Blackmores Institute’s New e-Learning Platform [transcript][audio]


Guest: Dr Lesley Braun

Presenter: Wayne Bucklar

Guest Bio: Dr Lesley Braun, Group Director, Blackmores Institute

Director of the Blackmores Institute and Adjunct Senior Research fellow at Monash/Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine Western Sydney University, Lesley is a pharmacy graduate from Monash University and a qualified naturopath.

She is a member of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Advisory Council which advises the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA),  Executive committee for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine interest group for the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA), Advisory Committee for the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA), member of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research and several working groups for the National Institute for Complementary Medicine (NICM).

Segment overview: Dr Lesley Braun is here to talk about Blackmores Academy, the new learning management system developed by Blackmores Institute that will transform the natural health education. It is a free educational service designed by a team of pharmacists, nutritionists, herbalists and naturopaths, to help pharmacy professionals advance their natural health knowledge and assist in translating clinical evidence into everyday advice. It’s a major piece of work and a first-of-its kind in the natural health space. Blackmores Academy is accessible online to health professionals 24/7 on any device – both mobile and computer allowing them to learn in a multimedia and multilingual environment at any place, any time.


Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and joining me today in conversation is Dr. Lesley Braun, Group Director at the Blackmores Institute. Now Lesley is the Director of the Blackmores Institute and Adjunct Senior Research fellow at Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Associate Professor at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine Western Sydney University. Lesley is a pharmacy graduate from Monash University and also a qualified naturopath. She is also a member of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Advisory Council which advises the TGA. She is on the Executive Committee for the Complementary and Integrative Medicine interest group for the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia. She’s on the Advisory Committee for the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, member of the International Society of Complementary Medicine Research and several working groups for the National Institute of Complementary Medicine. Now Leslie qualifies absolutely as what we call an ‘Expert’ and she’s here today to talk to us about a new initiative from Blackmores. Lesley, welcome to the program.

Lesley Braun:  Yes, thank you for having me.

Wayne Bucklar:   It’s our pleasure. Now Lesley, I understand that Blackmores have released a new platform and that you’re saying it’s going to transform natural health education.

Lesley Braun:   Yes. Look, we’re very excited. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of investment to get this up and running. So what we have invested in is the new learning management system. But beyond that, we’ve also developed a whole range of micro courses and a lot of online education material. And again it really help retail assistants, pharmacists, doctors, even naturopaths to learn more about complementary medicine. It’s got a whole lot of different things there that make it fun and interesting, lots of videos,as well as interactive bits and pieces as well so we’re very proud of it.

Wayne Bucklar:   Well that’s something to be very proud of I think because these things are not easily done ever and it’s a major piece of work. Now Blackmores Institute is the research and education arm I guess of the Blackmores’ range of complementary medicines. Have I got that right? Is that how they fit together?

Lesley Braun:   Yes, so we call it the Professional and Academic Arm of Blackmores. So education and research really comes in under our jurisdiction. One of the things that we really like about that is that our goal is sharing knowledge, changing lives. Education can do that by sharing knowledge with different people whether they’re consumers, or retail assistants or healthcare practitioners. They learn a lot more about complementary medicine so therefore, we really hope that they feel more confident and comfortable to give accurate advice to their patients or to their customers. And in that way, they change their lives so it fits really nicely.

Wayne Bucklar:   Now Blackmores itself I guess if not the best known or very close to being the best known and certainly the most trusted vitamin and supplements company in Australia. More than 85 years of experience, how long has the institute being part of it?

Lesley Braun:   The institute was actually started in 2012. And it’s really gone from strength to strength so now we have presence not just in Australia but also throughout Asia. In Asia, we have a lot of memorandums of understanding with universities, we have intern programs with pharmacy students. We set up research with different universities. We’ve even got an MOU with the Malaysian Pharmacy Society because what we’ve found, there’s a lot of these universities and even professional associations recognize that their practitioners need a lot more knowledge about complementary medicine. And they also recognize that they may not have the expertise but Blackmores Institute does. So we’ve been really overwhelmed with the demand for our education, and this LNS and the new online micro courses is a way of being able to scale up what we do. Because it’s really hard to go out there and educate the thousands of people that are wanting this education as much as we try we figured scaling out digitally, really means that people connect when they want and how they want in whatever country.

Wayne Bucklar:  I just want to quote from Marcus Blackmore, the Blackmores’ Director who said that complementary medicines are integral part of modern healthcare. So it’s essential that pharmacy professionals have the opportunity to advance in natural health education and assistance in translating clinical evidence into everyday practical advice. Now, this sounds like complementary medicine as being taken very seriously by the traditionalists in the medical pharmaceutical field. Is that something you are finding?

Lesley Braun:   Yes, that’s very much what we’re finding. I always involved with the group that actually give some multi center surveys in Australia. And we found that pharmacy customers expect their pharmacists to be able to recommend products that are effective for them, also to advise them on any potential safe issue. But they felt with pharmacists they don’t have enough knowledge to date. We also did surveys of pharmacies who also felt that there was a responsibility for them to be able to provide good information to their customers. But a lot of them lack confidence and knowledge. But actually we replicated similar surveys now in Malaysia and Thailand. We’re starting up something similar in Singapore and we’re doing this all with the universities in those regions. And the result that are coming are starting to suggest, this is a regional wide problem – it’s not just in Australia. I think pharmacists everywhere are realizing that their customers are using complementary medicines and they really need to know a lot more about them.

Wayne Bucklar:    Have you found any I guess cultural differences between Asian consumers’ expectations and Australian consumers’ expectations?

Lesley Braun:   I think the main difference that you find is in Asia, there is a traditional medicine system. But what we’re talking about here is really I guess the Western approach to natural medicine for the micronutrients, the Western herbs, physio-probiotics that kind of thing cleansing which is different to the traditional medicine system that they see locally. But it doesn’t sit in the pharma model either which is alongside of that. We’re actually finding even greater demand for education in Asia because it is unfamiliar to them but they’re very keen to learn more and their customers are obviously taking these supplements and the growth there is quite significant.

Wayne Bucklar:   Now I understand that Blackmores Institute Education is designed for healthcare professionals and Blackmores’ Education designed for retail, pharmacy staff and students. Are you finding a lot of interest from retail staff?

Lesley Braun:   Overwhelming interest, really. I mean if you think about there’s a lot of people when they go to a pharmacy, the first person they talk to will be their pharmacy assistants on the floor because the pharmacist might be at the back and they’re really busy and they really want to know all. So when customers ask them about the product, what’s the features, the benefits, maybe the safety issues, if they’re using it at right way. They need education as well. In fact, we found out that this is very popular for retail assistants. And one of the things that we’ve done with this new learning management system, is made sure that it’s digitally enabled so they can access this thur their smartphone, to their iPad, or tablet or online at anytime. So when they’re having a break, a tea break in the morning or lunch break, they can actually wherever they are just turn it on, do a quick module and they’re accessing their education very quickly and easily.

Wayne Bucklar:   Yes. And I can understand that having at your fingertips on a phone or a PDA in these days, and my age is coming up. PDA, there’s no one talks about them. I can understand that having this available on your phone or on your tablet is certainly the way many people are consuming education in these days.

Lesley Braun:   It absolutely is. I think that what we’re finding a lot of people want education in bite sized pieces as well. Because they’re finding in this busy life, they’re doing lots of things in their day and they might just want a little snippet from time to time. So the way we constructed this education is exactly like that, in small bite-sized bits of information. So they can just work through a program of work or a short course and just do these little bite-size pieces whenever it fits them. And in overtime before you know that they actually covered a lot of material which is great.

Wayne Bucklar:    I see here in your media materials, you talk about an exclusive four part fundamentals of complementary medicine program. Fill us in about that.

Lesley Braun:   So that’s actually being created under the Blackmores Institute and all of this education that Blackmores Institute does is generic. So there’s not product in there, it’s not commercial and it’s really the academic information that healthcare professionals want. So what we’ve got on there is an online four modules, we called it ‘The Fundamentals of Complementary Medicines’ because we recognized that a lot of doctors and pharmacists really know to nothing about this area. So we’ve got an introduction to complementary medicine, an introduction to safety, nutrition as well as Western herbal medicine. So that gets them up to speed pretty quickly and should answer a lot of their basic questions about this area and dispel some of the myths. And what we’re hoping to do in time is actually to keep building more of these modules to get into an intermediate and then in advance level as well. In that way we continuously partner with them to grow their knowledge in a way that they’re so very comfortable and confident with. Now one of the things that we have done is we’ve actually been able to get CPD so continuing education point accredited thru this College of Pharmacy. And that was really important for us cause it’s really designating the quality of this education. So it’s got CPD points and in fact, we actually applying for CPD points with professional association you know the Asian countries as well. Again, it’s a seal of quality. But it also means the pharmacists thru this education, it will help them get points that they tally up as a part of their annual overall score.

Wayne Bucklar:   Now Lesley, for people who have heard us and are going, ‘Yes, I want to get into this’, what’s their next step? How do they move forward? And is it restricted by the way to people in pharmacy or is it available to other clinicians?

Lesley Braun:   No, it’s available to all clinicians. We have got two key portals; the Blackmores Institute Education which is really all generic and designed for help get professionals whether they are nurses, or pharmacists, or doctors. That can be accessed for free thru our website, so so all one word Just go straight on there, you can sign up, it’s free and you can get access immediately. We’ve also got the Blackmores Academy which is actually the Blackmores commercial site which really is more about the actual Blackmores product. You’ll find that we’ve got all of the education in three languages actually in English, in Bahasa Indonesian and also in easy Mandarin. So no matter where you are, if you speak one of those languages, we’ve got something that will speak to you.

Wayne Bucklar:   It’s interesting that you picked those three languages because you do cover a huge swathe that Asian countries with those language sets.

Lesley Braun:  Yes, it’s true we do cover a wide area. And obviously, well everything is not translated yet but a lot is and we’re looking to actually translate more over time and introduce more language by the time as well. What we found though is when we do education at the universities and a lot of the Asian countries, a lot of the students do learn in English. A lot of them are comfortable seeing material in English but still for some people they prefer to have it in their own language so we’re trying to do our best to address that.

Wayne Bucklar:   And English is certainly an up-and-coming language but as lots of my Asian friends tell me, sometimes it makes their noses bleed if they have to speak too much English.

Lesley Braun:   Yes. So you’ll find on the videos, some are in English but there are subtitles so you can get it both ways.

Wayne Bucklar:   Lesley, it’s been a pleasure having you with us. For people who are interested and are looking to get more information generally, is there a website they can get to where they can reach out to you?

Lesley Braun:   The Blackmores Institute website will be the easiest way to do it. In that way, they’ll be able to see all the types of things that we’ve got.

Wayne Bucklar:   Now what about the pharmacies assistance and the retail stuff? Do they get at the same website?

Lesley Braun:   Look if you’re a retail assistant or retail staff, the best site for you to go to is the Blackmores Education website and the address there is and you’ll be able to log in directly, set up an account and access hundreds and hundreds of educational modules from that website.

Wayne Bucklar:  So that’s the website again for the Blackmores Institute Education. For healthcare professionals it’s and for retail, it’s Thank you for your time today.

Lesley Braun:   Thank you very much Wayne.

Wayne Bucklar:   Now I’ve been in conversation with Dr. Lesley Braun, the Group Director of the Blackmores Institute. And she’s been telling us about a new e-learning platform but if you’ve missed my conversation, it’s not all bad news. On our website we have a transcript to the interview and there’s also an audio archive available on both iTunes and SoundCloud. And you can reach out and get both of those resources at This is Health Professional Radio.   

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