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Otago scientist contributing at global level to her field

Tuesday 12 November 2019 9:24pm

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Associate Professor Roslyn Kemp. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

One of Otago’s leading scientists has been flying under the radar while soaring to success on the world stage – until now.

Associate Professor of Immunology Roslyn Kemp has recently been elected as Secretary General for the International Union of Immunological Societies, the umbrella organisation for more than 80 countries.

She faced off against one other candidate for the role, but won the majority vote of 120 representatives from all the IUIS General Assembly member societies at its triennial conference in October.

It’s not the first time she has won the role – she was elected for the first time under the same process in 2016 – but unintentionally kept her success under wraps while on maternity leave.

She serves as part of a five-person leadership team overseeing a 16-person council and 10 committees focused on subspecialties such as clinical immunology, education and training, and gender equity.

As part of her role, Associate Professor Kemp acts as a link between IUIS, the World Health Organisation and the International Science Council, which means IUIS can influence the regulation of vaccine safety and the protection of large-scale research data.

Working for IUIS is the pinnacle of contributing to her discipline and its advancement around the world, she says.

"I am now able to directly change how immunology and its societies are represented worldwide, and to help lead and focus the community on achieving global knowledge of the importance of immunology, including vaccines, autoimmune diseases and immunotherapies."

“I am now able to directly change how immunology and its societies are represented worldwide, and to help lead and focus the community on achieving global knowledge of the importance of immunology, including vaccines, autoimmune diseases and immunotherapies.”

IUIS has a “tremendous amount” of influence guiding policy around its nomenclature and providing education and resources for developing countries and regions, she says.

“It is a truly global organisation with a focus on gender and geographical equity. It means a lot to be able to contribute to those goals.

“The triennial conference is the largest immunology conference in the world, and I have been able to influence the organisation and ensure gender equity in the speakers.”

The 2019 conference saw a new IUIS president, renowned Kenyan vaccine researcher Professor Faith Osier, begin her first term.

Professor Osier helped develop the Federation of African Immunological Societies Legacy Project, and has a vision to improve the wellbeing of developing regions, says Associate Professor Kemp.

“Faith also has a vision to speak out for diseases and interventions affecting developing countries, including issues like the latest Ebola outbreak, but also the fact that cancer will soon become a major health issue for Africa as well as Latin America and Asia.

“IUIS will spend a lot of time strengthening from within these regions and that makes me really excited,” she says.

Associate Professor Kemp says she’s looking forward to being involved in the FAIS initiative and in the next conference, to be held in Capetown in August, 2022.