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Queen’s Birthday Honours surprise Otago staff

Thursday, 8 June 2017 10:33am

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Honoured ... Professors Vicky Cameron, Richie Poulton and Sally Brooker were named on the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list this week.

Three Otago professors honoured on Queens’s Birthday describe a moment of puzzlement upon receiving a curious looking letter in a gold embossed envelope from New Zealand’s Government House.

Professors Sally Brooker of Chemistry and Richie Poulton of the University’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Unit were named on the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list this week, alongside Professor Vicky Cameron, the Deputy Dean of Otago’s Christchurch campus. All three are thrilled to be recognised for their contributions.

Professor Poulton has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science and health research.

"It's been a great year so far but my feet are firmly on the ground, they can't help but be when you have a feisty 16-year-old daughter to keep you in line!" - Professor Richie Poulton

The award recognises his contributions to many government, public and academic statutory bodies, as well as his work leading the highly influential Dunedin Study which follows the lives of 1037 people born between April 1972 and March 1973 at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital.

This is the third in a series of successes for Professor Poulton this year. In March the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Unit won both the University of Otago’s 2016 Research Group Award, and the 2016 Prime Minister’s Science Prize.

Professor Poulton says the awards are a huge thrill, but that he has no concerns they will go to his head.

“It's been a great year so far but my feet are firmly on the ground, they can't help but be when you have a feisty 16-year-old daughter to keep you in line!”

Professor Cameron, a renowned geneticist and Deputy Dean of the Christchurch campus, has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health.

"...it was very heart-warming to be recognised for my contribution both to science and to the community." - Professor Vicky Cameron

Professor Cameron leads molecular biology and genetics research within the Christchurch Heart Institute – a University of Otago Research Centre. In this role, she works on a range of research projects from laboratory-based studies into the inherited origins of heart disease, to community studies of heart disease risk factors for Māori and Pasifika families and whanau. She also holds senior positions with national and international research-related bodies.

She says she was “rather stunned” to be recognised in this way – “although obviously delighted to be nominated!”

Professor Brooker has been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science.

The internationally respected Chemistry researcher has contributed to work on the structure, design, and synthesis of innovative new metal molecules whose spin states could be controlled and changed.

She says her Queen’s Birthday honour was an “unexpected delight” and “absolutely the best sort of surprise!”

"Opening up the curious looking letter in a gold embossed envelope from Government House a few weeks ago, I was initially very puzzled, then, on reading the contents, elated." - Professor Sally Brooker

“I’m very proud of being a New Zealander. We are so very lucky to live in such a wonderful country and to have as a nation a creative and hard-working “can do” yet also “down to earth” common sense attitude. My team members have exemplified these attributes over the years, which has enabled us to do a wide range of internationally significant research here, despite relatively modest budgets by international standards.

“Opening up the curious looking letter in a gold embossed envelope from Government House a few weeks ago, I was initially very puzzled, then, on reading the contents, elated,” she says.

Professor Poulton describes a similar reaction.

“I had no idea this was going on until a letter arrived in the mail. I had to double check the envelope after reading the letter to make sure it was really addressed to me.”

It was equally surprising for Professor Cameron.

“Receiving the initial letter was completely out of the blue, but it was very heart-warming to be recognised for my contribution both to science and to the community.”

Alongside these current Otago staff members receiving Queen’s Birthday honours, was retired staff member Hamid Ikram.

Professor Ikram was made an Officer of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to cardiology and education.

A Clinical Professor at the Christchurch campus before his retirement in 2002, Professor Ikram has a huge legacy teaching Otago medical students and was a big supporter of heart research in Christchurch.