Recognition of the serious issue of addiction addressed with new philanthropically-funded University chair

Professor Benedikt Fischer has been appointed to the newly created Hugh Green Foundation Chair in Addiction Research in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS).

Professor Benedikt Fischer

Nearly one in 10 New Zealanders experience some form of substance abuse during their lifetimes, and that’s just concerning alcohol and drugs. Many thousands of others are addicted to gambling and other compulsive behaviours that can have significantly negative impacts on themselves, their families, and their communities.

Being able to better understand and devise effective interventions for addictions is a global issue with significant health and social implications.

A landmark $5m donation from the Hugh Green Foundation has enabled a new fully endowed Chair in Addiction Research to be part of the University of Auckland’s commitment to finding answers to these big issues. And it’s aligned with its current For All Our Futures campaign, aiming to raise $300m to address critical challenges facing New Zealand and our world.

As part of this initiative, Professor Benedikt Fischer has been appointed to the newly created Hugh Green Foundation Chair in Addiction Research in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS), commencing his position later this year.

Professor Fischer’s appointment will provide academic and research leadership in addiction research, building a multidisciplinary team that will strengthen New Zealand’s expertise in this important area of health. It is intended that this research will be used to frame government policies on how to deal with the addiction problems in New Zealand.

Professor Fischer is currently Senior Scientist at the Institute of Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Chair in Addiction Psychiatry & Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Canada. He previously directed the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction, Simon Fraser University and held an Applied Public Health Research Chair from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Internationally renowned for his research on the socio-behavioural epidemiology of illicit and psychotropic substance use and related health outcomes, Professor Fischer’s work focusses on marginalised/high-risk populations. He has advised both Canadian and international government and non-government agencies, and heads an international research program (including extensive collaborations in South America). He has published more than 300 scientific articles and has co-authored the international books: ‘Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate’ and 'Drug Policy and the Public Good'. He is widely sought after as a scientific expert commentator in the media.

Dean of FMHS, Professor John Fraser says that the ability of the University to attract someone of Professor Fischer’s international standing is due to the University’s own excellent reputation for research, but also because of the support of philanthropic organisations like the Hugh Green Foundation.

“We know there is isn’t enough government funding to enable the University to achieve the sort of breakthroughs that we have the academic capability for. Therefore inspirational partnerships like this one between the Faculty and the Hugh Green Foundation are crucial in helping achieve a better future. We are extremely appreciative of the generous support that has enabled this appointment and also for the vision of the Board in supporting the issue of Addiction; it has such widespread impact.”

Hugh Green Foundation CEO, Adrienne Thurston congratulated the University on the appointment.

“The Chairman of the Foundation, Bob Narev and I are very aware of the number of New Zealanders who are affected by a range of addictions, and the need for serious focus on and understanding of the issues facing the sector. We want the Foundation to play a role in making a positive difference in this country and internationally, and we look forward to welcoming Professor Fischer to New Zealand later this year. ”

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