Monday 7 November 2022 11:19am
Bachelor of Science Honours student Brad Devery has combined his passion for cancer research with his interest in indigenous studies to do his part in minimising healthcare inequities.
“Like most students, when I first arrived at the University of Otago, I found myself needing to adjust to tertiary education and quickly found that drive and commitment were important parts of this,” Devery says.
“Though CELS191 [cell and molecular biology] was my favourite paper, I also had an interest in how Māori studies can help reduce healthcare inequities and wanted to incorporate both pathways into my future.
“I began tutoring for MAOR102 in my second year and lecturing for the paper in ‘Indigenous Knowledge and Māori and Technology’, something I found incredibly rewarding and an opportunity to inspire the next cohorts of students to pursue careers in addressing inequities that our country faces.
“Thanks to Professor Roslyn Kemp, I have been able to make the dream a pursuing both pathways a reality.”
Devery’s research uses a kaupapa Māori lens to investigate the role of myeloid cells in colorectal cancer (CRC).
CRC is the second most common cancer in women and third in men worldwide, with over 2 million cases being reported globally and New Zealand having one of the highest estimated rates of this with 38.5 cases per 100,000 people per annum.
Myeloid cells are a complex subset of immune cells that have a role in tumour development but the exact nature of this is still unclear.
“Their plasticity and heterogeneity, in the solid tumour microenvironment, is challenging to understand but we are making excellent progress with a plan to create a diagnostic measure for clinicians to determine cancer patient responses to therapy based on myeloid cells,” Devery says.
He also shared that his grandfather had passed away suddenly from lung cancer after not being able to access appropriate treatments due to his rural location.
Not wanting this experience to be the standard for New Zealanders, Devery wanted his research to contribute towards minimising healthcare inequities like this.
“I wanted to include kaupapa Māori in my research because many indigenous students have similar experiences and I believe that it is my role as Pākehā to acknowledge and work with Māori to ensure there is cultural inclusion in research.
“I do this through pūrākau [stories], whakataukī [proverbial sayings], karakia [incantation] and communication with stakeholders like Te Tumu School of Indigenous, Pacific and Māori studies and the Kohatu Centre for Hauora Māori.
“Ultimately, this contributes to diversifying the ideologies in immunological practice, creating a space for indigenous students to embrace their culture and create tailored outcomes from research for Māori.”
Devery grew up in Tuatapere, Southland and credits a large part of his interest in science to his mother Leona, who worked at the local maternity hospital, as well as the local general practitioner Dr Eric Elder.
- Kōrero by the School of Biomedical Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.