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‘Amazing food machine’ pioneer awarded Carl Smith Medal

Christchurch campus

Friday, 1 July 2016 11:48am

Richard Gearry image
Professor Richard Gearry

Christchurch gastroenterologist Professor Richard Gearry is this year’s winner of the Carl Smith Medal and Rowheath Trust Award, which recognises outstanding research performance from University of Otago staff early in their research career.

In less than a decade as an independent researcher, Professor Gearry has become one of the world’s foremost experts on gastroenterological research and clinical management.
Announcing the honours, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie warmly congratulated Professor Gearry.

“Although he is still early in his career, Professor Gearry has risen to the top of his specialist field and is regarded as a leading light in gastroenterological research. I am sure that as his career continues he will make a big impact on how patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome are treated and managed.”

Professor Gearry has been a pioneer in research into the epidemiology and clinical management of IBD and other gastroenterological conditions. As part of his PhD, Professor Gearry established a register of Canterbury patients with IBD that has become a well-used international resource. He produced a series of landmark publications on the epidemiology of IBD based on information from that register.

His work has been published in Lancet and Nature journals.

He is currently working with scientists from around New Zealand as part of the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge. The multi-million dollar Government-funded project aims to transform New Zealand’s food and beverage industry into an exporter of high-value, scientifically-proven foods for health.

He is a global leader in using biomarkers in the assessment of IBD and part of an international consortium trying to identify the next tier of genes relating to IBD.

Professor Gearry says the human gut is an ‘amazing food machine’ and he is constantly driven to understand how it works and what happens when it doesn’t work well.

“The award reflects the support I have received from the University, particularly from the Christchurch campus and the Department of Medicine, where I work. I am grateful to my research and clinical mentors who have guided me through my early career, and the many patients with gastrointestinal disease who have supported my clinical research.’’

The Medal and accompanying $5000 grant was established in 1964 by Carl Smith – whose family lived in the Rowheath area of England – to support the University.
Professor Gearry will spend the award money on starting new research collaborations within the University, with the aim of improving the gastrointestinal and overall health of New Zealanders.

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