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Christchurch Dean awarded University's highest research honour

Friday 18 September 2020 9:13am

David Murdoch image
Professor David Murdoch is the recipient of this year's Distinguished Research Medal.

Friendships and values-driven collaborations have been important to the success of infectious diseases researcher Professor David Murdoch – this year’s Distinguished Research Medal recipient.

Professor Murdoch is the Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, and a recognised world leader in the study, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

Among his notable achievements are a leading role in a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded global study of childhood pneumonia that is changing the way the disease is diagnosed, treated and prevented in developing countries; and years of research on Legionnaires’ disease that culminated in the establishment of a New Zealand-wide surveillance system.

Professor Murdoch has been a key advisor to the New Zealand government during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of three independent international experts selected to advise the Oxford University team developing a vaccine for the novel virus.

Professor Murdoch says a highlight of his career has been working with many wonderful groups and individuals.

“Professor Murdoch is the epitome of a leader.  He works tirelessly to progress the understanding of infectious diseases and because of his mana in the field and gift for communication and collaboration, he has been able to ensure his research findings are implemented and make a difference to the health of individuals and communities."

“To be part of a large global network of values-driven researchers, including many New Zealand colleagues, has been an absolute highlight … These colleagues are all friends, including some of my closest, and I am a strong believer in the importance of friendship in successful research endeavours.”

He says research leaders have an important role to play in creating environments where others flourish; in building capability, mentorship and diversity; and addressing inequities.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the award is richly deserved.

“Professor Murdoch is the epitome of a leader.  He works tirelessly to progress the understanding of infectious diseases and because of his mana in the field and gift for communication and collaboration, he has been able to ensure his research findings are implemented and make a difference to the health of individuals and communities.

"One significant example of his impact was the critical part he played in the establishment of a national vaccination programme for all Nepalese children, which happened because of his rigorous research and ability to work with governmental agencies and the World Health Organisation.  During the COVID-19 pandemic Professor Murdoch continues to lead by example, providing outstanding advice and commentary on the impact of the virus on New Zealand.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie says Professor Murdoch stood out among other highly deserving nominees for the quality of his research as well as the benefits it has for people and communities globally.

“David clearly cares deeply about translating research into impact and is a shining example for many researchers to follow.”