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Pulse 73: Christmas 2019

Thursday 12 December 2019 12:57pm

PVC's welcome

Professor Paul Brunton image
Professor Paul Brunton.

Kia ora tena koutou katoa,

Christmas is coming and it’s that busy time of the year when we are all working hard to finish up the academic year in good time. I would like to thank everyone for their contribution in 2019, it is very much personally appreciated. It’s been a busy year for our division with many ups and just a few bumps in the road. Challenges, such as the ones we have faced this year, test both the resolve and character of the division and our handling of these has, in my view, been impressive. As the song goes, when the going gets tough the tough get going!

We must and should concentrate on the positives, however. Highlights this year include our PBRF performance and the success colleagues have had with attracting grant funding. All against a backdrop of continued outstanding excellence in both teaching and service. Many of these successes are described in detail within this edition of Pulse.

We still await examination results but I am sure we will again have an excellent performance from our students. Can I remind you that their success is our success and I look forward to acknowledging and celebrating this formally, with colleagues, at the forthcoming graduation ceremonies.

Congratulations to all colleagues who have been promoted this year. We had a record number of applications and reviewing these reminds me of the immense talent we have in this division.

Can I encourage everyone to take some time out over the coming holidays to rest and relax so that we approach 2020 invigorated and refreshed.

I conclude by wishing you and yours the compliments of the forthcoming season and look forward to seeing you on the other side in 2020.

Professor Paul Brunton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor
Division of Health Sciences

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General news 

Eighteen new Professors for Health Sciences

Thirty University of Otago academics have been promoted to the position of professor this year – including 18 from Health Sciences.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said the promotion to Professor recognised the hard work, skill and dedication of a wide range of University of Otago academics.

“The depth and breadth of research expertise, leadership, and commitment to their work demonstrated by these staff is highlighted with their promotion.

“It’s a pleasure to see the success of academics from a wide range of departments and research areas, and from across our campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington.

"I look forward to following with interest their teaching, research and service achievements in the future,” Professor Hayne says.

Otago’s promotion process involves thorough evaluation of each individual’s record of contributions to research, teaching, and service to the University and community. It also involves input from international experts in evaluating the candidates’ research contributions.

The promotions take effect from 1 February 2020.

Health Sciences staff promoted to Professor (in alphabetical order):

Gillian Abel
Department of Population Health, University of Otago, Christchurch

Gillian Abel imageGillian is a public health academic with over 20 years’ experience in the field of sex work research. She uses her public health lens to examine how government legislation and local bylaws affect sex workers and their practices and is regarded as an international expert in this topic area. New Zealand decriminalised sex work with the passing of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, and Gillian’s research provided a major contribution to the review of the Act. The findings from her research have also been utilised by researchers and policy makers in many other countries in their debates on how to regulate the sex industry. Her future research will continue to focus on how policy in New Zealand affects the health and safety of migrant sex workers, who are made vulnerable to exploitation through immigration policies, and how the diversity of sex workers experience crime in different legislative environments.


Joanne Baxter
Health Sciences Divisional Office

Joanne Baxter imageJoanne Baxter (Poutini Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō) is a Public Health Medicine Physician and Associate Dean Māori for the Division of Health Sciences. She is director of the Division of Health Science Māori Health Workforce Development Unit, and the Kōhatu Centre for Hauora Māori. Joanne is recognised for her research on Māori mental health where she was an investigator in Te Rau Hinengaro, the New Zealand Mental Health Survey. Other research includes ethnic health inequalities, indigenous medical education and Māori health workforce development. Joanne has played a critical role in strategic Māori development within the Health Sciences Division including leading a team to dramatically increase the recruitment, retention and achievement of Māori students in health sciences and health professional programmes. Joanne has also led significant outcomes in curriculum development including in the Māori Health curriculum to undergraduate medical students in Dunedin, and the Māori health major in Otago’s new Bachelor of Health Science.

Joseph Boden
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

Joseph Boden imageIn 2019 Joseph was appointed as the Director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS), an internationally-renowned longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in Christchurch in 1977. Having earned a PhD in social psychology at Case Western Reserve University in 1995, Joseph held academic positions in the United States of America, United Kingdom and Australia before coming to the University of Otago in 2005. With the CHDS, Joseph has undertaken a range of research on the life course outcomes associated with mental health disorders, substance use and abuse, behaviour problems in early childhood to adolescence, and many related areas of development. A particular focus for Joseph has been the outcomes associated with cannabis use in the CHDS cohort, making use of some of the world’s most extensive data on cannabis. In 2019 he was invited to join the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s expert panel on cannabis.

Rhiannon Braund
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Rhiannon Braund imageRhiannon’s research centers on medication, use, safety and effectiveness. This work has a strong equity and access focus, and considers patient behaviours regarding adherence and medication wastage. This expertise has been recognised across many clinical areas. Her research into advanced roles for pharmacists and support staff has resulted in multiple practice changes and new models of care both locally and internationally. Further, her passion for pharmacy and student success was recognised in 2012 when she was awarded the Prime Minister’s award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. Her professional recognitions include Fellowships of both the New Zealand College and the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand. She holds national leadership roles to enhance the use of medications and improve patient access and outcomes through better utilisation of pharmacists.

Pat Cragg
Academic Division and Department of Physiology

Pat Cragg imagePat’s PhD and postdoctoral training was at Bristol University in zoology and physiology before she joined the University of Otago in 1976 as a physiology teaching fellow. Her research has focused on lizard respiratory physiology and animal models of human respiratory control, newborn lung surfactant deficiency and adult cardiac function after infarction and in diabetes. She has supervised at least 40 research students as well as being co-editor and writer of four editions of an international physiology textbook and secretary/council member of the Physiological Society of New Zealand for 10 years. Pat is currently the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic and has held many long duration leadership positions such as Head of Department, Associate Dean Academic and Deputy Dean School of Biomedical Sciences including Acting Dean for a year, and Associate Dean Academic for Health Sciences. Pat was also on the Universities New Zealand Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP) for 13 years, chaired the Scientific Committee of the Otago Medical Research Foundation for more than 25 years, was a member of the University’s Animal Ethics Committee for even longer and member/Deputy Chair of the New Zealand branch of the Australian New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) for 18 years.

Jean Hay-Smith
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington

Jean Hay-Smith imageJean’s research aims to improve the well-being of people with bladder problems and pelvic organ prolapse. She works with colleagues here, and in the United Kingdom and Australia to conduct large clinical trials to investigate which non-surgical treatments work best to prevent and treat bladder leakage and prolapse. Other studies are qualitative, listening to people talk about living with these problems and their treatment, to better understand what healthcare professionals and systems can do to support self-management and increased well-being. Another branch of her research – with an international research collaboration called Cochrane – investigates how we can do this type of rehabilitation research better, and what are the most important questions to answer in future studies about treating bladder leakage. Jean is currently leading an exciting new project involving people following stroke, working towards co-design of a ‘tool-kit’ to support better bladder management to enable living a good life after stroke.

Julia Horsfield
Pathology Department

Julia Horsfield image 2Julia’s current research originates from her fascination with how cells ‘decide’ what they are going to be in a growing, developing embryo. At the University of Otago, Julia started working on Cohesin, a protein that connects cell division with cell fate decisions. Cohesin controls chromosome segregation during cell division, and it also organises the DNA of non-dividing cells to select genes for expression. Using zebrafish, Julia’s group determined how mutation of Cohesin contributes to human developmental disorders, the "Cohesinopathies". Her group also studies how genes first come to be switched on in the embryo by Cohesin-mediated chromatin structure. She was the first to show that mutations in Cohesin may be linked with leukaemia; a finding later confirmed by cancer genome sequencing projects. Her recent work focuses on the mechanism of Cohesin’s contribution to leukaemia, including the sensitivity of Cohesin-mutant cancers to specific drugs.

Christine Jasoni
Department of Anatomy

Christine Jasoni image 2When a mother is unwell during pregnancy, her offspring have increased lifelong risk for neurological disease. Christine’s research interest is in how the brain forms before we are born, with a particular focus on understanding how a mother’s health during this critical period of life can impact the unborn baby’s brain; and increase neurological disease risk. Her group’s work has been published in some of the top international journals, and her trainees have gone on to prestigious positions nationally and abroad. Christine’s laboratory is situated in the Centre for Neuroendocrinology, among a group of researchers who are world-leaders in discovering how the brain controls some of our most essential bodily functions. Christine’s reach into the neuroscience community at Otago, however, is much broader. She is the Director of the 300-researcher-strong Brain Health Research Centre, is a former Director of the Neuroscience Degree Programme, and has won numerous awards for her neuroscience teaching.

William Levack
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington

William Levack image 2William’s research focuses on interprofessional rehabilitation for people with disabilities and chronic health problems. His research is diverse, but often centres on helping people engage in and take charge of their own rehabilitation. His work on goal-setting in rehabilitation has changed how health professionals think and talk about goals – how they are used to influence clinical decision-making and patient behaviour; the bioethics of collaborative goal planning; and how approaches to goal-setting align with the best scientific evidence to improve health outcomes in clinical practice. William has served as the Associate Dean of Research for the Wellington campus of the University of Otago since 2011, and as the Academic Head of the Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit. William is an Executive Committee member for Cochrane Rehabilitation, an international research group that he helped establish in 2016. He also currently serves as the President of the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association.

Richard Macknight
Department of Biochemistry

Richard Macknight image 2Richard is a plant biologist whose research aims to understand how genes control various agriculturally important traits in plants. He has published widely in this area and has held numerous research grants from Marsden and MBIE. Richard completed his undergraduate and PhD studies in the Biochemistry Department at Otago. He then worked as a Postdoctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, an international centre of excellence in plant science in the UK, before returning to Otago to establish his research group. Much of Richard’s research has focused on discovering the genes that enable plants to flower in response to seasonal cues, such as winter cold and the increasing day length of spring. When a plant flowers determines when it produces its fruit or grain, therefore understanding the genetic basis of this trait can aid the breeding of crops better suited to local environmental conditions. To achieve this, Richard and his colleagues work closely with researchers from the Crown Research Institutes and plant breeding companies.

Fiona McDonald
Department of Physiology

Fiona McDonald imageFiona’s research focuses on the control of blood pressure by the kidney. In particular, her work on the epithelial sodium channel has shown how cellular trafficking, recycling and degradation pathways converge to maintain an appropriate population of sodium channels at the cell membrane, to ensure blood pressure stays in a healthy range. She has also contributed to work uncovering how mutations in sodium channel genes cause a rare inherited form of high blood pressure called Liddle’s syndrome. Along with collaborators in pathology and physiology she is currently studying how changes in sodium channel activity affects breast cancer cell proliferation and migration, with a view to understanding if changing sodium channel activity or amount can inform treatment. Fiona has mentored more than 40 postgraduate students in her laboratory, and she is currently Head of the Department of Physiology.

Alexander McLellan
Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Alexander McLellan image 2Alex is a synthetic biologist working to improve the immunotherapy of cancer. His research generates potent, cancer-killing white blood cells, termed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. This revolutionary therapy combines the specificity of antibodies with the cell-killing capacity of T cells to create a powerful cancer therapy. To improve the effectiveness of CAR T cell therapy, his laboratory designs gene promoters for newly-discovered genetic elements that improve CAR T cell activity. Another focus is to prevent life-threatening side-effects of CAR T cell therapy through the design of auto-regulatory systems to 'throttle-down' hyperactive CAR T cells. He has been involved in acquiring and managing major equipment for flow cytometry and in vivo bioimaging. Alex greatly values his role in teaching professional and medical courses and in mentoring roles for students throughout their life at Otago.

Suzanne Pitama (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Whare)
Māori / Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI), University of Otago, Christchurch

Suzanne Pitama image 2Suzanne focuses on addressing Māori health inequities through medical education and health research. Suzanne completed the first-ever PhD undertaken in Indigenous Medical Education in 2013. She has designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated the place of Indigenous health curriculum in health professional education and explored the ability for the curriculum to transform health environments for patients, whānau, and health professionals. The teaching team at MIHI has been awarded several international awards for its Indigenous health curriculum and published extensively in this area. Suzanne was awarded the Prime Minister’s supreme award for tertiary teaching excellence in 2015. Suzanne has received Health Research Council and Ministry of Health funding to explore Māori patient and whānau experiences (acute and non-acute) in the health environment with a specific focus on cardiovascular, mental, and long term chronic conditions. Suzanne received the Joan Metge award for research in social sciences.

John Pickering
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch

John Pickering image2John sees health data as taonga (a gift) and himself as a kaitiaki (guardian) of that data. As such he helps data tell its story using the tools of statistics and machine learning. He collaborates with health professionals in emergency medicine, kidney, heart, and older people’s health to change clinical practice. Recently his work contributed to improving how chest pain is assessed in emergency departments. Consequently, each year thousands of New Zealanders gain early reassurance, without a night in hospital, that their pain is not a heart attack, while those who are actually having a heart attack continue to get appropriate care. John’s PhD and postdoctoral research was in physics and the use of lasers in medicine. Between this early science career and re-starting it with the University of Otago in 2007 he spent several years as a missionary, had a career in international education, and completed a degree in Theology.

Neil Waddell
Department of Oral Rehabilitation

Neil Waddell image 2The loss or breakdown of teeth through decay affects people’s health and self-esteem through a reduced ability to chew their food and show a happy toothy smile. As a dental technician, Neil’s primary area of research is in dental materials, specifically those materials used by dentists to restore the patient’s lost and decayed teeth and how to successfully bond the restorations made from these materials into the mouth. Neil conducts experimental research in dental ceramics, dental alloys and polymer systems and their failure mechanisms. He also does research in craniofacial biomechanics to establish and understand the mechanisms and magnitude of bite forces and develop simulant materials for in vitro modelling of dental anatomical structures. These models enable researchers to test new materials and designs in the laboratory prior to their clinical trials. Neil is currently the Programme Director of Dental Biomechanics and Biomaterials in the Sir John Walsh Research Institute.

Debra Waters
School of Physiotherapy

Debra Waters image 2Helping older people age well has been the focus of Debra’s research career. Age-related changes in body composition negatively impact on physical function and falls, and her international research has focused on the identification and treatment of skeletal muscle and functional loss (sarcopenia), and also the combination of obesity plus sarcopenia (sarcopenic-obesity). Typical measures of body weight and BMI cannot identify people with sarcopenia or sarcopenic-obesity and she has been involved in international collaborations designed to determine combinations of appropriate measures. Life-style (exercise and diet) intervention trials in the United States of America have been successful in reversing the loss of function and improving body composition. She is now exploring the possible early origins of sarcopenia and sarcopenic-obesity in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study participants. She has also extensively studied the Otago Steady as you Go (SAYGo) strength and balance programme. This novel community-based, peer-led model is sustainable and effective for improving function, falls risk, and social connection.

Esko Wiltshire
Department of Paediatrics & Child Health, University of Otago, Wellington

Esko Wiltshire image2Esko is a Paediatric Endocrinologist and Paediatrician, with research and clinical expertise involving young people with chronic endocrine conditions, particularly type 1 diabetes. Since completing his doctorate in Adelaide, his research has focused on understanding and preventing the development of blood vessel complications in diabetes, as well as prevention and treatment of acute complications, such as low blood sugars. Recent collaborations, both internationally and nationally, have also expanded research in the uses of diabetes technology. As a clinician scientist, he enjoys taking questions that patients or parents ask in clinic and applying the tools of science to answer them, using both quantitative and more recently qualitative approaches. Important areas of his work include teamwork in both research and clinical practice, training up-coming researchers and paediatricians, developing resources for families affected by rare disorders and international advocacy, as chair of the International Consortium of Pediatric Endocrinology.

Tim Woodfield
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery & Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Otago Christchurch

Tim Woodfield imageTim is investigating regenerative medicine and bioprinting strategies for repairing patient’s damaged or osteoarthritic cartilage and bone. His research aims to understand the complex cellular microenvironments controlling tissue growth, applied to clinical translation of cell-based therapies and orthopaedic device technologies. He has built an internationally-recognised team (CReaTE@Otago) researching at the interface of bioengineering, stem-cell biology and orthopaedic surgery, supported through multiple grants and awards, including the Royal Society Te Apārangi, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Health Research Council, European Union and AO Foundation.
He is a recognised expert in biomaterial science and biofabrication, and his research programme has pioneered the development of a number of technology platforms in regenerative medicine including: commercialised biomaterials and bioinks, cell spheroid bioassembly and organ-on-chip models, 3D in vitro tissue models for high throughput screening, patient-specific 3D printed titanium implants, and translational models regenerating and imaging cartilage and bone. He is Director of the Centre for Bioengineering & Nanomedicine, MedTech CoRE Principal Investigator and Rutherford Discovery Fellow recipient.

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Nineteen new Associate Professors for Health Sciences

A swathe of the University of Otago Division of Health Science’s finest staff have been promoted to Associate Professor.

Nineteen people have received the promotion, and will begin their new roles on 1 February next year.

Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton says the promotions reflect the calibre of staff in the Division.

“I am delighted to see so many colleagues being promoted this year. It is a real celebration of the academic excellence and diversity in the Division of Health Sciences.”

Professor Brunton says not only is becoming an Associate Professor an important milestone in the career of an academic, it is also an indication of somebody who is on a projection to a professorship in due course.

“It is a recognition of their academic leadership in both research and teaching with a significant contribution to service as well.”

Congratulations to all new Associate Professors!

The new University of Otago Division of Health Science Associate Professors are:

Max Berry thumbAssociate Professor Max Berry
Paediatrics and Child Health (University of Otago Wellington)

Lara Friedlander thumbAssociate Professor Lara Friedlander
Oral Rehabilitation (Faculty of Dentistry)

Paul Gardner thumbAssociate Professor Paul Gardner
Biochemistry (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Regis Lamberts thumbAssociate Professor Regis Lamberts
Physiology (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Sunyoung Ma thumbAssociate Professor Sunyoung Ma
Oral Rehabilitation (Faculty of Dentistry)

Peter Mace thumbAssociate Professor Peter Mace
Biochemistry (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Alex Macmillan thumbAssociate Professor Alex Macmillan
Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine)

Rachael McLean thumbAssociate Professor Rachael McLean
Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine)

Hilda Mulligan thumbAssociate Professor Hilda Mulligan
School of Physiotherapy

Garry Nixon thumbAssociate Professor Garry Nixon
General Practice and Rural Health (Dunedin School of Medicine)

Louise Parr-Brownlie thumbAssociate Professor Louise Parr-Brownlie
Anatomy (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Rose Richards thumbAssociate Professor Rose Richards
Health Sciences Divisional Office

James Ussher thumbnailAssociate Professor James Ussher
Microbiology and Immunology (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Emma Wyeth thumbAssociate Professor Emma Wyeth
Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine)

Sinead Donnelly thumbClinical Associate Professor Sinead Donnelly
Medicine (University of Otago Wellington)

Chris Baldi thumbResearch Associate Professor Chris Baldi
Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine)

Debbie Snell thumbResearch Associate Professor Debbie Snell
Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine (University of Otago Christchurch)

Jo-Ann Stanton thumbResearch Associate Professor Jo-Ann Stanton
Anatomy (School of Biomedical Sciences)

Michael Tatley thumbResearch Associate Professor Michael Tatley
New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre, Preventive and Social Medicine (Dunedin School of Medicine)

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More than $10 million in Marsden Fund success

The 2019 Marsden Fund awards were announced in November and the University of Otago Division of Health Sciences had a lot to celebrate. An enormous $10,437,000 in funding in fact!

The Health Sciences winners were:

Tony Merriman tn greyProfessor Tony Merriman.

Professor Tony Merriman, Biochemistry, and Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, Anatomy, were awarded $3 million for their evolutionary investigation of metabolic disease in Pacific populations.

Lisa-Matisoo-Smith-thumbProfessor Lisa Matisoo-Smith.

  • Dr Christopher Brown, Biochemistry, for New Ways of Terminating Bacterial Gene Expression - $960,000
  • Associate Professor Barbara Galland, Women’s and Children’s Health, and Professor Rachael Taylor, Medicine (Dunedin), for Sleep loss in children: Perchance to eat? - $852,000
  • Dr Paul Gardner, Biochemistry, for Are molecular mis-interactions a major constraint on the evolution of cellular and genomic complexity? - $960,000
  • Professor David Grattan, Anatomy, for Why do males have prolactin? - $960,000
  • Dr Glenn Reid and Dr Catherine Drummond, Pathology (Dunedin), for From friend to foe: How do cancer cells convert the p53 tumour suppressor gene into an oncogene? - $945,000
  • Professor Margreet Vissers, Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch), and Dr Max Berry, Paediatrics (Wellington) for Exploring the epigenetic mechanisms by which maternal nutrition and metabolism influence prenatal development - $960,000
  • Dr Catherine Collins, Anatomy, for Piecing together Pacific prehistory using genomics and the commensal model - $300,000
  • Dr Sarah Diermeier, Biochemistry, for Assessing the molecular mechanism of a cytoplasmic long non-coding RNA - $300,000
  • Dr Edwina Dowle, Anatomy, for Battle of the body snatchers; do co-occurring parasites help or hinder each other? - $300,000
  • Dr Kiel Hards, Microbiology and Immunology, for Are quinones a novel mechanism for interspecies electron transfer? - $300,000
  • Dr Tanya Major, Biochemistry, for The role of epigenetics in the inappropriate activation of the innate immune system during gout flares - $300,000
  • Dr Nhung Nghiem, Public Health (Wellington), for Predicting risk of diabetes complications and costs using machine learning with equity analysis - $300,000

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Huge Endeavour Fund wins for Health Sciences

A whopping $25 million in research funding was allocated to Health Sciences-led projects from the Government's Endeavour Fund, administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Vernon Ward thumbDean of the School of Biomedical Sciences, Professor Vernon Ward, received the largest grant among Otago researchers with $13,525,451 over five years for an international collaborative project aiming to develop antiviral agents.

Scott Ferguson and Greg Cook thumbMicrobiology and  Immunology Professor Greg Cook and Research Fellow Dr Scott Ferguson were also big winners with a five-year $8,709,022 grant to develop new antimicrobials to treat animals.

The Division’s 'Smart Ideas' winners were:
Tim Hore thumbEnabling possum fertility control and eradication
Dr Tim Hore (Anatomy)
$999,969, three years

Lynette Brownfield and Richard Macknight thumbGenerating non-heading ryegrass
Associate Professor Richard Macknight and Dr Lynette Brownfield (Biochemistry)
$999,999, three years

Peter Fineran thumbPhage-inspired custom antimicrobials to target bacterial pathogens
Associate Professor Peter Fineran (Microbiology and Immunology)
$999,999, three years

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Three inaugural Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chair appointments from Health Sciences

The University has celebrated its internationally acclaimed scholars by creating a prestigious new role – the Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chair (Poutoko Taiea).

Three of the seven appointments have come from Health Sciences. They are:

Neil Gemmell thumbProfessor Neil Gemmell, Department of Anatomy.

Greg Cook thumb Professor Greg Cook, Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Philippa Howden-Chapman thumbProfessor Philippa Howden-Chapman, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington.

These new chairs highlight the work of the University’s highest-achieving professors; individuals who are not only outstanding teachers and researchers, but who have a well-established track-record of sharing their work with communities outside the University.

Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne says those chosen for the title are outstanding citizens with a strong record of leadership and service in the University who are pre-eminent in their fields.

“These scholars are carrying out research at the highest level which has a positive impact on the understanding, development and well-being of individuals, society and the environment.

“It truly is a great honour and pleasure to be celebrating the contribution of these outstanding colleagues, whom the University is enormously proud to have leading the way in teaching, research, service and outreach.”

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Fellowship fund flies PhD students to the United States

Three PhD students will be winging their way to the United States next year to study and collaborate, thanks to a University of Otago fellowship.

The students – all from the Division of Health Sciences – were selected as this year’s recipients of the MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship.

The fellowship is a travel funding opportunity provided by the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc. Successful students receive up to NZ$12,000 each and, in the year following their selection, spend between two and six months studying in the United States, collaborating and gaining significant experience in the process.

Applications are open to PhD and DClinDent students annually.

This year’s recipients (to travel in 2020) are:

Jamie Manning thumbJamie Manning, 24, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Dunedin.
Jamie is visiting the Division of Molecular Therapeutics, Columbia University, New York, New York. He’ll be working with Professor Jonathan A Javitch for three months.

Annabelle Lucy Greenwood thumbAnnabelle Lucy Greenwood, 22, Surgery and Anaesthesia, Wellington.
Annabelle will be travelling to the Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI) in Utica, New York. She will also briefly visit the Broad Institute in Boston. She will be under the supervision of Dr Tucker, an Instructor in Medicine and a Research Leader. She'll be there for eight weeks.

Nick Bowden thumbNick Bowden, 40, Women’s and Children’s Health, Dunedin.
Nick will visit the MIND Institute, UC Davis, California, where he’ll be working with Associate Professor Meghan Miller for two months.

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Dr Karl Iremonger named 2019 Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Research Medal winner

Karl Iremonger with colleagues image
Dr Iremonger, centre, with (from left): Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Associate Professor Pat Cragg; Associate Professor (HOD Physiology) Fiona McDonald; Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie; Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne; Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences, Professor Paul Brunton; Deputy Vice-Chancellor, External Engagement, Professor Helen Nicholson; and the Dean, School of Biomedical Sciences, Professor Vernon Ward.

Harlene Hayne presents the medal to Karl Iremonger thumbVice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne presents the Carl Smith Medal to Dr Karl Iremonger at The Carl Smith Medal Lecture in November.

Dunedin neuroscientist and physiologist Dr Karl Iremonger was named the 2019 Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal winner in August.

The award is one of the University’s highest research honours, and is given to recognise outstanding research performance of early career staff.

Dr Iremonger’s research focuses on an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls many survival functions such as appetite, temperature and stress responses.

Karl Iremonger and his daughter thumbDr Iremonger with his daughter Sylvia Iremonger (7) and The Carl Smith Medal.

He says the award “really is an honour”.

“To be given recognition for the work you’re doing, and to be validated for the work you’re doing; it’s really appreciated.”

Dr Iremonger presented The Carl Smith Medal Lecture in November.

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Early Career Awards highlight health

Three fantastic folk from Health Sciences have won Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research. The awards recognise outstanding research achievements by early career staff.

The Health Sciences winners were:

Erin MacCaulay thumbDr Erin Macaulay, Pathology
Her epigenetics research examines both the placenta and cancer growth in an attempt to find commonalities between them.

Tim Hore thumbDr Tim Hore, Anatomy
He set up his own epigenetics laboratory in the Department of Anatomy in 2015. His research focuses on DNA methylation, which is particularly related to long term memory.

Carolina Loch thumbDr Carolina Loch, Oral Sciences
She studies the evolution of teeth in dolphins and whales, vitamin D deficiency in human teeth, characterising new treatments for dental caries in children, and how baby and adult teeth can hold clues on rhythms of growth in humans.

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New Dean for Medical School

Rathan Subramaniam imageProfessor Rathan Subramaniam will be joining the University of Otago in February next year as Dean of the Otago Medical School and Head of the Dunedin Medical Campus.

Kiwi-educated Professor Subramaniam is a prominent neuroradiologist and nuclear medicine physician with a wealth of international experience. He is currently Chief of the Division of Nuclear Medicine at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

Welcome home, Professor Subramaniam!

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Three awards for Health Sciences PVC

Paul Brunton 2019 imageThree fellowships from three major international dentistry organisations have been awarded to the University of Otago Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton in the past year.

The International College of Dentists, the Pierre Fauchard Academy and the American College of Dentists have all made Professor Brunton a Fellow.

Professor Brunton says the awards were a chance to both reflect on his time in dentistry to date, and to reflect on the people he has worked with – especially at the University of Otago.

“I’m very humbled by these awards, but I’m also very aware they aren’t just a reflection on any one person. An environment like we have here at Otago encourages and supports good work, and I’ve been lucky to be in such good environments, surrounded by very good people, for a long time.”

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Health Science has a new Development Manager

Kerry Buchan imagePhoto credit: Sharron Bennett.

Health Sciences now has a Development Manager, tasked with raising philanthropic funds for the Division.

Kerry Buchan, who has been a part of the University for many years and this year coordinated the 150th celebrations, began in her new role last month.

She will develop and implement a coordinated, integrated and enduring development plan in conjunction with the PVC, Deans, Senior Development Manager and Director Development and Alumni Relations.

This will involve identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding major gifts and sponsorships from individuals (alumni and prospects), businesses, trusts and foundations. She will also focus on growing strong collegial relationships with relevant Divisional staff to ensure co-ordination of and support for fundraising projects.

Kerry will be based in the Divisional office.

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MB ChB programme

International role for Otago Professor

Tim Wilkinson thumbMB ChB Programme Director Professor Tim Wilkinson has been elected to the Executive of the Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE). Despite its name, AMEE is one of the major medical education organisations internationally, with members from 90 countries.

Professor Wilkinson is the first New Zealander on the executive and only the second elected from outside Europe. His term runs until 2022.

Major medical education conferences coming

Next year’s major medical and health professional education conferences are:

Information on medical and health professional education conferences is kept updated at:
Medical education research webpage

Teaching skills for clinicians – Academy of Medical Educators

Since 2016, Otago Medical School has worked in partnership with the UK-based Academy of Medical Educators (AoME) to offer short courses for clinicians to focus on aspects of their educational practice, with a potential pathway to AoME membership. This year’s first South Island course, in Christchurch last month, was fully subscribed and included Otago staff, DHB clinicians, general practitioners and other health professionals.

Considerable interest has already been shown in future courses and there will be at least two next year.

Further information:
MB ChB website

Advance advice of registration opening is available too:
Email karin.warnaar@otago.ac.nz

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Genetics Otago Research Centre

The arrival of Spring saw a significant achievement for Genetics Otago; we now officially have more than 300 members.

We hosted a retreat for our postgraduate students at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, including sessions on tips and tricks for travelling to and presenting at conferences, CV writing, and job applications. We also hosted a panel of academics (postdocs through to PIs) who discussed their careers giving insight into the charm and challenges that come with academic life.

We are looking forward to a number of events to round out our year:

  • Hosting the 16th Asian Conference on Transcription
  • CRISPR Workshop
  • Visit from Professor Susan Clark, Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Funding Successes

  • 20 per cent of Otago’s HRC grants were to Genetics Otago members. That’s more than $7 million!
  • Four out of nine Endeavour Fund ‘smart idea’ projects awarded to University of Otago staff were to Genetics Otago members (totalling $4 million)!
  • And 23 Genetics Otago members have collectively received $9.6 million in Marsden funding
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Biostatistics

Biostatistics staff thumbThe Centre for Biostatistics supports Health Sciences researchers with the highest quality biostatistical advice and research collaboration. Our biostatisticians are academic staff members who have expertise in health sciences disciplines and research methods. We run introductory and intermediate courses and workshops – open to all staff and students. These include:

  • Introductory Biostatistics for Clinical Researchers – two-day course
  • Stata software workshop
  • Regression Modelling – two-day course

Contact us to find out more about our team:
Email biostatistics_dunedin@otago.ac.nz
Web Centre for Biostatistics

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Dunedin School of Medicine

Bioethics Fellowships awarded

Bioethics collage of Professor Campbell and award winner images
Clockwise from left: Professor Alastair Campbell, Sarah Bush, Elizabeth Fenton, Asher Soryl and Amy Dowdle.

Four University of Otago staff and students were awarded the Campbell Bioethics Teaching Fellowship in October.

The four winners were Elizabeth Fenton, Amy Dowdle, Sarah Bush and Asher Soryl.

The Fellowship is in its second year and is named after Professor Alastair Campbell, who was the Director of the University of Otago's Bioethics Centre from 1990–1996.

Professor Campbell was at the ceremony to present the Fellowships.

Provided by the University of Otago Bioethics Centre, the Fellowship allows postgraduate students and previous graduates of the Bioethics Centre to develop their teaching skills and demonstrate a high standard in tutoring small groups in bioethics.

Lots to celebrate at DSM teaching awards

DSM teaching awards collage of winners image

Some of the country’s best medical teaching and teachers were celebrated in September at the Dunedin School of Medicine 2019 Teaching Awards.

Dunedin School of Medicine Dean Professor Barry Taylor says the annual awards give students the chance to recognise the School’s best teachers, while also highlighting people doing invaluable work behind the scenes.

“These people have done a great job. We have some of the best clinical teachers. From my point of view we’re in the top tier of medical schools across the world, and our teachers are an absolute integral and critical part of that.”

The award winners were:

Trainee intern award for excellence in teaching: Erin Taylor and Nic Theis
House officer award for excellence in teaching: Stanley Leong
Nursing team award for excellence in teaching: Fracture Clinic
Registrar award for excellence in teaching: Jordan Davis
Senior medical officer award for excellence in teaching: John Dunbar
Regional Centre Teaching Award: Amanda McCracken, Nurse Practitioner, Tuatapere Medical Centre

Clinical Teaching Awards

Trainee intern award for excellence in teaching: Nathanial Carter
House officer award for excellence in teaching: Mark Owen-Cooper
Nursing team award for excellence in teaching: Paul Winder
Registrar award for excellence in teaching: Bryan Bae
Senior medical officer award for excellence in teaching: Konrad Richter
Excellence Award for Longstanding Contribution in Teaching: Paul Tomlinson

Departmental Teaching Awards

Bioethics Centre: Neil Pickering
General Practice and Rural Health: Fons Captijn
Medicine: Sierra Beck
Pathology: Department of Pathology Medical Laboratory Science Teaching Award: Paul Spek
Department of Pathology Medical Laboratory Science Teaching Award: Gaylene Parslow
Department of Pathology Teaching Award in Medical Laboratory Science and in ALM of the MB ChB programme: Jim Faed

Preventive and Social Medicine:

  • Department of Preventive and Social Medicine Undergraduate Public Health Teaching Award: Dr Helen Harcombe
  • Department of Preventive and Social Medicine Postgraduate Public Health Teaching Award: Dr Kate Morgaine
  • Department of Preventive and Social Medicine Teaching Award in ALM of the MB ChB programme: John Holmes

Surgical Sciences: Pauline Ellwood
Women’s and Children’s Health: Helen Paterson
Award for Outstanding Teaching Support: Fiona Hyland
Psychological Medicine In memoriam and recognition of Sam Farrimond

New General Practice and Rural Health HOD

Carol Atmore thumbRelevant experience is not something the University of Otago’s new Head of Department of General Practice and Rural Health is lacking.

Dr Carol Atmore, who began in the role in August, has been a medical doctor for 30 years, a chief medical officer for the West Coast DHB, an elected board member for the same DHB, is chair of Alliance South, has chaired numerous committees – including her current chairing of the South Island DHBs Alliance’s Strategic Planning and Integration Team, and is still a practising GP at a Dunedin medical centre.

And she is about to graduate with a PhD in General Practice and Rural Health! Welcome, Carol!

Heart Foundation Fellowship for researcher

Andrew Reynolds thumbDr Andrew Reynolds, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the Department of Medicine (Dunedin), is a 2019 Heart Foundation Fellowship winner.

Dr Reynolds’ research project is called Carbohydrate quality in the management of established cardiovascular disease. In short, his research is about the quality of carbohydrates rather than the quantity.
A “best-case” outcome of his research would be “a reformulation of the food supply”, he says.

“An example of this might be having more intact whole grains in the food supply, replacing some of the finely ground refined grain products that are currently available.”
The Heart Foundation Fellowship is “an incredible opportunity”, he says.

“Having three years of job security means that I can commit to longer term projects, collaborate better with other researchers, and contribute more to health research in New Zealand.”

Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship win

Nicholas FLeming thumbDr Nicholas Fleming won a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship for his project Rational extension of immunotherapy in colorectal cancer.

A new class of cancer drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are making an impact on the treatment of cancers, including bowel cancer. But evidence suggests they will only work for a subset of patients unless better predictive biomarkers and cooperating drugs are identified.

Dr Fleming has identified two robust and accessible markers for bowel cancer that correlate with disease progression, and which are expected to predict response to ICIs. Moreover, the markers identify a further potential drug class that may increase the effectiveness of ICI therapy.

He aims to clarify the mechanism of the biomarkers, test the proposed combination therapy using disease models, and drive their potential translation to the clinic. The aim is to expand the utility of ICIs to a larger number of bowel cancer patients.

The Fellowship provides $600,000 over 48 months.

The Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre

Symposium graphic of people enjoying a beach image

The Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR) held a one-day symposium at the University of Otago, Wellington, on Friday 20 September, 2019. From Evidence to Everyday: Translating nutrition research for a healthy Aotearoa was also a celebration of more than 100 years of nutrition research at the University of Otago.

We had a number of national and international speakers, including The Guardian’s health editor Sarah Boseley, Professor Nick Wareham from the University of Cambridge, and distinguished alumni such as the Hon Grant Robertson and Professor Merlin Thomas (Monash University).

The event also hosted a panel discussion on the Cost of Food, chaired by Kim Hill, which was later aired on National Radio.

Visit the EDOR website to see the presentations and to find a link to the RNZ recording of the Cost of Food panel discussion.

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Faculty of Dentistry

New Dean for Faculty of Dentistry

Mike Morgan imageThe University of Otago is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Mike Morgan as Dean of the Faulty of Dentistry. Professor Morgan, who is currently Head of the Melbourne Dental School, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, at the University of Melbourne, will begin his new role early next year.

It will be both a homecoming and a new adventure for Professor Morgan, who graduated from Dunedin as a dentist in 1979 but has since spent most of his academic life in Australia.

“I am absolutely honoured to join the University of Otago at this exciting time in the Faculty of Dentistry’s remarkable evolution,” he says.

“And I am thrilled to return to the university which provided me with a career in dentistry and academia. I look forward to working with the outstanding staff and students to see the Faculty reach its full potential in the coming years.”

Professor Murray Thomson wins Chaffer Medal

Murray Thomson imageProfessor Murray Thomson, from the University’s Faculty of Dentistry, has been awarded the University of Otago Division of Health Sciences Chaffer Medal for distinguished performance in health research.

Ranked as one of the world’s best dental scientists, Professor Thomson has conducted internationally-renowned work on dental epidemiology, dental public health and dental health services in his 25 years as a researcher.

Otago Postgraduate Medical Society President Professor Barry Taylor called Professor Thomson “a worthy recipient of this year’s Chaffer Medal, which aims to honour our top Otago health researchers”.

“He is a prolific writer and careful analyser of large volumes of data. He has supervised many PhD and Master’s theses and is known as an excellent and caring supervisor.”

The Chaffer Medal is awarded to Health Sciences researchers for sustained research efforts at Otago over 10 or more years. It has been awarded annually by the Otago Postgraduate Medical Society since 2017.

Honorary Doctorate for dentistry legend

Clive Ross imageFour University of Otago alumni have received honorary doctorates this month – including one from Health Sciences; Dr Clive Bentley Ross CNZOM.

Dr Ross progressed from star dentistry student to internationally renowned dentistry leader over a long and distinguished career, yet never stopped contributing to the University of Otago and its Faculty of Dentistry.

His career of excellence, awards and achievements – and a lifetime contributing to New Zealand’s future dentists – has led to his receiving an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Otago.

Congratulations, Dr Ross!

New Professor of Oral Health

Paul Cooper imageProfessor Paul Cooper began his role as University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry Professor of Oral Biology in November. He has come from the University of Birmingham where he was Professor of Oral Biology and the Director of Research at the School of Dentistry.

Professor Cooper says he is “delighted” to join the University of Otago.

“There are fantastic opportunities here to work with world-class colleagues in the superb new dental building. There are state-of-the-art and world-leading teaching, research and clinical facilities here.”

Welcome, Professor Cooper!

Manukau Clinic progressing well

Manukau dental facilities building progress image
Work is progressing well at the Manukau dental clinic.

The Faculty’s new Manukau dental clinic is on track to be completed and open in February next year.

The dental teaching facility and patient treatment clinic will allow Otago students to learn in the diverse South Auckland community, while offering locals the chance to access the famed dental service Dunedin has long enjoyed.

Research celebrated at SJWRI Research Day 2019

Patrick Schmidlin presentation to large audience image
Professor Patrick Schmidlin presents his keynote address to the large Research Day audience.

In September we held the 2019 SJWRI Research Day, highlighting the research achievements of the University of Otago's Sir John Walsh Research Institute and Faculty of Dentistry.

It featured our staff and students presenting their work to peers, fellow researchers from across the University, industry professionals and dental practitioners.

The opening keynote was given by invited speaker Professor Patrick Schmidlin, head of the Division of Periodontology at the Center of Dental Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Presentation awards were made to the best student oral presentations across the day, as well as the best poster competition entries. Awards were presented by Professor Richard Cannon, Director of the Sir John Walsh Research Institute.

Congratulations to the following Research Day presentation award winners:

Student oral presentation awards

Postgraduate winner:
Emma Morelli recieving her award from Richard Cannon thumbEmma Morelli, DClinDent candidate (Periodontics)
Is parity associated with periodontal attachment loss and other oral conditions?
(E Morelli, JM Broadbent, ET Knight, JW Leichter, WM Thomson)

Postgraduate runner-up:
Yasmeen Ruma, PhD candidate
Characterization of Cryptococcus neoformans lanosterol 14α-demethylase
(YN Ruma, MV Keniya, JDA Tyndall (Pharmacy), BC Monk)

Undergraduate winner:
Helene Chua, BDS 3rd year and summer studentship recipient
Cooling efficiency of different coolant port designs on high-speed handpieces
(H Chua, JE Choi, JN Waddell)

Poster presentation awards

Winner:
Dina Abdelmoneim receiving her award from Richard CannonDina Abdelmoneim, PhD candidate
Hydrogels as a 3D cell culture model to evaluate the cytotoxicity of metallic nanoparticles
(D Abdelmoneim, GC Cotton, WJ Duncan, DE Coates)

Runner-up:
Golnoush Madani, PhD candidate
Expression, purification, and negative staining of Candida albicans plasma membrane protein Cdr1
(G Madani, E Lamping, M Bostina, S Raunser, A Mitra, N Ha, RD Cannon)

The Sir John Walsh Research Institute Awards for 2019 were also announced and awarded on the day. Congratulations to the following winners:

Joanne Choi receiving her award from Richard Cannon thumbStrategic Research Prize: Dr Joanne Choi (Oral Rehabilitation)

Karl Lyons receiving his award from Richard Cannon thumbPostgraduate Research Supervisor Award: Professor Karl Lyons (Oral Rehabilitation)

Lee Adam thumbUndergraduate Research Supervisor Award: Dr Lee Adam (Oral Sciences)

Christina Gee receiving her award from Richard Cannon thumbStaff Research Publication Award winner: Christina Gee

Ghassan Idris receiving his award from Richard Cannon thumbPostgraduate Research Publication Award winner: Dr Ghassan Idris

James Smith receives congratulations from Richard Cannon thumbResearch Supervisor Award winner: Dr James Smith (SJWRI Research Manager)

Thanks to all who attended, and helped make this year's Research Day another resounding success.

Decant from Jamieson Building to 71 Frederick Street

By the time you’re reading this, those SJWRI staff who have been in the Jamieson Building will have shifted to the 1st floor of 71 Frederick Street (the old Bowler). Come and say hello!

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School of Biomedical Sciences

Monster interest in Loch Ness study

Dr Neil Gemmell in Loch Ness special on Travel Channel image

Department of Anatomy’s Professor Neil Gemmell made global headlines in September when he announced the results of investigations into the environmental DNA present in the British Isles largest and second deepest body of fresh water, Loch Ness.

DNA was captured, extracted and sequenced from 250 samples of water taken from around the lake. The results were compared against global DNA databases to reveal a comprehensive picture of life present in the Loch.

There was no evidence of catfish, sharks, sturgeon or the fabled Loch Ness dinosaur, but there was a “very significant amount of eel DNA”, Professor Gemmell said.

“Eels are very plentiful in Loch Ness, with eel DNA found at pretty much every location sampled – there are a lot of them. So - are they giant eels? Well, our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can't discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness. Therefore we can’t discount the possibility that what people see and believe is the Loch Ness Monster might be a giant eel.”

Anatomy’s moving service says ‘thank you’

A moving thanksgiving service was held in Dunedin recently. It honoured and remembered the altruistic actions of those who bequeath their bodies to science, and the families and friends who support their loved ones’ decisions to do so. Bequests are essential for teaching anatomy to medical, dental, physiotherapy, physical education, and science students.

Families and friends were invited to light candles, students’ tribute messages were read aloud and music was provided by students from Health Sciences and beyond.

To all families and friends of the bequeathed, thank you.

A similar service will be held in Christchurch next year. For further information contact the Department of Anatomy, University of Otago:
Email anatomy@otago.ac.nz

Trio perform at Anatomy's thanksgiving service image
The service included music provided by students from Health Sciences and beyond. Photo credit: Chris Smith.

Generous research donation given

One of our researchers in the Department of Biochemistry, Professor Warren Tate, received a very generous donation of $75,000 last month.

The donation has been given to support Professor Tate’s research into myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.

While the donors have not consented to 'go public' with their identities, Professor Tate, the Department, the School and the University are all greatly appreciative of the wonderful generosity. Thank you!

Microbiology and Immunology

Grants

We were absolutely stoked to hear about the Department's success in the recent Endeavour Fund announcement. Researchers from our department secured more than $22 million in funding: Professor Vernon Ward for a project aiming to develop antiviral agents; and Professor Greg Cook and Research Fellow Dr Scott Ferguson for a project developing new antimicrobials to treat animals. Congratulations!

Kiel Hards thumbCongratulations to our very own Dr Kiel Hards for his successful application for the Marsden Fund 2019. Dr Hards has secured $300,000 in funding for his project: Are quinones a novel mechanism for interspecies electron transfer?

More Marsden Grant 2019 success:

  • Dr Xochitl Morgan (AI) With a little help from my friends: how do symbiotic microorganisms influence regenerative outcomes? - with Department of Zoology, University of Otago
  • Professor Peter Fineran (AI) Are molecular mis-interactions a major constraint on the evolution of cellular and genomic complexity? - with Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago

Professional Staff

Department of Microbiology and Immunology welcomes its new HOD Professor Greg Cook. Professor Cook was also appointed to one of the new ‘Sesquicentennial Distinguished Chair’ positions. Congratulations!

Judith Bateup thumbOur own Dr Judith Bateup has been made a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of her 20-year service to science. She has spent 20 years giving her time and expertise to ensure Microbiology is on school leavers’ radars. Congratulations, Dr Bateup!

Dr Mihnea Bostina has been promoted to ‘Senior Lecturer Beyond the Bar'

Dr Daniel Pletzer has joined the department as a new lecturer

Congratulations to Bruce Russell for winning first place at the ‘ELM3 Teaching Awards’

Students and Staff

Congratulations to Aroa Rey Campa from the Fineran Lab, Gaurav Gyanwali from the Ireton Lab, Nichaela Harbison-Price from the Cook Lab and Alice McSweeney from the Ward Lab for their success in the Sandy Smith Memorial Scholarship applications.

Tom Devine thumbCongratulations to Tom Devine, an Assistant Research Fellow in the Department, for being selected to speak at the ‘Falling Walls Lab 2019’ at Royal Society Te Aparangi.

A few postgraduate students from our department met with the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Juliet Gerrard (second from the right). A wonderful time was had talking to her over a cup of coffee.

Postgraduate students meet with Juliet Garrard image

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School of Pharmacy

Rutherford Discovery Fellowships awarded

A School of Pharmacy researcher was one of two University of Otago researchers awarded Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, and will receive $800,000 over five years.

Olivia Faull imageDr Olivia Faull, currently at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, was chosen for research investigating the communication between brain and body to develop better coping mechanisms for those who suffer from anxiety.

A University of Otago alumnus, she will return to Otago to take up her Fellowship.

Exciting Chengdu collaborations keep coming

Staff from the School of Pharmacy returned to Chengdu in China in October this year to continue our collaborations with Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

The delegation attended the 6th International Conference on the Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dean, Professor Carlo Marra and Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott being conference Chairs. Professor Sarah Hook and Associate Professor Arlene McDowell were Invited Speakers.

Research collaborations were also discussed during the visit and we are looking forward to welcoming two visiting researchers in the coming months who will be visiting Dunedin.

In our last evening in Chengdu we were treated to the famous Sichuan (and delicious) dish - hot pot!

Collage of images from Chengdu University image
Collage images clockwise from left:
Chengdu University of TCM PhD students Xiang and Elodie with Dean Professor Carlo Marra, Professor Sarah Hook and Deputy Dean Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott.
Professor Marra presents Chengdu University leaders Dean Professor Chaomei Fu and University Vice Principle Professor Cheng Peng, with a picture of the University of Otago clocktower to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Chengdu University of TCM School of Pharmacy.
Image of the modern and the traditional along the Jiang’an River in Chengdu.
PhD students Stacy and Elodie help Professor Carlo Marra with menu choices for our hot pot dinner.
Invited speaker Professor Sarah Hook.

This followed a September visit of Chengdu University of TCM scientists for the first New Zealand-China Non-Communicable Disease Research Cooperation Forum in Queenstown. The delegation also visited the School of Pharmacy and the Department of Botany.

NCD-forum-group-photo-image
Attendees at the September forum in Queenstown.

'Game-changing' laboratory celebrated at School of Pharmacy

The School of Pharmacy’s Virtual Professional Practice Laboratory opened in July. It includes a central debrief area and 10 'pods' – independent rooms where pharmacy students can participate in dispensing, skills and simulation sessions.

School of Pharmacy Dean Professor Carlo Marra called the new facility “game-changing” for the School and its students.

“This new laboratory helps enhance and strengthen the School's vision to be globally recognised as leaders, innovators and change agents in pharmacy education, pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences, leading to improved health outcomes in communities we serve.”

pharmacy-lab-room-image
Professional Practice Fellow, Dr Carla Dillon (left), and School of Pharmacy Dean, Carlo Marra, in one of the laboratory’s 10 new 'pods'.

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School of Physiotherapy

HRC win for Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker thumbCongratulations to Sarah Walker who was awarded the Clinical Research Training Fellowship from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) to investigate the scope of practice, challenges and complexities experienced by rural allied health professionals. Sarah will be primarily supervised by Dr Ewan Kennedy (School of Physiotherapy) and Dr Gary Nixon (GP and Rural Health).

Fellowship award for Professor David Baxter

Dave Baxter imageCongratulations to Professor David Baxter who has been awarded Fellowship of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

The Society stated: “It is recommended that a Fellowship be awarded to David Baxter in recognition of his outstanding contribution to international physiotherapy research and in particular, research capacity development in the profession, nationally and internationally.”

Professor Baxter, who was presented with the award at a ceremony in the United Kingdom in November, said receiving the Fellowship was “particularly special”.

“I am so honoured to receive this recognition from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. It is particularly special to me as a long-standing member of the profession, and as a researcher who has witnessed the outstanding growth of research within physiotherapy over the last few decades.”

Medical acupuncture poster winner

Huijuan Tan (PhD candidate) received a poster award at the 'International Congress on Medical Acupuncture' held by International Council of Medical Acupuncture and Related Techniques (ICMART).

CHARR symposium

Centre for Health Activity and Rehabilitation Research (CHARR) ran a postgrad symposium centred on the theme of health, activity and rehabilitation research earlier this month. This was an opportunity for PhD and Masters students to practice the art of public speaking and present their research to a diverse PhD and supportive academic audience.

Welcome to new staff

Dr Sarah Ward has commenced with the School of Physiotherapy as an awardee of the Health Science Divisional Postdoctoral Fellowship.

International visitors

Professor Peter O’Sullivan (Curtin University)
Associate Professor Cara Lewis (Boston University)

Pittsburgh Professor at Southern Symposium

The School of Physiotherapy, University of Otago supported Professor Susan Whitney, from the University of Pittsburgh, as an international speaker at the Physiotherapy New Zealand Southern Symposium. The symposium was part of the University of Otago’s 150th Celebration.

Professor Whitney is a renowned physiotherapist specialising in balance and vestibular research.

New Stanley Paris scholarships for 2020

Stanley Paris thumb Established in 2019 by the University Otago, from a generous donation by Drs Stanley and Catherine Paris, these scholarships are named after Stanley G Paris and Stanley V Paris, father and son graduates of the School of Physiotherapy.

The scholarship was created to support University of Otago students in the area of orthopaedic manual therapy at the School. In doing so, it seeks to enhance the School’s international and national profile as a leader in research and clinical practice.

The School is extremely appreciative of this unprecedented generosity.
Physiotherapy alumnus receives honorary doctorate (Alumni & Friends website,2017)

University of Otago Research Grant win

Congratulations to Dr Ewan Kennedy, who has been awarded a UORG for his project Developing standardized data collection in an acute concussion recovery clinic.

Academic Promotions

It is with great pleasure we can announce that our School of Physiotherapy was very successful in the latest academic promotion rounds. Congratulations go to:

  • Dr Prasath Jayakaran – promoted to Senior Lecturer
  • Dr Meredith Perry and Dr Ram Mani – promoted to Senior Lecturer above the bar
  • Dr Hilda Mulligan – promoted to Associate Professor

Massage therapy on World Physical Therapy Day 6 September 2019

Students from the School of Physiotherapy offered massages for staff and members of the public on World Physical Therapy Day this year.

Students raised $570 and all funds were donated to ParaFed Otago who have used it to assist 8 Otago athletes with disabilities to attend a tournament in Christchurch.
Parafed Otago website

Farewell to Lesley Inglis

Lesley Inglis imagePhysiotherapist and Clinical Educator Lesley Inglis retired from the School recently.

Before taking a well-earned post-working-life holiday she helped us try to describe more than 30 years of dedicated physiotherapy experience in a few paragraphs. Click on the link and have a read!
Read about Lesley's career as a physiotherapist, and her dedicated work in our communities:
Lesley Inglis - an appreciation

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University of Otago, Christchurch

Marsden Fund success for Professor Vissers

Margaret Vissers thumbCongratulations to Professor Margreet Vissers for securing almost $1 million from the Marsden Fund. Her project focuses on the effects of low maternal vitamin C status during pregnancy on prenatal development, particularly epigentic changes.

Trainee intern representing NZ in mountain running

Sabrina Grogan mountain running thumbCongratulations to Trainee Intern Sabrina Grogan who represented New Zealand at the World Mountain Running Championships for the third year in a row. This year's World Champs were in Argentina in mid-November.

HRC Career Development Awards

Rachel Purcell thumbCongratulations to Dr Rachel Purcell who was awarded a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship to investigate the link between micro-organisms in the gut and the development of colorectal cancer. She will also look at how the gut bacteria affect response to therapy for the common cancer. It is hoped her work will lead to more sensitive early detection of colorectal cancer and more focused treatments.

Christoph Goebl thumbDr Christoph Goebl was also awarded a Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship. His study is focused on finding better alternatives to chemotherapy. His team recently discovered a protein that is a major contributor to tumour formation and will study its molecular action so it may one day be used to increase the efficiency of targeted tumour therapies.

Other University of Otago, Christchurch staff and students awarded Health Research Council Career Development funding

  • Dr Amanda Landers received more than $300,000 for a Clinical Research Training Fellowship to evaluate a model of palliative care for patients with COPD in the end stage of life
  • Dr Amy Henry received more than $130,000 for a Pacific Health Research PhD Scholarship to explore the beliefs and understanding of palliative care among Cook Island peoples in New Zealand

Our Cassie wins 3 Min Thesis People's Choice award

Cassie Stylianou in logo imageChristchurch PhD student Cassie Stylianou has won the People's Choice award at the Matariki Network 3 Minute Thesis competition. The network consists of five universities across five countries, which each put forward three people to compete.

Professor Richard Blaikie, the University of Otago's Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, said Cassie could be very proud of taking out the honour given the quality of entries was exceptionally high and she was competing against finalists from each of the five universities.

New indigenous health appointment

Suzanne Pitama imageAssociate Professor Suzanne Pitama, Director the Christchurch campus’ Māori / Indigenous Health Institute, has been appointed as chairperson of the Australian Medical Council’s Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori Committee.

The Committee was established earlier this year to give the AMC strategic advice and recommendations on important matters related to Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori health and to support its efforts to make health systems free of racism and inequality.

Associate Professor Pitama has been involved in Māori health research and health education for nearly 19 years, and has a focus on addressing health inequities.

LIMElight award

Team Otago at the LIMElight awards image

The University of Otago’s Māori / Indigenous Health Institute was awarded the Excellence in Indigenous Health Education Research LIMElight award at the recent Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education (LIME) conference.

The awards recognise the significant and outstanding health teaching, learning and research undertaken by staff, students or medical schools.

The Christchurch campus hosted this year’s LIME conference in November, with 260 delegates from Australia, Aotearoa, Hawaii, Canada and The United States of America. The conference encourages sharing of knowledge and innovation about indigenous health curricula, research, community engagement, and the recruitment and graduation of Indigenous students in the health professions.

New CHP leaders appointed

Te Papa Hauora / Christchurch Health Precinct has new leaders. Peter Townsend, formerly the chief executive of the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, is its new chair. Pip Griffin, a former nurse, is the new executive officer. The University of Otago is one of the key partners of Te Papa Hauora, both a physical area in the centre of Christchurch and a collaboration between the city’s leaders in health services, education, research and innovation.

Dr Cameron Lacey, new head of DHB research

Cameron Lacey thumbCongratulations to Dr Cameron Lacey who was recently appointed head of research for the Canterbury DHB. Part of his role will involve strengthening the relationship with University of Otago researchers and raising awareness of the DHB's clinically-relevant research projects.

CReATE researcher wins international award

Gabriella Lindberg thumbCongratulations to Dr Gabriella Lindberg who won the International Society for Biofabrication's Young Investigator for 2019. The award recognises the outstanding achievements of a member who is in the early stages of their career in the cutting-edge research discipline.

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University of Otago, Wellington

Taking questions from youth MPs

Caroline Shaw (back to camera) presenting at Youth Parliament 2019 image
Caroline Shaw (back to camera) presenting at Youth Parliament 2019.

Senior Lecturer Dr Caroline Shaw from the Department of Public Health at the University’s Wellington campus was given a rare chance to foster young people’s interest in the democratic process when she appeared as an expert witness before youth MPs in July.

Dr Shaw was asked by the Ministry of Youth Development to give evidence to youth MPs serving on Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee who were considering the question, ‘How can we encourage the use of environmentally sustainable transport?’

She provided the youth MPs with a written submission, gave a five-minute oral presentation and faced up to 15 minutes of challenging questions from the youth MPs, aged between 16 and 18 years old.

“The student MPs asked a lot of hard questions about how we would move to low-carbon transport in an equitable way. All the students were really thoughtful.”

The Youth Parliament provides an opportunity for young New Zealanders to deepen their understanding of politics and the democratic process.

World-leading cancer researcher wins ‘Welly’ award

Dr Micaela Yee and Brett Delahunt thumbProfessor Brett Delahunt with trainee pathologist Dr Michaela Yee.

Pathologist Professor Brett Delahunt has won the Science and Technology category in the 2019 Dominion Post Wellingtonian of the Year Awards.

Professor Delahunt from the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington, was recognised for his work on prostate and renal cancer. His research has changed the way these cancers are treated worldwide, benefiting hundreds of thousands of patients a year.

Professor Delahunt has worked at the Pathology Department for almost 40 years, and has more than 500 academic publications to his name.

Bumper line up for Public Health Summer School

Summer School Banner image

A huge range of courses is on offer at next year’s Public Health Summer School in Wellington, with topics ranging from Māori suicide prevention to preventing cancer, to the future of firearms control in New Zealand.

The event has been running for more than 20 years and has become hugely popular, attracting more than 1000 people from around the country to the Wellington campus.

Courses range from one to two days and are designed to be easy to fit around work commitments. The event offers not just an opportunity for professional development and inspiration, but also a chance to connect with others who have different perspectives.

The summer school is held at the University of Otago’s Wellington campus in Newtown, and runs from 10 to 28 February. Early bird rates are available until 19 December, and staff and students receive a further 50 per cent reduction on course fees.

For more information visit:
Public Health Summer School website

Cancer the focus for NEXT magazine’s Woman of the Year

Diana Sarfati thumbProfessor Diana Sarfati from the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington has been named NEXT magazine’s Woman of the Year for 2019.

Professor Sarfati was selected for her ground-breaking work in cancer treatment and control, particularly for championing the needs of Māori and Pacific peoples.

Professor Sarfati is on a six-month secondment from her role as Head of the Department of Public Health and Director of the Cancer and Chronic Conditions research group, after taking up the role of interim National Director of the Cancer Control Agency.

Her award makes it two in a row for Wellington’s Department of Public Health, with Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman named as NEXT’s Woman of the Year in 2018.

Read more in the Otago Bulletin
Equity and justice motivate NEXT Woman of the Year winners

Dean and Head of Wellington School steps down

Sunny Collings imageDean and Head of Campus at the University of Otago, Wellington, Professor Sunny Collings, is stepping down after almost nine years to take up a new role as Chief Executive of the Health Research Council.

She told staff and students it had been an enormous privilege to work as Dean.

“The successes of the University of Otago, Wellington across all our key domains of learning and teaching, research, Te Ao Māori, Pasifika and diversity, inclusion and participation are a testament to everyone at the school.”

Professor Collings will also step down from her role as Deputy Dean of the Otago Medical School when she finishes at the University at the end of the year.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences, Professor Paul Brunton congratulated Professor Collings, saying he looked forward to working with her in future in her new role.

Professor Collings begins work at the Health Research Council in February.

Dedication ceremony for Kākahu

An authentically created Māori kākahu designed for the Wellington school was welcomed on to the campus in August.

The kākahu was named Te Iti Kahurangi (The Most Treasured) at the dedication and naming ceremony, as an act of tikanga Māori. The name is drawn from the University’s whakataukī proverb ‘Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe me he maunga teitei: Seek the treasure you value most dearly; if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain’.

The kākahu is woven from muka (flax fibre) with a tāniko border honouring the relationship between the University of Otago, Wellington and mana whenua tribal authorities Ngāti Toa, Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Raukawa.

The cloak is used for ceremonial occasions, including student award ceremonies and Inaugural Professorial Lectures.

Kakāhu made from flax fibre and feathers image

Celebration of new Professors

Staff, students and whānau at the Wellington school have come together to celebrate the inauguration of two new professors, Professor Alister Neill and Professor Lynette Sadleir.

Professor Alister Neill with Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne (left) and Wellington Dean Professor Sunny Collings (right) thumbProfessor Alister Neill with Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne (left) and Wellington Dean Professor Sunny Collings (right).

Professor Neill from the Department of Medicine gave his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on Searching for the third pillar of health: the importance of sleep on 7 August. Professor Neill established and became director of the WellSleep Sleep Investigation Centre and Research Group in 1997, where he has fostered the training and careers of scientists, advanced trainee physicians and research students.

Professor Lynette Sadleir (left) with Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health Professor Dawn Elder  thumbProfessor Lynette Sadleir (left) with Head of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health Professor Dawn Elder.

Professor Sadleir spoke on the topic of Epilepsy: Teams, Genes and Dreams at her Inaugural Professorial Lecture on 13 November. In her clinical role as a paediatric epileptologist, Professor Sadleir diagnoses and manages children with epilepsy. Her research, combining international collaborations with physicians and laboratory scientists, has led to the discovery that the majority of epilepsy is caused by abnormalities in genes.

Research news from the Wellington campus

Call for a new funded palliative care model as more Kiwis admitted to rest homes to die

Increasing pressure on both public hospitals and hospices is resulting in more patients being 'admitted-to-die' into aged residential care facilities (rest homes), which are not typically set up to provide specialist palliative care services.
Call for a new funded palliative care model as more Kiwis admitted to rest homes to die

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Significant association between use of long-acting contraceptives and unprecedented decline in abortion rate, study finds

A shift towards the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives, particularly by young women, is associated with declining abortion rates in New Zealand, new research has found.
Significant association between use of long-acting contraceptives and unprecedented decline in abortion rate, study finds

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Cannabidiol gel reduces seizures in children with severe epilepsy, Australasian trial shows

A cannabidiol gel has been shown to reduce epileptic seizures in children in a clinical trial conducted in New Zealand and Australia.
Cannabidiol gel reduces seizures in children with severe epilepsy, Australasian trial shows

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New Zealand could be lifeboat to save humanity from extinction in a catastrophic pandemic, researchers say

New Zealand, Australia and Iceland could act as island refuges to save humanity from extinction in the event of a catastrophic global pandemic, researchers have found.
New Zealand could be lifeboat to save humanity from extinction in a catastrophic pandemic, researchers say

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Through the haze: smoke-free laws failing to protect bar staff, patrons

Patrons and workers continue to be exposed to hazardous tobacco smoke in bars, restaurants and cafés, despite legislation designed to protect them, researchers have found.
Through the haze: smoke-free laws failing to protect bar staff, patrons

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Remove nicotine from cigarettes, smokers say

New Zealand smokers overwhelmingly support removing the nicotine from cigarettes to make them less addictive, a national survey has found.
Remove nicotine from cigarettes, smokers say

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Smokers concealing cigarette packs’ graphic warnings, study finds

Smokers are less likely to display packs of cigarettes and tobacco on tables at cafés and bars now that standardised packs with larger graphic health warnings have been introduced, according to a new study.
Smokers concealing cigarette packs’ graphic warnings, study finds

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Teenagers say ‘nope’ to dope

New research from the University of Otago, Wellington, has shed light on the declining use of cannabis use by teens.
Teenagers say ‘nope’ to dope

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Healthier homes could cut hospital stays for young children, researchers find

Almost 20 per cent of hospital admissions of young children with acute respiratory infections could be prevented if their houses were free from damp and mould, researchers have found.
Healthier homes could cut hospital stays for young children, researchers find

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Moving house related to behavioural difficulties in four-year-olds, study finds

Moving house is linked with increases in emotional and behavioural difficulties in four-year-olds, with the problems compounding each time a family moves, researchers have found.
Moving house related to behavioural difficulties in four-year-olds, study finds

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Treatable cancers killing thousands in Pacific

People living in the Pacific Islands are dying regularly from highly treatable cancers because of a lack of cancer care services around the region, researchers say.
Treatable cancers killing thousands in Pacific

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Old vaccine brings new surprises

New research about an old vaccine – one that has been in use for nearly 100 years – has not only shown how effective it is but also suggests it improves our immune response to a wider range of bacteria than originally intended.
Old vaccine brings new surprises

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Massive potential health gains in switching to active transport – Otago study

Swapping short car trips for walking or biking could achieve as much health gain as ongoing tobacco tax increases, according to a study from the University of Otago, Wellington.
Massive potential health gains in switching to active transport – Otago study

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New data on e-cigarette use among New Zealand adults

Around one in six New Zealand adults have tried e-cigarettes but only 2 per cent are using them currently, a national survey has found.
New data on e-cigarette use among New Zealand adults

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Eliminating waiting lists for cataract surgery prevents falls and is cost effective

Eliminating waiting times for cataract surgery would be a cost-effective health system intervention, largely driven by the falls prevention benefits related to improved vision, a just-published New Zealand study has found.
Eliminating waiting lists for cataract surgery prevents falls and is cost effective

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