Wednesday, 16 September 2020
An enthusiastic response to a new recruitment drive means the South should soon have a full complement of clinical and research neurosurgeons.
One of those neurosurgeon roles – the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand Chair in Neurosurgery – has been renamed the Otago and Southland Chair in Neurosurgery.
The region faced the threat of losing its neurosurgery service following a proposed service restructure in 2010. But a combined response from the Otago Daily Times, University of Otago, Southern DHB, the region’s mayors and a remarkable public donation drive, led by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, raised more than $3 million which ensured the service’s retention.
That service includes a full-time full-clinical position, currently held by Dr Ahmad Taha. Another full-time position, split 50/50 between clinical and research work, has recently been filled though that neurosurgeon is yet to arrive in New Zealand, University of Otago Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton says.
The final role – the Otago and Southland Chair in Neurosurgery – is also full-time and split 50/50 between research and clinical work. It was initially held by Professor Dirk de Ridder, a world-renowned neurology researcher who eventually chose to focus solely on his research. He is now employed directly by the University of Otago as a Research Professor, mostly working remotely from Belgium.
A recruitment drive to fill the vacant Chair position has had an enthusiastic response, Professor Brunton says, and though COVID-19 has been a complication, interviews of the short-listed candidates are slated for mid-October.
The position is funded in part by the $3.6 million of donations which the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand fundraised for in 2012, which was subsequently passed to the University of Otago Foundation Trust at the end of the campaign.
The new name of the Chair better reflects the largest source of those donations – individuals and businesses from throughout the Southern community, Professor Brunton says.
“The donations really were a remarkable statement by the people of this region. The South understood and appreciated the role of neurosurgery and went about saving the service. Renaming the Chair position to more clearly represent that effort makes good sense.”
Professor Brunton says the name change is to reflect the overwhelming source of those donations from the region, a decision supported by the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand.
“The Foundation is deeply respected for their tireless and ongoing work, and we are grateful for their support and promotion of neurosurgery.”
The Neurological Foundation has been funding neurological research and education for nearly 50 years. Neurological Foundation CEO, Rich Easton, says the Foundation is committed to continuing to fund on-going neurological research and education in the Otago-Southland region.
“Professor de Ridder has produced some significant research while in his role of Chair, particularly in collaboration with other researchers at the University of Otago which the Neurological Foundation has been proud to fund. The on-going work by researchers at the University of Otago takes us on the next steps in finding better treatments for the over 700 neurological conditions which affect one in five people in New Zealand, and we look forward to seeing how the new Chair will combine research with clinical outcomes.”
Professor Brunton and Shelagh Murray, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at the University of Otago, will host an invite-only event in late October to communicate with and update donors on the changes to the name of the Chair position, progress on recruitment, and the future structure of the neurosurgery service in the South. Neurological Foundation of New Zealand CEO Rich Easton will be present.
For more information, contact:
Director, Development and Alumni Relations Office
Division of External Engagement