundraising and the long-term future relies on research that proves the benefit of complementary treatments which is much easier said than done.
“It’s hard to get medical evidence that proves the value of a massage for example, however the research community is working on this. It’s a challenge but we’re getting there,” he says.
Watch Dr Joske’s TEDxPerth talk ‘Bringing humanity to healthcare’.