Professor Clarke, then Dean of the Christchurch School of Medicine, had a revelatory experience when he was a patient at the Burwood Spinal Unit, where he recognized the severe under-resourcing of research and rehabilitation in the health and disability sector. In 1994, he stepped down from his Deanship and created Burwood Academy Trust (BAT) and the Burwood Spinal Unit to address this pressing issue.

Formerly the Allan Bean Centre for Research and Learning, Burwood Academy symbolised Professor Clarke’s belief in rigorous research, rehabilitation, personalised learning, and the recovering individual’s responsibility. The Allan Bean Centre unfortunately fell victim to the 2015 Christchurch earthquakes, but the Academy persists at Burwood Hospital, offering research and learning in the area of disability.