Thursday 1 September 2016 10:09am

PVC's welcome

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton.

It is with great sadness and a huge sense of loss that we were informed of the passing of Professor Emeritus John Campbell on 22 August. John made a major contribution in his research and medical education activities, in his role as Dean of the Otago Medical School, in his leadership of the medical profession and as Chair of the Medical Council.

John graduated with his MB ChB from the University of Otago in 1969, and prior to coming to Otago he worked at the Cook Hospital, Gisborne, and in Canada, England, and for the Auckland Hospital Board. He began his career at the University of Otago in 1980 at the same time as being appointed as a Consultant Physician and Physician in Geriatric Medicine in Dunedin Hospital. He gained his MD in 1983 and was appointed as Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine in 1984. During the years 1988–1995 he served as Head of Department of the Department of Medicine, and from 1995–2005 as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. John published extensively in the area of epidemiology of old age, with over 100 academic papers.

He served on numerous committees and expert panels, including as member of the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability (1996–2002), Deputy Chairman of the Board of Health Committee for Health Services for the Elderly (1983–1988), Convener of the committee to develop hospital board service planning guidelines for the elderly, member of the Australian Medical Council Accreditation Committee (1997–2000), and member of the Expert Panel on Veterans' Health (2009). He held technical advisor posts to WHO meetings in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1984. Between 2003 and 2010 he was President of the Medical Council of New Zealand. During his tenure on the Medical Council he either convened or was a member of the Council's audit, education, examination, health, and issues committees. He was regarded as a leader during the introduction of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

Notably, John was a strong advocate for the continued collaboration between the Hospital Board and its iterations and the Otago Medical School (does this sound familiar?). In 1997 he argued the benefits of having a medical school in Dunedin and was supported by both the Dean and Associate Dean of the Auckland Medical School. He was very active in medical education and, in 2000, with Chris Heath, he set up the Intercampus Network for Educational Development, the precursor to the current well-developed groups.

On behalf of the Otago Medical School, the Division of Health Sciences, and the University I convey our condolences and sympathy to John's wife, Wendy, and to his family.

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

General news

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith awarded Distinguished Research Medal

Lisa Matisoo Smith
Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith.

Congratulations to Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith who has been awarded the University of Otago's highest distinction for outstanding scholarly achievement—the Distinguished Research Medal.

The University awards the medal for outstanding scholarly achievement, including the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge, the development of innovative technology, or the development of concepts that lead to significant advances. Announcing the honour, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said that Professor Matisoo-Smith is a richly deserving recipient of the medal.

"Lisa Matisoo-Smith is a greatly respected international scholar who has reshaped our understanding of the last great human migration into the Pacific. She is also a great communicator who has engaged and motivated the public about her science in a way few others working in New Zealand have achieved."

Professor Matisoo-Smith joined the Department of Anatomy in 2009. Her research mainly focuses on using genetic evidence to track human migration and settlement of the Pacific and the resulting impact of that settlement on Pacific environments.

University of Otago honours research leader (Department of Anatomy)
Evolutionary genetic migration insights earn topmost award (ODT)

Professor Richard Gearry awarded Carl Smith Medal and Rowheath Trust Award

Richard Gearry image
Professor Richard Gearry.

University of Otago, Christchurch gastroenterologist Professor Richard Gearry is this year's winner of the Carl Smith Medal and Rowheath Trust Award, which recognises outstanding research performance from University of Otago staff early in their research career.

In less than a decade as an independent researcher, Professor Gearry has become one of the world's foremost experts on gastroenterological research and clinical management.

Announcing the honours, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie warmly congratulated Professor Gearry.

"Although he is still early in his career, Professor Gearry has risen to the top of his specialist field and is regarded as a leading light in gastroenterological research. I am sure that as his career continues he will make a big impact on how patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome are treated and managed."

Professor Gearry has been a pioneer in research into the epidemiology and clinical management of IBD and other gastroenterological conditions. As part of his PhD, Professor Gearry established a register of Canterbury patients with IBD that has become a well-used international resource. He produced a series of landmark publications on the epidemiology of IBD based on information from that register.

'Amazing food machine' pioneer awarded Carl Smith Medal (press release)

Bioethics Centre

The Bioethics Centre is hosting the New Zealand Bioethics Conference—Bioethics and Health Law in the Information Age—in January 2017. The Conference will focus on the expanding practice of computerising health-related data. This includes the collection and storage of (potential) health-related data and metadata, as well as the technologies that provide the means to manipulate, aggregate, utilise, and disseminate this information. With this shift toward digitalisation comes possibilities for future action that are only now beginning to be explored in an academic context. This is an area with which bioethics and law need to keep up!

The following sub-themes will be explored:

  • Big data
  • Trust and privacy: Mobile devices, social media, and professional boundaries
  • Artificial intelligence, health care, and conceptions of humanness
  • Dual-use technologies
  • Other current issues in bioethics and health law

New Zealand Bioethics Conference (registration is open until 1 November)

Dunedin School of Medicine

Department of General Practice and Rural Health

Every year at the annual fifth-year medical students' final dinner, students vote on what they consider to be the best medical placement. The Department of General Practice and Rural Health's placement involves students being sent out on a 'run' into the rural communities, where they work with GPs for five full weeks. Their location can be anywhere from Takaka to Riverton; Hokitika to Oamaru; along with a number being based in Central Otago and Southland.

During the introductory week in Dunedin, students attend highly-authentic simulated motor vehicle accidents run by the Fire Service, and simulated clinics where patients are played by trained actors. While on placement each student is engaged with a GP and here they are expected to work 80 per cent of the week, as well as gaining after-hours and ambulance experience. At the conclusion of their placement, the students return to the department where they spend a week conducting summative testing in the Safe and Effective Outcomes Clinic.

This August, the Department of General Practice and Rural Health was delighted to receive top honour of being voted best placement of the year by the students. The Department is enormously grateful to their rural GP teachers, administrators, and ALM teaching faculty who assist in the rural teaching, and of course the students for all their hard work.

Department of Medicine (DSM)

The Department of Medicine is involved in ground-breaking research concerning the forces exerted on necks of the Otago Rugby Team as they play at top level competition. Researchers Dr Hamish Osborne (Sports Medicine) and Dr Danielle Salmon (School of Physical Education and Exercise Sciences) are testing whether neck strength is a crucial factor in preventing concussion in the sport.

Closely monitored by the researchers, all 23 players in the Otago Mitre 10 team will wear an electronic device on their necks during five Otago home games this season, something that has never been done at semi or professional player level in New Zealand—but has been conducted with American Gridiron players, where it was found that increased neck strength could reduce the likelihood in that sport of a player sustaining concussion.

It is hoped that the tests and results will improve knowledge about concussion in New Zealand, a major medical concern in contact / collision-based sports at all ages and levels of competition.

New Zealand Rugby Medical Director Ian Murphy said the outcome of the research could provide a unique perspective of the implications for the prevention and detection of concussion in rugby.

"Collecting data from players involved in some of our most competitive rugby competition has the potential to provide vital information in helping determine which players are most at risk from blows to the head or body that may contribute to concussion.

"We're grateful to the team at the University of Otago for their innovative approach to this research and for working with us as we continue to learn more about concussion."

Otago rugby team assisting with ground-breaking concussion research (press release)
Otago Rugby helping researchers tackle concussion (Newshub)
Otago rugby players to wear electronic chip to measure concussion impacts (Stuff)
Otago rugby to aid in ground breaking concussion study (One News)
Research goes to rugby team's heads (ODT)

Department of Pathology (DSM)

Initial tests by the Department of Pathology researchers show that, when tested on mice, what they hope will be a world-first vaccine for colorectal cancer boosted colorectal cancer survival to 60 per cent, and completely cured the mice of their primary tumours.

The findings were presented at the 2016 International Congress of Immunology held in Melbourne earlier this month.

University of Otago scientists design world first colorectal cancer vaccine (Stuff)

It's always an exciting annual event on the Department of Pathology's calendar, and this year's Colin Geary Visiting Professor was no exception. Professor Catherine Bollard is Professor of Paediatrics and Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine, Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology, and Director of the Program for Cell Enhancement and Technologies for Immunotherapy at the George Washington University and the Children's National Health System, Washington DC.

Speaking to a packed-out audience at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on 11 August, Dr Bollard gave a fascinating talk on her ground breaking work in curing virus-associated cancers; the enormous potential that immunotherapy holds in terms of delivering safer, more effective treatments and life-saving options for a broad range of serious diseases including cancer and virus infections such as HIV.

As an Otago graduate, Dr Bollard credits much of her success to her collaborations and support from her Otago colleagues based here and across the globe.

Dr Bollard and Colin Geary (Pulse July-August 2016)
Dr Bollard and Colin Geary.

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

The Department of Preventive and Social Medicine is pleased to announce the inaugural 'State of Public Health' lecture for 2016 featuring Professor Sir David Skegg, Politics and Public Health.

What do we mean by the word 'health'? To what extent do New Zealanders enjoy good health?

From 1992 to 1995 Professor Sir David Skegg chaired a Public Health Commission, and in this talk, he will discuss why we have not made more progress over the last two decades.

With a special introduction by Vice Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne.

5:30pm Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Castle 1 Lecture Theatre, Dunedin campus
Free of charge. Complimentary refreshments to follow.
All welcome.

Inaugural 'State of Public Health' lecture (Department of Preventive and Social Medicine)

Department of Surgical Sciences

In new research published in the British Journal of Surgery, Otago researchers assessed how effective targeted AAA screening based on an individual's cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk or vascular health might be.

Study lead author Associate Professor Greg Jones says that earlier research has shown a striking association between AAA and the presence of CVD and its risk factors.

The research team recruited more than 4,000 Otago–Southland men and women aged over 50 for the study. Participants were invited to attend the screening facility at Dunedin Hospital where they underwent an ultrasound scan of their aortas.

The participants fell into one of four similarly-sized groups. The first was patients undergoing coronary angiograms at the hospital, the second was people being assessed for peripheral arterial disease at the Vascular Laboratory, while the third was made up of patients whose GPs had identified them as having a heightened risk of a cardiovascular event in the next five years. The fourth comparison group consisted of healthy volunteers taking part in a vascular genetics study.

Dr Jones says that the researchers found an overall prevalence rate of 4.5 per cent, with significantly higher numbers of AAA cases in the first three groups, who had increased cardiovascular risk, compared to the group with lower CVD risk.

CVD-targeted screening for the "silent killer" AAA shows promise (press release)
Study has quick result (ODT)

Faculty of Dentistry

Ceremony on construction siteUniversity of Otago Chancellor John Ward does the honours on the site for the School of Dentistry's new clinical building.

The first sod has been turned for the Faculty of Dentistry's new clinical building, with the aim of realising the Faculty's ambition to be one of the top-10 schools in the world within nine years.

Dean Professor Paul Brunton says it will be "the most modern dental school in the world when is completed."

It is already among the top-20 dental schools globally, based on the QS World University Rankings by subject, but Professor Brunton says "we have significant ambitions to excel further and having state of the art facilities will allow us to realise our ambition to be a top 10 school by 2025".

The new clinical building should be finished about mid-2018, then the existing Walsh building will be vacated and refurbished. That work is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2019.

The School of Dentistry aims high (Otago Bulletin Board)
Construction of new Dental School set to begin (press release)
New building site webcam (Faculty of Dentistry)

Otago School of Medical Sciences

Congratulations to the following winners from this year's OSMS Photo Competition:

  • Associate Professor Steve KerrOverall Best
  • Kristel De RyckGut Health Network Prize for Best Photo with a 'Gut' Theme (first equal)
  • Megan ElderBrain Health Research Centre Prize for Best Photo with a Neuroscience Theme
  • Safina GadeockGut Health Network Prize for Best Photo with a 'Gut' Theme (first equal)
  • Associate Professor Steve KerrAcademic Staff Prize
  • Mackenzie LovegroveGenetics Otago Prize for Best Photo with a Genetics Theme
  • Andrew McNaughtonGeneral Staff Prize
  • Leila NicholsonStudent Category Prize
  • Dr Rachel SizemoreTe Ao Māori Prize for Best Photo Representing Te Ao Māori / the Māori World
  • Suzie WarringWebster Centre Prize for Best Photo with an 'Infectious Disease Research' Theme

Steve Kerr's winning photo (Pulse July-August 2016)
Associate Professor Steve Kerr's winning photo: 'Reaching for the Stars' – A marine flatworm in the family Leptoplanidae, exhibiting a most unusual posture, rearing up on "pseudo-legs". Found on the underside of a rock in the intertidal zone near Portobello. Shot with a Panasonic FZ-100 camera with Raynox 250 macroadapter.

Department of Anatomy

Congratulations to Professor Neil Gemmell and Dr Michael Knapp, who are the lead investigators for a project which has received funding from the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge. The project will use environmental DNA (eDNA) from marine water samples to determine the diversity of life in New Zealand's marine ecosystems.

Department of Biochemistry

Professor Parry Guilford featured in the New Zealand Herald and on the front page of the print ODT on 15 August, talking about his breakthrough in detection of early bladder cancer. Hopefully this will result in the availability of early diagnostic tests for that and other cancers within the not too distant future.

Cancer breakthrough could boost diagnosis (NZ Herald)

Professor Peter Dearden, Dr Liz Duncan, and Dr Otto Hyink's Nature paper on the genetics of bee fertility control received an even wider media coverage—Peter and Liz were interviewed on BBC Radio 4:

Queen Bee control (BBC Inside Science)

Professor Tony Merriman and Professor Dave Grattan (Anatomy, OSMS) were in the ODT on 28 July talking about the importance of the discovery of a gene linked to obesity in people from Samoa.

Significant to have found gene with link to obesity (ODT)

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

RNZ's Jesse Mulligan spoke to Professor Gerald Tannock on last Monday's episode of his afternoon show, exploring the world of the human gut microbiome and delving into some topical discussion over the course of the 30-minute interview. They discussed the fundamentals of why we have living things in our gut and how the individual's microbiome develops, through to the medical potential of faecal transplants and the ethics of microbial donation.

Exploring the Microbiome (RNZ)

Dr Judith Bateup has been announced as one of the 12 winners of this year's Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching, presented in Wellington. The Awards recognise and encourage sustained excellence in tertiary teaching and provide an opportunity for teachers to further their careers and share good practice with others. The award citation states, "Judith is an extraordinary and inspirational teacher of microbiology. Students, colleagues and peers attest to her passion and enthusiasm, the outstanding quality of her teaching and the pastoral care of her students."

Dr Xochitl Morgan was one of the authors of a research paper published by the American Society for Microbiology which has featured in the New York Times, demonstrating that the microbes found in US subways are generally not harmful. This result contradicts the common belief that surfaces in public places tend to be crawling with pathogens. Some of the most common taxa encountered were human skin and oral commensals such as Propionibacterium, Corynebacterium, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus.

Germs in the Subway Are the Harmless Kind (New York Times)
Urban Transit System Microbial Communities Differ by Surface Type and Interaction with Humans and the Environment (mSystems)

While University students were taking a break between semesters, their absence gave local high school science classes the opportunity to experience University-level teaching labs. Senior Teaching Fellow Dr Judith Bateup and her team took groups from a significant number of Dunedin schools through laboratory sessions over the two week period, where they learned about electron microscopy, the importance of microbes in food and alcohol production and microbial processes.

A research project led by Professor Gerald Tannock and Dr Blair Lawley, aiming to investigate the metabolites in urine in relation to Crohn's Disease, has received funding from the USA's Broad Medical Research Foundation. The project entitled Short-term exclusive enteral nutrition (EEN) of Crohn's disease (CD) patients in the recognition of urine biomarkers of bowel inflammation has been funded around NZ$100,000.

The University of Otago Science Expo, held in conjunction with the International Science Festival, took place in July and those from all walks of life—including Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull—came along to take a look at microbial life in the human gut. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology booth, with the theme You're more bacterial than human! brought the human microbiome to life with microscope slides of common gut bacteria, information about the incredible diversity of commensals and pathogens, and a display of "gummy microbes" representing the approximate 1 kg of microbes in every human body.

Professor Frank Griffin has officially retired, however his involvement with the department will continue with the new title of Emeritus Professor. Frank will also continue as the director of new research theme Agriculture at Otago. For more than 30 years, Frank has led a research team devoted to solving animal health problems in the deer industry, including developing diagnostic tests for the detection of two major bacterial diseases—bovine tuberculosis and Johne's disease—and a vaccine for the prevention of yersiniosis. Disease Research Limited continues as a successful entity, now a part of Otago Innovation Limited.

Agriculture at Otago
Disease Research Laboratory

Congratulations to the two researchers, Dr Matloob Husain and Dr Jo Kirman, who have been awarded funding. Dr Husain has received NZ$25,000 for his project Molecular mechanisms of the influenza virus and host histone deacetylase 4 interplay. He has discovered the role played by host histone deacetylases in influenza virus infection. The funding will contribute to continuing study towards understanding the molecular interplay between influenza virus and host histone deacetylases. Dr Kirman has secured NZ$20,000 funding for her project entitled Can innate lymphoid cells be trained by BCK vaccination?

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Dr John Ashton continues his regular Radio New Zealand expert interview series. John's most recent delivery was on the topic of codeine.

Codeine (RNZ)

Dr John Ashton attended a Ministerial Dinner at Parliament on 24 August 2016, as representative for Lung Foundation New Zealand. This afforded Dr Ashton the opportunity to also informally represent the University and health scientists in general. The dinner was hosted by Medicines NZ with Dr Jonathon Coleman (Minister of Health), Annette King (Labour spokesperson on Health), Simon O'Connor (Chair, Health Select Committee), and Professor Kathryn McPherson (CEO of HRC) in attendance. Dr Ashton was encouraged that Annette King and Simon O'Connor agreed to join him in a charity 10 km run for the Lung Foundation in October, and Simon O'Connor has also agreed to host a Parliamentary breakfast on lung cancer policies in November, where John will also speak.

Dr John Ashton at Parliamentary Function (Pulse July-August 2016)
Left to right: Dr John Ashton, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman, CEO Lung Foundation NZ Philip Hope at the Ministerial Dinner.

Associate Professor Steve Kerr delivered a lecture in Geraldine to the University of the Third Age (U3A) on 8 June, entitled Neurotoxins: Sophisticated molecules from beautiful organisms. The lecture was well received, with around 70 in attendance.

Dr John Ashton received funding from the 2016 Dean's Bequest Fund for his project The effect of cannadidiol in in vitro models of epilepsy (NZ$5,862). Dr Ashton was also successful with funding from the Neurological Foundation for his project Finding tools to investigate the anti-epileptic effects of cannabidiol (NZ$7,012).

Dr Greg Giles received funding from the 2016 Dean's Bequest Fund for an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer (NZ$10,000).

Associate Professor Steve Kerr received funding from the 2016 Dean's Bequest Fund for his project Electrophysiological assessment of the safety and efficacy of novel anti-inflammatory curcumin analogs in an in vitro rat hippocampal slice preparation (NZ$10,000).

Professor Rhonda J Rosengren (Associate Investigator) in collaboration with Dr Mihnea Bostina (Co-Principal Investigator, Microbiology and Immunology), and Dr Laura Burga (Co-Principal Investigator, Microbiology and Immunology), was successful with Otago Medical Research Foundation funding for the collaborative project Targeting triple negative breast cancer stem cells with the concolytic Seneca Valley virus (NZ$24,000).

Dr Yiwen Zheng received grants-in-aid from the Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust and the 2016 Dean's Bequest Fund for an electrochemical detector for analysing neurotransmitter levels in brain microdialysis samples for tinnitus research in rats (combined total NZ$25,000).

Morpheus screenshots (Pulse July-August 2016)
Morpheus screenshots.

Dr Belinda Cridge and Dr Catherine Gliddon introduced the teaching app Morpheus to BIOC 192 students on 9 August.

Morpheus is an augmented reality (AR) education tool and a world first for mobile devices being able to read over-the-counter medicines and describe the drug's three-dimensional chemical structure as well as provide an animation of the drug's mechanism of action.

This initiative was funded by a University Teaching Development Grant and the project was undertaken in conjunction with digital and AR development agency One Fat Sheep.

Augmented reality: an education tool for the future (Otago Connection)

Download on the App Store

Department of Physiology

The Department would like to celebrate the following successes:

  • Professor Alison Heather has been awarded a Return on Science grant (NZ$476,691) for her project Novel assays for the identification of androgens and oestrogens.
  • Dr Emmet Power (Postdoctoral Fellow supervised by Associate Professor Ruth Empson) won the OMSRS Research Staff Award held on 6 July. Emmet's talk was entitled Altered metabotropic glutamate receptor activity in early spinocerebellar ataxia type 1.
  • Associate Professor Ruth Empson has been awarded an OMRF Annual Grant for her project Visualising cerebellar driven motor learning.
  • We had a number of students graduate on 20 August. In particular, we would like to mention our four PhD students who graduated: Jonathan Braun, Rosalind Cook, Emmet Power, and Xander Seymour.
  • Professor Alison Heather won the Women's Division of the Samoa Warrior Half-Ironman Distance Triathlon recently.

Otago professor finds success in Samoa (Otago Bulletin Board)
Otago Professor finds success in Samoa (Samoa Observer)

School of Pharmacy

The School of Pharmacy welcomed new Dean, Professor Carlo Marra, in true New Zealand style on 1 August. With the support of Kōhatu – Centre for Hauora Māori, Hata Temo (Kaitohutohu, Office of Māori development), and Kelly Ann Tahitahi (Māori Centre), Professor Marra was welcomed in te reo Māori and with a waiata from staff and students.

Professor Carlo Marra's welcome (Pulse July-August 2016)
Professor Carlo Marra (right), at his welcome function.

Congratulations to School of Pharmacy affiliate, Leanne Te Karu, who won two awards at the Pharmacy Awards in Auckland on 6 August. She won the Te Hapai Haoura award for delivery of an innovative service leading to improved health outcomes for Māori, and additionally the RB Supreme Award for showing a leadership example in the Pharmacy profession. Congratulations to fourth-year student Sophie Oliff, who also won the Blackmores Future Pharmacist of the Year Award.

Senior Lecturer Dr Greg Walker has received a NZ$25,000 grant from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Fund to aid his mission to protect our crops from pests without using harmful chemicals. The grant is one of ten made possible by a donation from the Norman F. B. Barry Foundation.

Professor Pauline Norris recently received a NZ$150,000 grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to help find the answers to these questions. Professor Norris will lead a feasibility study titled Randomised controlled trial of prescription charges.

Nine of our PhD students where given the challenging task of presenting their thesis to an intelligent lay audience in a Three Minute Thesis competition on 5 July. This entertaining event, organised by Dr Andrea Vernall, was judged by guest judges Associate Professor Alison Cree (Zoology), Steve Ting (Centre for Science Communication), and Professor Peter Dearden (Biochemistry and Divisional Associate Dean (Research)). Congratulations to winners, Deji Agbowuro (1st place), Sasi Bhushan Yarragudi (2nd place), and Naghan Ailabouni (3rd place), who did well to place in this tough competition. All presentations were of a high standard.

Pharmacy Three Minute Thesis Competition winners (Pulse July-August 2016)
Left to right: Nagham Ailabouni, Associate Professor Alison Cree, Steve Ting, Professor Peter Dearden, Deji Agbowuro, Sasi Bhushan Yarragudi.

University of Otago, Christchurch

Department of Pathology (UOC)

Martin Kennedy headshot (Pulse July-August 2016)
Professor Martin Kennedy.

Genetics researcher Professor Martin Kennedy is the new Head of Department of Pathology.

Professor Kennedy has worked on the Christchurch health campus for nearly 30 years, starting in 1986 after completing his PhD at the University of Auckland, and returning in 1991 after postdoctoral studies at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK.

The Department is a powerhouse of internationally-renowned research. It is home to eight independent research groups including The Infection Group, the Centre for Free Radical Research, and two groups led by Professor Kennedy—the Carney Centre for Pharmacogenomics, and the Gene Structure and Function Laboratory.

Professor Kennedy collaborates with researchers locally and internationally as a genetic expert. One of his specific areas of interest is understanding how genes influence patients' responses to drugs. He will replace Professor David Murdoch, who steps down from the Head of Department role on September 1 to become Dean of the Christchurch campus.

University of Otago, Wellington

A new study has shown that a rural health professional programme on the East Coast of the North Island near Gisborne is highly successful for students, patients, and the local community. The study just published in BMC Medical Education demonstrates the enormous strengths and benefits of the Tairāwhiti Interprofessional Education (TIPE) programme. Run by the University of Otago, Wellington and others, the TIPE programme has now been going for nearly five years.

Associate Professor Sue Pullon, Director of the TIPE programme and study leader, says these findings are critically important, because they show that rurally based interprofessional education in New Zealand can successfully meet multiple objectives within the five-week programme, more so than traditional education within each individual profession.

Tairāwhiti Interprofessional Programme (Primary Health Care and General Practice)
Innovative Tairāwhiti programme scores well (press release)
Transition to practice: can rural interprofessional education make a difference? A cohort study (BioMed Central)

I whakaputaina e Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare, he rīpoata whakarāpopoto i ngā tatauranga hauora Māori mō ngā Poari Hauora a-Rohe o te motu nei. Koinei te wā tuatahi kua puta ēnei momo tatauranga i roto i te reo Māori.

In July, UOW put out its first media release in te reo Māori (and English). It was about the 2015 Māori Health Profiles that have been translated—for the first time—into te reo Maōri:

I whakaputaina he Tirohanga Hauora mō ngā Poari Hauora a-Rohe i roto i te reo Māori

UOW Data Lab

Remote data labs are becoming increasingly essential in the era of 'big data'. UOW now has its own data laboratory, a remote access secure facility for researchers to access massive amounts of data and information needed for research. It is one of just 18 such data labs in New Zealand, connected to Statistics New Zealand's data laboratory.

A team led by June Atkinson organised the official launch of the UOW Datalab in July. A significant milestone, it was the culmination of 20 years of engagement by a dedicated team of researchers, working closely with Statistics New Zealand. Government statistician Liz MacPherson officially launched the facility, and others who were involved over the years attended and spoke, including Professor Peter Crampton, and former government statistician Len Cook.

The speakers at the opening emphasised the importance of data-based research to inform policy, as well as keeping in mind the people behind the statistics. The UOW DataLab will boost health research and ultimately benefit the health of all New Zealanders.

UOW Data Lab opening presentations (Otago Connect)
UOW Data Lab webpage

Department of Psychological Medicine (UOW)

Dr Giles Newton-Howes
Dr Giles Newton-Howes.

Congratulations to Dr Giles Newton-Howes (Psychological Medicine), whose work has been recognised with an UO Early Career Award for Distinction in Research.

He is a Senior Lecturer, and also a consultant psychiatrist and clinical leader for Te-Upoko-me-te-Whatu-o-Te-Ika, the mental health alliance of Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa DHBs.

Since his appointment in 2013, he has focused his research activities in three areas: the epidemiology and treatment of addiction, the intersection of personality and mental state disorder, and the interface between psychiatry and society.

Other news

Expressions of interest sought for new Otago Medical School position

The Otago Medical School is inviting expressions of interest from current academic staff for the position of MB ChB Curriculum Map academic lead. This position is 0.4 FTE fixed-term for two years, and may be based on the Christchurch, Dunedin, or Wellington campuses. The start time for this position is negotiable but appointment can be made without delay.

The position would suit an academic staff member with a high level of knowledge, understanding, and experience of medical curricula in general and of the Otago curriculum in particular. They will have excellent interpersonal skills and an ability to foster networks and collaborations as well as project management skills and attention to detail.

This is an opportunity to play a key role in what is one of the most important aspects of the Otago Medical School's business. Feel free to contact Tim Wilkinson, Bruce Smith, or Peter Crampton if you would like more information.

Enquiries and applications will be treated in confidence. Please send the application form and your CV to Bruce Smith, Manager, Otago Medical School, by Friday 30 September 2016.

MB ChB Curriculum Map Academic Lead – Role Description (PDF 30 KB)
MB ChB Curriculum Map Academic Lead – Expression of Interest Form (Word 30 KB)

Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice

The Commonwealth Fund invites promising mid-career professionals—government policymakers, academic researchers, clinical leaders, hospital and insurance managers, and journalists—from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom—to apply for an opportunity to spend up to 12 months in the United States as a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. Fellows work with leading US experts to study health care delivery reforms and critical issues on the health policy agenda in both the US and their home countries. A rich program of seminars organized by the Fund throughout the year further enhances the fellowship experience. The Harkness Fellowship awards up to US$130,000 in support, with an additional family allowance (approximately US$60,000 for partner and two children up to age 18).

The deadline for applications from New Zealand is September 6, 2016. Interested applicants are welcome to contact Robin Osborn (Director, Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice) at with any additional questions about eligibility, the project, or the application process.

Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice (PDF 1.1 MB)

MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship in Human Health and/or Related Animal Vectors 2017

The MacGibbon PhD Fellowship is a travel and study opportunity available to PhD and DClinDent students. Successful students will receive up to NZ$12,000 each and spend 2–6 months studying in the USA. This is being funded from a donation organised by the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc, and represents a great opportunity to build collaborations in the USA. Two or three fellowships will be offered for travel in 2017. Closing date is 28 October 2016.

MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship application form

2016 Otago Spotlight Series: Cardiovascular disease

It's September already—have you registered?

  • Tuesday, 20 September 2016
  • Nordmeyer Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington
  • 9am–3.30pm

We now have an optional tour at lunchtime to visit the new environmental chamber at the Centre for Translational Physiology.

More about our speakers, and check out our new CVD website:

Register now by email:

Consulting biostatisticians

Within Health Sciences in Dunedin, there are five academic biostatisticians who are employed by the Division to provide biostatistical collaboration and advice to staff and research students in 2016, at no cost.

The biostatisticians are available for one-on-one consultations. (If you are a research student seeking assistance, please ensure that your supervisor is informed of this and willing to accompany you to any consultation.)

The consulting biostatisticians are:

  • Dr Claire Cameron
  • Mr Andrew Gray
  • Dr Ella Iosua
  • Dr Ari Samaranayaka


Online staff profiles

The Health Sciences Staff Expertise Database by default now only displays authored books or book chapters, edited books, and journal articles. You can log into MyResearch to choose your 'Top 25' publications for display.

Please use the Profile Update Form to make other changes to your profile.

Recently-launched websites


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