Meet Our People: Olivia Lackmann, Senior Nurse Lead at Astrid Clinic

Olivia (Liv) is our Senior Nurse Lead and is a Registered Nurse with many years of clinical experience and specialty in surgical nursing, palliative care and general practice.

Liv holds a leadership position with our team of nurses, is responsible for clinical quality improvement processes, and continues to lead our educational activities. 

Given the constant updates regarding the industry, Liv plays a key role supporting the Astrid nursing team to stay informed and flexible while focusing on patient-centric care.

Fascinated by the incredible impact natural therapies can have, Liv loves discussing outcomes with her patients. For years, Liv has been supporting patients and other healthcare professionals to better understand the natural therapies industry. 

Liv’s dedication to education stems from a passion to break down the stigma associated with natural therapies in Australia and works with the goal of empowering patients to better manage their overall health.

In the same year that Astrid won Company of the Year at the 2023 Cannabiz Awards, Liv was awarded Highly Commended in the Best Industry Newcomer category. In the 2024 Cannabiz Awards, Liz was nominated for the Nurse of the Year award.

In her down-time, you’ll find Liv exploring the Mornington Peninsula with her husband and twins. Learn more about Liv and her role below. 

Olivia at the Astrid Clinic launch event in South Yarra Melbourne

What do you love about your role?

For several years I’ve been working closely with Dr Shu at the Astrid Clinic. I love working with a team of like-minded professionals who see the real benefit in the work we do. It’s amazing to be a part of such a passionate team of healthcare experts and we share so much knowledge between us. I really enjoy discussing outcomes with patients and supporting our nursing team to tailor treatment plans for individuals needs. 

With our patients, I love supporting them to understand their treatment options, tracking changes with their wellbeing over time, and exploring the potential benefits of these therapies – especially the role of terpenes for various conditions. 

One of the best things about working with Astrid is being a part of an exciting and growing industry that challenges conventional views on healthcare. We have made progress but still have a long way to go to educate the Australian healthcare workforce and everyday Australians about this medicine. 

Why did you want to work with Astrid?

My first experience with Astrid was as a patient many years ago, a short time after Astrid first launched. The Astrid Founder, CEO and Pharmacist Lisa Nguyen was the pharmacist who supported me through my prescribed products in the beautiful South Yarra dispensary. I was so impressed with the whole process, with how she explained everything so clearly, with how accessible it felt, and I thought at the time that Astrid would be such a wonderful place to work. 

Since then, I’ve been so grateful to join Lisa, Dr Shu and to be a part of the team supporting patients to use this medicine in a healthy way to help  take care of their overall wellbeing. Astrid prioritises advocating for our patients wellbeing, but also supports its team by recognising the importance of a good work and life balance. 

What do you like about the Astrid team and culture?

The Astrid team works together really well. We’re all generally really passionate about what we do on a day-to-day basis – which is a great environment to be in. We have our different roles, but we work collectively to break down the stigma around natural therapies.  We love empowering each other to reach our goals. And we love empowering our patients to reach their full potential. 

Have you faced any stigma from working with cannabis?

While attitudes toward this industry of medicine is slowly shifting, there is still stigma in healthcare, the legal system, and among the broader population. 

As a nurse, I feel it is important to continue to advocate for increased awareness and educate patients about the potential benefits of the plant. I would hope my efforts have a flow-on effect on patients and the wider community to further decrease stigma.

What do you hope for the future of natural therapies?

Like everyone on the Astrid team, I’ve got high hopes for the future of natural therapies. 

Slowly, we’re seeing the increase in quality research and clinical trials around natural therapies – and I’d love to see more of this. The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the mid 1990s and people have been studying this flower for a few decades now, however this is still often not recognised or taught in medical curriculum. I’d love to see this included as a part of the tertiary nursing syllabus in Australia. 

I really appreciate the work Astrid has been doing to support the driving law changes, as regulatory changes are long overdue to make this more accessible treatment option for more patients. 

I also hope we see more workplace acceptance across all industries for this to be treated as what it is – medicine. 

How do you stay up to date with the latest industry updates as well as the product or supplier updates?

The industry changes so frequently so I try to use a range of resources to stay informed. 

I read medical and industry journal articles. I regularly attend webinars and I’ve enjoyed attending the UIC Symposium in the past. At Astrid, I make sure I stay up to date with new products via our internal emails from our Head of Procurement, and from various suppliers too. 

Online, I regularly check Cannareviews and Cannabiz in Australia for the latest news, updates and insights from patients. 


Meet our People: Dr Shu Ng, Astrid Clinic Chief Medical Officer

In the evolving landscape of natural healthcare, Dr. Shu Ng shines as a beacon of innovation and compassion.

With a background in medical and surgical specialties, Dr. Shu’s career path has been anything but ordinary. Dr. Shu’s journey has been driven by a passion to explore the potential of medicinal cannabis in managing not just chronic pain and cancer-related symptoms, but also a spectrum of health conditions including mental health issues, women’s health, and neurological disorders.

As an early adopter and authorised prescriber of cannabinoid medicine, Dr. Shu has guided thousands of patients, emphasising the importance of careful titration, vigilant monitoring for potential side effects, and ongoing follow-up alongside advocating its benefits amidst the challenges of stigma and regulatory hurdles.

In this blog, we delve into the world of Dr. Shu Ng, exploring her insights, experiences, and the transformative power of medicinal cannabis through the lens of a practitioner who embodies the future of healthcare—a future where compassion, innovation, and holistic care converge to redefine patient wellness. 

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to become a medicinal cannabis doctor? 

After graduating from Monash University in Melbourne, I have been practising medicine in Australia for 14 years with experience in general medicine, general surgery and oncology. I spent 18 months in New York City and completed a Radiation Oncology research fellowship culminating in four first-author peer-reviewed publications, five co-author peer-reviewed publications and two international conference presentations. I also completed a Master of Public Health through University of Sydney in 2016 and am currently completing a fellowship with the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. 

I remember having my first conversation in 2017 about medicinal cannabis with a patient during my specialist training in radiation oncology. He was using medicinal cannabis to alleviate pain from his metastatic cancer. At that time, I was completely ignorant that medicinal cannabis had been legalised in Australia in 2016, and growing up in Singapore where drug-related offences may be met with the death penalty, I was both conservative and sceptical about what I thought sounded like backyard bush illegal activities. 

In early 2020, I had an opportunity to consult with one of Melbourne’s first medicinal cannabis clinics. It was an incredibly steep learning curve as not only was cannabis medicine not taught as part of medical school curriculum or part of any specialist training, I also had to reframe my own mindset and keep an open and curious mind. 

Four years on after having personally managed over 2,500 patients and witnessed the countless positive outcomes, I have become an advocate for its applications across a wide range of health and wellbeing needs.

In 2023, Lisa Nguyen and I teamed up to spearhead the Clinic support services at Astrid, leading a dedicated team of 40 professionals, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and patient specialists, all committed to guiding our patients on their healthcare and wellness journey.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of working with medicinal cannabis and patients?

Having been a medical doctor working in different medical and surgical specialties in Australia, I have managed patients with a wide variety of conditions and symptoms with conventional medicine. I have never seen any medication work the way that cannabis does for such a multitude of symptoms, and with a comparatively low side effect profile than other medications. It is really rewarding to hear the positive patient feedback on a daily basis and supporting patients when they face challenges or side effects. 

Education is also extremely important at Astrid and I take that role seriously in ensuring that not only are our patients informed about their medicines, but also that our clinic doctors and nurses keep abreast of the latest developments in cannabinoid medicine. There is still a lot of misconception and stigma regarding cannabis, and I have enjoyed being invited to deliver talks and webinars to various healthcare professionals and patient groups about the landscape and potential uses of cannabis medicine in Australia.

What are some misconceptions you come across about medicinal cannabis, and how do you address them with your patients?

One of the most common misconceptions about medicinal cannabis is that it is only available as a last line treatment option, and patients must have tried and failed all sorts of medications before being able to be considered for it. While it should not be first line therapy, and should be considered as part of a holistic medical management, people do not need to wait till they are at their wits’ end before considering access.

While strong and high level research supporting medicinal cannabis may not be substantial (due to years of prohibition and a very complex set of compounds), there is an abundance of other evidence that suggests that the therapeutic benefits of medicinal cannabis can be very real for many.

Another misconception is that medicinal cannabis always leads to psychoactive effects. We educate our patients about the different cannabinoids, like CBD (cannabidiol), or even minor cannabinoids and terpenes which can offer therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects associated with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). By personalising treatment plans and focusing on the specific needs and concerns of each patient, we demystify medicinal cannabis and highlight its role in holistic health management.

Dr Shu Ng and her team of nurses and doctors at Astrid Clinic

What do you see as the future of medicinal cannabis in Australia, and what developments are you most excited about?

The future of the industry in Australia is incredibly promising. In recent years, we’ve seen astounding growth of new products for patients, and many that extend beyond the major cannabinoids THC and CBD. With the ongoing changes in legislation and the growing body of research, we’re on the cusp of a significant shift in how medicinal cannabis is perceived and utilised within the healthcare system. I’m most excited about the potential for integrating medicinal cannabis into mainstream healthcare, offering patients a natural alternative or adjunct to traditional medications.

We are on the way to a more integrative and holistic approach to medicine. With each year that passes we have increased acceptance and awareness of medicinal cannabis among healthcare professionals and the general public. As we continue to advocate for and educate for cannabinoids as an option, I look forward to seeing it become a staple in patient care transforming lives and improving health outcomes.

What’s next for Astrid Clinic? How would you like to see it grow in the future? 

As we look to the future, Astrid Clinic is poised for transformative growth. Our vision surpasses the existing paradigms, aiming to pioneer new paths in healthcare and wellness. We are committed to innovating and leading in the development of therapeutic practices, setting new standards for patient care and treatment. We envision Astrid becoming a holistic healthcare destination, for anyone interested in integrating natural wellness into their lives. Our growth strategy includes expanding our telehealth services to reach more Australians, regardless of their location, ensuring that access to expert medical advice on plant-based medicines is just a call away. 

Moreover, we’re focusing on research and development, collaborating with industry leaders and academic institutions to advance our understanding of plant-based medicines and their applications. This will not only enhance our service offerings but also contribute to the global body of knowledge in this field.

In essence, Astrid Clinic aims to be at the forefront of the plant-based medicine revolution, offering a comprehensive range of services that cater to the evolving health and wellness needs of our community. We’re committed to fostering an environment of innovation, education, and compassion, ensuring that our patients receive the highest standard of care.

At Astrid, we already provide a range of natural lifestyle products, skincare and self-care at our Dispensary locations in Melbourne and Byron – some that include hemp and terpenes. 

What are some common medical conditions you are treating with natural therapies at Astrid Clinic? 

At Astrid Clinic, we specialise in a holistic approach to health, treating a wide array of conditions with natural therapies. Management of chronic non-cancer pain, mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and insomnia continue to be the most common conditions/symptoms that people seek medicinal cannabis for. Chronic non-cancer pain can be quite a broad category but can include conditions like arthritis, endometriosis, migraines, fibromyalgia, etc. At Astrid, we’re dedicated to the care of our patients and ensure that each one gets personalised healthcare advice tailored to their needs. Often patients we see are likely to have multiple symptoms that may be related to each other. For example, a patient with anxiety may also have secondary insomnia, and vice versa. This patient-centred approach underscores our commitment to improving quality of life through innovative and compassionate care.

What advice do you have for patients who are considering medicinal cannabis as a treatment option?

If you are considering natural therapies to treat a condition, speak to your regular doctor or GP about it. Take the Astrid pre-screening questionnaire to find out in a few minutes if you’re eligible.  

Astrid Dispensary and Clinic is now located in both South Yarra, Melbourne VIC and Byron Bay, Northern Rivers NSW, with a new dispensary location set to launch in 2024. 

Learn more here about starting your journey with natural therapies.