World-Leading Wellness in Western Sydney

Delegates to the 2018 UDIA NSW Annual State Conference heard an inspiring address from Dr Charlie Teo AM, neurosurgeon and leader of the Charlie Teo Wellness Centre. The medical and wellness centre will focus on preventative health and is proposed to be located in the Northern Gateway adjacent to the new Western Sydney Airport. After his speech, UDIA NSW sat down with Dr Teo to talk about the world-leading approach to wellness that will form part of the future of Western Sydney.

Can you tell me a bit about the Charlie Teo Wellness Centre?

I’ve dedicated my entire life to making sick people better. But there’s got to be a better way, and the better way, I think, is to prevent illness. So I would like to, in the next stage of my life, dedicate more of my time to preventing illness rather than treating illness. Of course there’s two facets to [wellness] so I’ll be doing both, but really concentrating on prevention of illness.

I’ve learnt over the years that it’s not just modern medicine that creates wellness, it’s also spiritual fulfillment – it’s what you eat, it’s the incorporation of other alternative forms of treatment. Typically Western doctors have turned a blind eye to that, they sort of almost ridiculed it. But people are starting to realise that those things are important – that there is a role for acupuncture, spiritual healing, chiropractic and nutrition. It would be really good to utilise all of those facets of wellness into a centre where you can get a one-stop-shop approach to you as a person – incorporating not only science but also all those other alternative forms of medicine.

So why build a whole new centre rather than just tacking on to a university or hospital?

The worst thing you could do is to try and incorporate that into some other architecturally designed building because we have a very unique vision of what we want. You’ve got to have spiritual wellness, so it’s got to be peaceful. We don’t want it to look like a hospital, we actually want it to look more like a resort.
It still has to function like a hospital – we have patients with cancer we’re going to be treating – so it’s all about [building it] from the ground up so we can make it the way we want it rather than just tacking on to something else. It is not going to look like a hospital.

It’s proposed to be part of the Northern Gateway future City, adjacent to the new Western Sydney Airport. The Masterplan for the project is really exciting, combining health, education, hi-tech logistics, retail and leisure areas, as well as green open spaces.

ASX-listed property group BHL is leading an international and local consortium of project partners, including the Scentre Group, Western Sydney University and LOGOS, working together to propose a globally-connected City.

It sounds fantastic, but I hope I’m never a patient there.

You don’t need to be unwell to come here. If you’re well and you want to maintain your wellness, this is the sort of place you need to come to. I’m healthy, I don’t have any diseases, but can you please tell me what I’m susceptible to? Can you please tell me how I can prevent [an illness] from happening? And can I do it all here in one place at Badgerys Creek?

Doctors are very conservative. I want to build a centre where we’re not going to be deep in conservatism. We’re going to attract people like Mike [Dr Mike Sughrue, Dr Teo’s colleague] to think outside the box. It’s a matter of getting people to share your vision. That’s what BHL have done. BHL have come to me and they like what I’ve had to say and they’re going to support it. I want the government and the regulators to support it and have an open mind.

You have spoken in the past about professional bullying – by regulators and even between professionals. How are you going to tackle that with your new Centre?

Great question. Because you’re absolutely right there will be a lot of resistance to it. There’s already a lot of resistance to people who think outside the box, let alone someone who’s going to go establish a think-outside-the-box Centre. Because that’s exactly what it is – it’s going to be offering stuff that is not accepted by modern medicine and by scientists.

There will be hurdles. I’m going to approach that the same way I have approached my entire career. Despite all the bullying and all the people who’ve been against what I’ve done in the last 30 years, I’m still around. Why am I still around? I’ve always taken the high road. Always have the right intentions. If your intention is a noble intention – in other words, it’s not financial gain, it’s not power-building, it’s not ego, it’s all about patient health and patient wellness – I think it will prevail eventually. There are going to be hurdles [in life], but take the high road and it will put you in good stead.

There are a lot of young aspirational people in our industry. In your industry you’ve seen that life can be short. What advice would you give to people about appreciating their life?

It is the yin and yang of doing what I do – the good and the bad, the pros and cons. The bad thing about being in medicine is that you’re dealing with sick people all the time and it’s very, very emotionally stressful. The good thing about it is it brings you back to reality. That’s what I’d like to teach people – please look at the big picture, there is nothing more important than your health.

You say to people, “I’ll give you two million dollars if you give me your eyesight”- there’s no one who will take that. There’s nothing more important than your health. When you get consumed by the pettiness of every day, when you get consumed by ego, when you get consumed by financial greed, just step back and say to yourself, “Look, the big picture is I’m healthy. There a lot of people out there who are less healthy and less fortunate than I am”. It puts everything in perspective.

It’s very difficult to go back home and worry about the next door neighbour parking in your spot when you’ve just seen an eight-year-old girl who’s got brain cancer. It just doesn’t even bother you anymore. So all those people out there reading this article who are worried about the next contract or worried about the deal where they’ve lost a million dollars in the deal – don’t worry about it. If you’ve got your health and you don’t have brain cancer, you’re fine.