The expressions on the judges’ faces on new SBS factual reality series Medicine or Myth? say it all. Amazement when a contributor tells them hemp kombucha cured his type 2 diabetes, queasiness when another says maggot tea treated her acne. But the running theme is to keep an open mind about whether such alternative remedies may be able to complement modern medicine and potentially help others.
Whatever home remedy they are faced with, no matter how weird, the panel of medical experts treats each contributor with keen enquiry, compassion and respect. Along the way, they use their combined decades of experience to inform us on everything from endometriosis to body odour as they decide which remedies will receive a clinical trial to test their efficacy.
They may not always agree, but the judges prove to be a warm, pragmatic, irreverent and encouraging bunch (not to mention enthusiastic and mostly willing guinea pigs) that you’ll want to spend time with.
Dr Charlie Teo
Specialises in: Neurosurgery
Also: Director of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery, founder of the Charlie Teo Foundation, surgical teacher, father of four
Look out for: How Dr Teo goes from skeptic to convert of the EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) of tapping
Renowned neurosurgeon Dr Charlie Teo leads the panel, offering an enquiring mind and a compassionate approach to the contributors.
With a career spanning almost 40 years, Dr Teo graduated from the University of New South Wales in 1981 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. It was during his residency in paediatric surgery in the early ’80s that he was exposed to paediatric neurosurgery, his sub-speciality, leading to a “love affair” with operating on the brain.
Dr Teo has proved a controversial figure for carrying out radical brain cancer surgery on tumours deemed inoperable by other neurosurgeons, extending the lives of many of his patients. He continues to develop pioneering neuroendoscopy techniques as Director of the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery at Prince of Wales Hospital and teaches keyhole surgery in the US where he worked for a decade. In demand from patients from around the world, every year Dr Teo spends three months in developing countries operating and instructing surgery.
After founding the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation which he parted ways with in 2017, last year the neurosurgeon started the Charlie Teo Foundation to raise funding to undertake “game-changing brain cancer research. Research that uncovers better treatments that will extend the patient’s life expectancy and eventually find a cure.”
“That’s why I started the Charlie Teo Foundation. I want to put myself out of a job,” he says on the foundation’s website.
The Sydney-based father of four daughters, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his pioneering of minimally invasive surgery techniques, is no stranger to complementary medicine. Dr Teo is currently leading a world-first trial to test whether oral medicinal cannabis could be an effective treatment for aggressive brain cancer.
Dr Ginni Mansberg
Specialises in: Family and women’s health
Also: GP, parenting expert, journalist, author, media commentator, podcast host, speaker, healthcare communications consultant and strategist, skincare entrepreneur, mum of six
Likes: Laughing, a good coffee and red wine, cooking, spending time with family and friends, walking her “insane” dogs Freddy and Ginger
Look out for: Dr Mansberg sniffing a tradie’s armpit for body odour
With over 20 years’ experience as a GP and a seasoned TV doctor, Dr Mansberg brings an accessible approach to medical issues, empathy, irreverence and some classic reactions to the more unusual remedies on the show. Dr Mansberg, who says her career has unfurled “rarely with any foresight or planning”, completed a Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Newcastle in 1991, and currently practises at Sans Souci Medical Practice in Sydney’s south.
Also an accomplished journalist with a Graduate Diploma of Journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney, she can regularly be seen as a medical expert on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show, and was one of the hosts of Embarrassing Bodies Down Under.
Dr Mansberg’s TV work is a “beloved” part of her career to which she takes a practical approach. “As a doctor, whenever I appear on TV to talk about health issues, there are two things that are always on my mind,” she says. “What does the evidence say and how can I translate that into something that is usable?”
As a media commentator and columnist, she contributes to publications including Women’s Health Australia, That's Life!, Practical Parenting and MamaMia and is the author of three books: How to Handle Your Hormones, How to Get Your Mojo Back and Why Am I So Tired? She also co-hosts the web series Things You Can’t Talk About on Television with good friend, journalist Shelly Horton, where she’s discussed everything from anal bleaching to lost tampons.
Dr Mansberg once worked as a locum at a methadone clinic in Sydney’s Kings Cross, and for former Federal Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Joe Hockey, as health policy adviser and speechwriter. Apart from her busy media and medical career, she has a full household as mum to her three biological children and three stepchildren.
Associate Professor Ashraful “Ash” Haque
Specialises in: Biochemistry and malaria immunology
Also: Group Leader at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, speaker, father
Look out for: Associate Professor Haque trying an asthma remedy, a soup made of seahorses, dubbed the “Viagra of the sea”
Medical research specialist Associate Professor Ashraful “Ash” Haque brings an informative take on the home remedies from a biochemistry perspective, and a dry sense of humour. He may never have wanted to be a scientist, but the self-described “Pom living in Brisbane” has found himself a passionate advocate for the research of infectious diseases.
Associate Professor Haque studied a Bachelor degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, specialising in biochemistry, and after completing that in 1997, spent a year travelling his parents’ homeland of Bangladesh. On his return to the UK, he completed a PhD on diarrhoea at Imperial College, London before landing his first job researching bacterial infections at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The biochemist immigrated to Australia in 2006, and since then has been based at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Starting out there as a research scientist, a stint as Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher at the institute’s Immunology and Infection Laboratory followed. He’s currently Group Leader and Co-ordinator of the Infectious Diseases Program, a good fit for his fascination with “host-parasite interactions”, and head of the institute’s Malaria Immunology Laboratory.
Associate Professor Haque’s team are researching the parasite that causes malaria and how it affects the immune system, to inform better vaccines and immune-therapies against the disease. He has a personal impetus to combat malaria, with his father and two of his team having had the disease, and campaigns to raise research funding and awareness. Associate Professor Haque even dressed up as a boxing mosquito in a video soundtracked by Eminem’s Lose Yourself for the cause.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment. It is not intended to replace the advice provided by your own doctor or medical or health professional.
Watch Medicine or Myth? Mondays at 8:30 pm on SBS. Missed the first episode? Stream it at SBS On Demand: