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University of Otago, Christchurch, geneticist awarded Queen’s Birthday honour

Tuesday 6 June 2017 3:29pm

Vicky Cameron, ONZMProfessor Vicky Cameron

Professor Vicky Cameron, a renowned geneticist and Deputy Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this Queen’s Birthday honours list.

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.

Professor Cameron began her scientific career after graduating with a Zoology honours degree in 1974. Her first job was researching parasites in fish in the Antarctic Ocean. She was the first woman to live at Scott Base, during two summers spent in the Antarctic. Professor Cameron says the experience primed her for a career in the male-dominated hierarchy of medical research.

She completed a PhD at the then-named Christchurch School of Medicine (1982-1990); then – with two small children in tow – did Postdoctoral Research at The Salk Institute, San Diego. On her return to New Zealand, she took up a position with the Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch.

In the past 20-plus years, Professor Cameron’s work in health research has included:

  • Leading the establishment of many major studies, and providing compelling new insights into the interplay of environmental and familial risk factors for heart disease, particularly for Māori and Pasifika communities.
  • Becoming an International Fellow of the American Heart Association
  • Being a founding member of the University of Otago, Christchurch’s Māori Research Development Komiti
  • Being a Marsden Council member, and convener of the Marsden Biomedical Sciences grant-assessing panel
  • Involvement in scientific community service roles, including membership on the Heart Foundation Scientific Strategic Advisory Group; the Lotteries Health Grants Committee; and Health Research Council grant assessing panels

Professor Cameron says she is passionate about teaching and communicating science, and regularly gives talks to community groups. “We owe it to those who participate in our research to explain how they may ultimately benefit from it,’’ she says.

For her supervision of PhD students she was awarded an OUSA Supervisor Award in 2005 and an Outstanding Teacher Award from the University of Otago, Christchurch, in 2009.

Vicky is married to David, who owns a software company. They have a daughter, Sophia, aged 29, who has a PhD in genetics and is now working in research with Astra Zenica in Cambridge; and a son, Peter, aged 27, a resident doctor in the Hawkes Bay. Vicky’s leisure activities include running, sea kayaking and tramping.