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Pulse 67: March / April 2018

Tuesday 8 May 2018 8:18am

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton.

Kia ora koutou kātoa,
As we approach the middle of the year we are all enveloped in a time of considerable change. The pace of change will accelerate over the next two months as the bulk of the SSR changes become known. After June it is my expectation that things will settle down as people have clarity around the new roles and we can start building the teams that are essential for us to continue with our excellent work. The implementation process is being led by our senior professional staff, and it is vital that all academics support their professional staff colleagues as they work their way through the complex process of configuring the new arrangements. It is up to all of us to ensure that we get the best possible outcomes from the SSR changes, and it is essential that we support each other during an unsettled time.

Progress with our major building projects is proceeding apace. The Research Support Facility is now well above ground, with the steel frame now almost reaching its full height. The new Dental School building will soon have its cladding attached and will start to take on its final appearance. The University of Otago Christchurch building business case is progressing to the Vice-Chancellor’s Advisory Group this month, and from there it will be presented to the Capital Development Committee and Council. I am hopeful that we will have a decision for our UOC colleagues shortly after the middle of the year.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone—particularly our professional staff—for your support and forbearance during this time of disruption. I am confident that the second half of the year will see things start to return to normality!
Ngā mihi mahana,

Professor Peter Crampton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences

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General news

The global effort to tackle obesity and diabetes

Global Obesity event speakers
Speakers at The global effort to tackle obesity and diabetes public lecture. From left: Mr Mark Brunton, Sir Eion Edgar, Prof Jim Mann, Prof Nick Wareham, Hon Dr David Clark, Prof Jeff Reading.

Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research (EDOR), and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge co-hosted this public lecture by two international obesity and diabetes researchers at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

The Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Clark delivered an opening address, followed by presentations from:

  • Professor Jeff Reading (St Paul’s Hospital, Canada)
  • Professor Nick Wareham (University of Cambridge, UK)

Mr Mark Brunton (member of the EDOR advisory board) welcomed attendees with a mihi whakatau, and Sir Eion Edgar (Chair of the EDOR advisory board) and Professor Jim Mann (Co-Director of EDOR) introduced the Minister and the international speakers.

Recordings of the presentations, and news interviews can be found at:

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IPE programme puts professionals together

The Assessment, Treatment and Rehabilitation ward at Nelson Hospital recently hosted their first interprofessional education (IPE) student placement. This initiative is funded by the University of Otago and enables students from different professions to work together with selected patients. Physiotherapy, medical, occupational therapy, and nursing students participated.

Professor Don Wilson, Dunedin School of Medicine, says by working collaboratively the students gain a better understanding of the roles of different health professions. This can change how the students perceive themselves and others and he says it sets the foundations for the professions to work together.

Following a pilot programme last year, Clinical Educator for 4th year physiotherapy students, Alice Scranney, said “It allowed discussion between disciplines that wouldn’t normally happen in student placements. They all heard what was discussed, so no time was wasted repeating information, and they made a treatment plan together so they got a better understanding of professional boundaries, and if a referral was appropriate.”

On the third and final day of the placement the students reflect on their experience and share their challenges and highlights. This student perspective has provided valuable feedback for future IPE projects.

IPE students working with a patient
From left: Hazel Davidsen (Physio), Rose Spence (Trainee intern), Jennifer Hall (patient), Effie Milne (Registered Nurse) and Edward Leach (Occupational Therapist) work together in their interprofessional student placement.

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Otago Spotlight Series 2018: Infectious disease research

Mark your diary now!

  • Tuesday, 11 September 2018
  • Nordmeyer Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington
  •  9am–3.30pm

Following our very successful Spotlight events in cancer, CVD, and child health, we've locked in the date for infectious disease research.

Visit our Otago Spotlight Series page for confirmed speakers.


Infectious Disease website image The Infectious Disease Research at Otago website has just gone live. Contact to make sure your research is included.

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Dunedin School of Medicine

Unveiling of Professor Wayne Gillett’s portrait

Wayne Gillett with colleagues below the photo
From left: Professors Don Wilson, Wayne Gillett and Mike Stitely (HOD Women's and Children's Health).

Recently a very special event was marked in the School, where Professor Wayne Gillett's portrait was unveiled in the Lawrence Wright room on the 2nd floor of the hospital.
Professor Gillett has made a huge contribution to his field over the years, the one he's most proud of is his work in the area of relieving chronic pelvic pain, which has improved the lives of many women.

Prof Gillett's portrait joins those of previous Professors in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the Department of Women's and Children's Health. Professor Don Wilson mentioned that Wayne was his 2IC when he was HOD from 1992 till 2012 and said, "I believe I was extremely fortunate to have Wayne as a colleague and friend during that time."

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'Grand Rounds' and 'Hot Health' lecture series revamped

Grand Rounds (formerly the Medical Forum), is a monthly lecture series presenting cutting-edge health research by leaders in their fields. These talks are designed for health professionals, academic and clinical researchers, and students across the Division of Health Sciences, Te Wāhanga Matua Mātau Hauora.

Read more about DSM Grand Rounds

Hot Health is 2018's addition to DSM's family of events. It aims to bring the School and wider community together for an informal evening of networking and discussion, with the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers. All University staff, students and alumni are warmly encouraged to attend these events.

Read more about Hot Health

Both initiatives have been developed in association with SDHB.

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Medical students take part in Relay For Life

Otago University Medical Students Association entered a team to participate in the Otago Relay for Life 2018 in support of cancer survivors, carers, and loved ones lost, to raise money to help the astounding work of the Cancer Society Otago & Southland Division Inc.

Just under 50 medical students signed up to both encourage donations and help directly by running or walking for 24 hours on the track at the Caledonian Grounds in Logan Park. OUMSA set up a fantastic tent space thanks to MAS Dunedin kindly providing two marquees, and somehow the students all managed to survive a freezing Dunedin night! The camaraderie and enthusiasm from students was awesome to see and it turned out to be a hectic but fantastic 24 hours.

Total event funds raised are expected to reach $190,000 of which OUMSA has contributed $4,789.00 to date thanks to: 176 generous online donations, 48 team member registrations and a bake sale held during the week prior! A spectacular effort that highlights just how passionate students are about helping the wider Dunedin community.

Medical students participate in Relay for Life copy
Photo credit: George McCook

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Faculty of Dentistry

Sir Thomas Kay Sidey Fellowship

Dr Dara Shearer has been awarded a Sir Thomas Kay Sidey Postdoctoral Fellowship to investigate the genetics of poor oral health in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS). The project will use genome-wide association study (GWAS) approaches to investigate genetic influences on dental caries occurrence.

Dolphins as sentinels of the oceans

Preserved sectioned Dolphin tooth Metal contaminants in marine environments are a particular health risk for humans and other animals as they get absorbed into teeth and bones. Dr Carolina Loch from the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, is leading a pilot study designed to track metal exposure in marine species to help determine pollution in the ocean.

Novel treatment attracts funding

Professor Paul Brunton has been awarded Lottery Health funding for a research project involving a novel approach to treating root caries in the elderly using chlorohexidine-modified glass ionomer cements. The proposal also involves Professor Karl Lyons, Dr Carolina Loch, Dr Nick Heng, Professor Richard Cannon, Dr Jithendra Ratnayake and Hassan Mohammed Ahmed.

New equipment to measure dental wear

Dr Joanne Choi has been awarded $120,000 by the Lottery Grants Board for the purchase of a Neoplus UFW200 Universal multi-function wear test system to carry out novel, in-depth research on dental wear. The equipment will also support multi-disciplinary projects across the University of Otago in anatomy, material science, geology and engineering. Also named on the proposal are Dr Carolina Loch, Associate Professor Neil Waddell and Professor Warwick Duncan.

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School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Anatomy

Otago Historic Cemeteries Bioarchaeology Project

A team of researchers from the Department of Anatomy and the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology have been involved in the exhumation and analysis of skeletons from two burial sites in the Otago town of Lawrence, as part of The Otago Historic Cemeteries Bioarchaeology Project. To learn more visit the Dept of Anatomy website:

Researchers reveal history through exhumation of Otago graves

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Printing plates become artworks

Fifty-year-old copper printing plates unearthed by Anatomy Museum Curator Mr Chris Smith have been up-cycled into art. The plates, which show electron microscopy images, were created in Scotland during the 1960s and were brought over to the Department in the mid 1970s. Dunedin artist Lynn Taylor has turned them into beautiful artworks by using a Vandercook printing press. To learn more, visit the Dept of Anatomy website:

From the garbage to a gallery wall – the transformation of anatomy to art

Chris Smith holding copper printing plates
Anatomy Museum Curator Chris Smith with the copper printing plates.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology

'Green' anti-microbials offer a bacterium-specific approach

Professor Greg Cook spoke to Farmer's Weekly recently about the worldwide antimicrobial resistance problem and its roots in both human healthcare and livestock productivity.

He says that the inappropriate use of antibiotics in animals has received a lot of attention, however there is an issue with inappropriate use in humans too. His lab is focusing on a solution by breaking the link between antibiotics used in humans and those used in animals.

'Green' anti-microbials offer a bacterium-specific approach

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'Old diseases' on the comeback trail

The resurgence of diseases commonly believed to be all but eradicated in the Western world has come under the spotlight in an Otago Daily Times feature article, with quotes from immunologist Dr James Ussher and TB researcher Dr Htin Aung​.

Changing social behaviour and climate change are two of the major factors behind the recent spread of infectious diseases such as syphilis, tuberculosis, mumps and rheumatic fever, and diseases caused by vitamin deficiency such as rickets.

'Old diseases' on the comeback trail

Read the full article on the Otago Daily Times website

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Science paper reveals pathway of Vivax malaria infection

P.vivax binding with the surface of red blood cells
P.vivax binding with the surface of red blood cells.

Associate Professor Bruce Russell is a co-author of a paper recently published in the Journal Science that identifies a critical pathway for Vivax malaria infection, providing insight that may be useful for future vaccine development.

It was demonstrated that the binding site of the parasite specifically prefers cells with high levels of a particular protein, which is lost as the blood cells mature. The level of binding has been shown to be directly correlated with the level of this protein on the blood cell surface. The authors demonstrated that this invasion pathway is critical for full P. vivax infection, and so the therapeutic prevention of parasite entry into red blood cells in bone marrow could alleviate the disease.

Science paper reveals pathway of Vivax malaria infection

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Funding Success

Dr Yiwen Zheng and Professor Paul Smith were successful with their NZ-China HRC funding application for their project Using Chinese medicine to treat tinnitus: targeting metabolic networks ($400,054 over two years in NZ - matched by the same amount of money at the China end of the project).

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Colorado State University (CSU) Collaboration

A series of papers that have a novel blended composition have been designed to be used at both the University of Otago and Colorado State University, to teach environmental toxicology. Through a mix of in-house lectures by in-home and visiting instructors, video conferences and on-line flipped learning opportunities, there are maximised teaching opportunities for the instructors as well as new learning opportunities  for 300-level undergraduate and masters students. Professor Rhonda Rosengren visited Colorado in March, and Dr Marie Legare will visit the Pharmacology and Toxicology department in July, with five students from CSU.

Pharmacology students interact with peers at Colorado State University via online conferencing
Pharmacology students interact with Colorado State University peers.

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Alumnus Achievement

Shane HellyerDr Shane Hellyer is the Molecular Pharmacology Highlighted Trainee Author for the May 2018 issue of The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). Shane is currently affiliated with Drug Discovery Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Molecular Pharmacology article that earned his selection as a Highlighted Trainee Author is titled ’Selective’ Class C G protein-coupled receptor modulators are neutral or biased mGlu5 allosteric ligands. Shane completed his PhD under the supervision of Associate Professor Steve Kerr in 2014.

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It is with great pleasure we welcome the following new staff and students, and position changes for current staff members:

  • Rachael Collett has joined us in her role as Technical Manager
  • Ben Reshey has a new role as Teaching Lab Manager
  • Nicky Jones has a new role as Compliance Manager
  • Kathy Sircombe has joined us as a Laboratory Technician (Support)
  • Zohaib Rana is a new PhD student working under the supervision of Professor Rhonda Rosengren


It is with sadness we farewell Kaaren Dooher, Department Manager, who has dedicated seven years to the department.

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Department of Physiology

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) research broadcast

Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell’s research has been disseminated through a number of media outlets recently:

Transgender athletes

Professor Alison Heather was interviewed on RadioLive on 6 April regarding transgender athletes:

All in the mind

Professor Allan Herbison and Dr Jenny Clarkson were interviewed recently for a documentary on Prime:


  • Dr Emmet Power has been awarded the BHRC Young Investigator Prize for 2018
  • Matt Hall has been accepted into the prestigious course Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience (ACAN) in Queensland to be held in April
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School of Pharmacy

2018 Forward Pharmacy Symposium

The School of Pharmacy co-hosted the second Forward Pharmacy Symposium with The University of Auckland School of Pharmacy on Friday 9th March in Wellington. The symposium theme was 'mental health and addictions' with the aim of establishing a functional plan for an evidence-generating project collecting cost and outcome data on pharmacists' ability to influence mental health.

Dr Andrea Murphy, from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, presented an overview and evaluation of the mental health and addictions community pharmacy partnership programme of Nova Scotia, the ‘Bloom Program’ (, as an example of a possible research project for Forward Pharmacy to undertake here in Aotearoa.

Continuing Education Workshops

School Dean, Professor Carlo Marra and Professional Practice Fellow, Emma Smith, have been traveling across the country over the months of March and April delivering workshops to pharmacists on ‘Depression and Treatment Resistance’. These workshops were well attended with positive feedback from attendees.

The School organised visits to pharmacy preceptors in each city, thanking them for their ongoing support of Otago undergraduate students, and to inform them of the revised curriculum that rolled out this year and the impact that will have on them as preceptors.

Our staff meet with local alumni for dinner in each city, working to strengthen alumni connections.

Our last workshop will be held at the Staff Club on Wednesday 23rd May at 7 pm. This workshop is available to all pharmacists across New Zealand via zoom.
Please visit our website for more information:

CHCH alumni dinner - pharmacy 650px copy
Christchurch-based pharmacy alumni enjoy dinner.

2018 Green Cross Health Award Ceremony

The University of Otago Green Cross Health Pharmacy Awards were held on Friday 23 March, providing an opportunity for the School of Pharmacy to celebrate the innovation and excellence of its students, staff, preceptors and alumni.

Twenty five undergraduate prizes were awarded, with 16 of those being Top Student Awards for each undergraduate Pharmacy paper. Prizes were also awarded to postgraduate students, preceptors and alumni, in addition to teaching and research awards.

Congratulations to all of our award winners.

PIRSSU Pacific Group 650px copy
PIRSSU Pacific Group open the Green Cross Health Award ceremony.


It is with regret that we have accepted the resignation of one of our professional staff members Michelle Norman who was our Undergraduate Secretary for the past year.


It is with great pleasure we welcome new members to the school:

  • Shaz Clark joins our administration team covering for Lisa Head while she is on maternity leave
  • Edward Stutters replaces Michelle Norman in the role of Undergraduate Secretary

Congratulations to our staff and students

  • Congratulations to Dr Ailsa McGregor and Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott who have won the University of Otago’s $50,000 Translational Research Grant. They will work together with Professor Paul Glue (Psychological Medicine) to develop a novel medication for severe pain that will increase pain control, prevent tolerance and reduce side effects.
  • Congratulations to Professor Carlo Marra, Professor Lisa Stamp and Dr Gareth Treharne on their success in obtaining the Pharmac-HRC partnership grant. They will undertake their project entitled A decision aid to incorporate patient preferences into biologic therapies.
  • Congratulations PhD student, Jessica Fairhall who received The MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship. Jessica will travel to San Francisco in May to conduct research for Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Jessica is currently researching bioorthogonal prodrug activation for targeted chemotherapy under the direction of Dr Allan Gamble and Professor Sarah Hook.
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School of Physiotherapy

Professor David Baxter receives prestigious award

David Baxter Congratulations to Professor G. David Baxter, TD, DPhil, MBA who has received the 2018 Dr Horace Furumoto Innovations Professional Development – Distinguished Contributor Award. He is the first physiotherapist to receive a premier award from the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS).

This award recognises an individual who has demonstrated extensive experience with the innovative application of lasers in healthcare, and who emulates innovation, leadership and commitment. The award was presented to David at the recent ASLMS Conference, in Dallas, Texas.

David’s presentation focused on the genesis of the field of photobiomodulation over the last thirty years, highlighting the key contribution of high quality research to the development of contemporary evidence-based light therapies.

We would also like to congratulate:

  • Dr Hilda Mulligan, from the Christchurch Campus on being presented with a Social Accountability Award for her involvement in several community rehabilitation programmes
  • Tobias Hoeta who submitted his summer studentship report to HRC and the reviewer rated it as 'outstanding'
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Student news

  • 53 physiotherapy students participated in the Relay for Life as a team and raised more than $5200 for the Cancer Society
  • Third-year Physiotherapy students ran a very successful, fun packed, orientation camp (at the Brighton Rugby Club), for second-year students to help them to get to know each other
  • There was a great turnout for the annual cultural dinner arranged by the Physiotherapy Students Association where students and staff bring a favourite dish and get to share and compare menus and ideas from all corners of the globe
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Te Kaika

Our Physiotherapy Clinic opened in Te Kaika on 10th April and is staffed by Katrina Bryant. At present Katrina is working Tuesdays and Fridays out of the GP clinic . A final year student will also will be placed there from 5th June. It is hoped that our physiotherapy clinic will be ready by mid year.

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Teaching on Ōtākau Marae

On 7th March Year 2 students visited Ōtākau Marae where they started their Hauora Māori curriculum. Katrina Bryant who lead the day, considered that it would be most effective to teach in the marae setting and reported back that all of the students were engaged and respectful. The students were also joined by the local Māori community who gifted their taonga, time and knowledge.

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Grant success

Congratulations to Gisela Sole, on the award of a New Zealand Manipulative Physiotherapists Association (NZMPA) grant for her project entitled Overcoming or managing anxiety and fear of re-injury following ACL reconstruction to enable return to competitive sport

Congratulations to PhD candidates Donald Manlapaz and Kesava Sampath who were both awarded Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust (MPPT) Travel awards.

Lizhou Liu has received a Travel Fellowship from the New Zealand–China Non Communicable Diseases Research Collaboration Centre (NCD CRCC).

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Welcome to new PhD candidates

A big welcome to new PhD candidates Huijuan Tan and Rani Othman. Read more about their projects:

University of Otago, Christchurch

Academic welcome

Christchurch campus staff who personify important values such as leadership and integrity were recognised at this year’s Academic Welcome.

This is the second year an Academic Welcome has been held at the University’s Christchurch campus. The ceremony is to welcome new staff and students, to recognise academic achievement from the previous year, and to present ‘Value Awards’.

Christchurch campus Dean Professor David Murdoch says as well as academic excellence, values such as respect, collaboration, social accountability, leadership and integrity are crucial to a positive and productive campus. Awards are given to those staff or students who epitomise those values.

The recipients of the Value Awards were:

Integrity Award

  • Research Adviser Kosta Tabakakis for pro-active, supportive, and highly efficient handling of research proposals
  • Laboratory manager Anthony Mitchell for his diligent and good-humored management of laboratories

Social Accountability Award

  • Physiotherapy Senior Lecturer Dr Hilda Mulligan for her involvement in several community rehabilitation programmes
  • Anesthetist Wayne Morriss for establishing pain management programmes for Pacific Island doctors

Leadership Award

  • Deputy Dean Professor Vicky Cameron for leadership in external engagement
  • Professor Doug Sellman of the National Addiction Centre for his advocacy for addiction issues in New Zealand
  • Outgoing Postgraduate Student Otago (Christchurch) Association President Bee Bathish
  • Physiotherapy student Bridget Watson for her volunteer work with children with disabilities

Collaboration Award

  • Dr Beverly Burrell of the Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies for fostering and developing positive relationships with the nursing profession
  • Cardiology Ward Clerk Jill Murphy for her contribution to teaching support

Respect Award

  • Free radical scientist Professor Tony Kettle for his passion and commitment to science communication
  • Dr Yassar Almari for mentoring struggling students and building support networks for Muslim students

Gold medals for research, and teaching

Suetonia Palmer and Peter Crampton
Professor Suetonia Palmer, winner of the Gold Medal for Research

Nephrologist Professor Suetonia Palmer won the campus’ prestigious Gold Medal for Research.

Mike Ardagh and Peter Crampton
Professor Mike Ardagh, winner of the Gold Medal for Teaching

Emergency Medicine specialist Professor Mike Ardagh won the Gold Medal for Teaching.

Peter Crampton and pounamu mere

Professor Peter Crampton with his gift from the Christchurch campus.

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One Health Aotearoa Symposium

Hand reaching to touch a riverSave the date: 12-13 December, 2018, UOW, Wellington
4th One Health Aotearoa Symposium website

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University of Otago, Wellington

Disease recurrence following surgery for bowel cancer

Ashok and colleaguePatients often consider their bowel cancer as cured when surgery to remove the tumour is complete, but clinicians consider a person cured only once there is no evidence of the cancer returning after five years.

Dr Ashok Gunawardene, member of the Surgical Cancer Research Group, says “With an overall recurrence rate of approximately 25%, there is still room for improvement and a major challenge remains in predicting which patients are most at risk of recurrence. Accurately predicting high-risk patients would mean they could be offered more aggressive treatment strategies, which low-risk patients could then be safely spared.”

As a PhD candidate and general surgical registrar in UOW’s Department of Surgery and Anaesthesia, Ashok recently published a study in the NZ Medical Journal to investigate rates of colorectal cancer recurrence in patients at Wellington Hospital, CCDHB. The study found the results compared well against international standards. Improvements in cancer care are thought to contribute to this including the multi-disciplinary team model, where healthcare professionals regularly meet to discuss cases and their management. Other improvements include advances in imaging techniques and the use of adjuvant therapies such as chemotherapy.

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The art of palliative medicine

Painting of a grey cat on green grassFor many years the University of Otago, Wellington, Mary Potter Hospice, and Te Omanga Hospice have offered a joint palliative medicine teaching programme to medical students. This involves teaching, hospice clinical placements and arranging for student-pairs to visit patients and whanau at home.

During the home visit, students ask patients about the experience of illness, the professionals involved in their care, and what matters most at this time in life. Associate Professor Eileen McKinlay, who is the palliative medicine academic programme leader says, “Patients often talk to students about what it is like to be at end-of-life.”

Students then develop creative works with associated reflections. “With student consent and collaboration, we respectfully display these works along with an excerpt of their reflection. We warmly acknowledge and thank the patients-as-teachers, and the teaching staff who provide the palliative medicine programme and helped develop the now integral health humanities element,” Associate Professor McKinlay says.

The Art of Palliative Medicine

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Public Health Summer School public lectures

The Public Health Summer School website now has photos and recordings of public lectures available for viewing.

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Other news

Media Expertise Database

The Media Expertise Database is being updated to a new, more robust system. Unfortunately they are unable to transition existing experts across to the new database. If you wish to renew your listing, or join the database you can log in at:

Create your media expertise profile

The database, is used by journalists to find subject-matter experts on topics they are writing about. It puts contact details, social media channels, and a brief research profile at their fingertips for quick and efficient outreach. The corporate media office also use it to search for experts as needed.

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He ora te whakapiri: Unleashing the potential of New Zealand life-course research

Save the date: 18 October 2018, Te Papa, Wellington

Hosted by the three National Science Challenges: A Better Start, Healthier Lives, and Ageing Well