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Wednesday 28 June 2017 2:58pm

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton.

Kia ora koutou kātoa

Welcome to this edition of Pulse.

We are now halfway through the year! For your interest—to remind everyone of the diversity of our activities—following is a list of priority activities for the Division of Health Sciences Office for 2017. This list is by no means exhaustive and the projects are at different stages of development.

  • Continue the implementation of the new research support facility building project
  • Continue the implementation of the new dental school building project
  • Commence work on the programme business case for the Dunedin health precinct
  • Continue the University's close involvement with the planning of the new Dunedin Hospital
  • Continue work the UOC business case
  • Continue work on the UOW business case
  • Finalise the CMDHB dental facility business case
  • Contribute to the Support Services Review
  • Continue the implementation of the HSFY review
  • Continue implementation the Division's shared research infrastructure plan
  • Continue contributing to the implementation of Te Kāika in Caversham
  • Continue supporting the implementation of the new medical school at the National University of Samoa
  • Continue the implementation of the new academic Department of Hauora Māori
  • Continue the implementation of the Division's Interprofessional Education plan
  • Continue the implementation of the Division's Rural Health plan
  • Establish consistent Pacific health curricula across the Division's health professional programmes
  • Finalise the School of Rural Health proposal in collaboration with national partners

I warmly congratulate the researchers who were successful in gaining new HRC funding earlier this month. Of note, Professor Parry Guilford was awarded almost $5m for a five-year programme to reduce the burden of gastric cancer in our most vulnerable populations.

I also congratulate Associate Professor Joanne Baxter for her nomination for a Matariki Award. This nomination recognises Jo's significant and sustained contribution to the education sector.

In September the Division will again host the Otago Spotlight Series research forum in Wellington. This year the focus will be on child health research. I look forward to seeing many of you at this important networking and outreach event.

And finally, with sadness, I note the passing on 12 May of Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Brinkman, former Dean of Otago Medical School. The University owes a debt of gratitude to Geoffrey for his leadership and service to the Medical School as Dean during the turbulent period of the early 1980s. The School's current success is due in no small part to the leadership provided by Geoffrey during a period of time that posed a number of very substantial threats to the future well-being of the School—both internal and external—including funding cuts, succession plans at the Wellington campus, staffing issues and health sector restructuring. Geoffrey's vision and leadership were impressive and are enshrined in the School's history. On behalf of the Division, I have written to his family to express our condolences.

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

General news

HRC funding success

Health Sciences researchers have been awarded 19 contracts and more than $24 million in new HRC funding. Congratulations to the following recipients:

Professor Parry Guilford (Biochemistry, BMS)
Reducing the burden of gastric cancer in New Zealand

  • 60 months
  • NZ$4,971,155
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Associate ProfessorMik Black (Biochemistry, BMS)
    • Associate Professor Joel Tyndall (Pharmacy)
    • Dr Sharon Pattison (Medicine, DSM)

Gastric (stomach) cancer is the second-greatest cause of cancer death worldwide. In New Zealand, it is remarkable for its incidence in Māori and Pacific people being three-fold greater than in non-Māori. It is clear that a significant proportion of the gastric cancer burden in New Zealand could be avoided by an improved understanding of environmental and genetic risk factors, better diagnostic methods, more accurately targeted treatments, and improvements in health delivery mechanisms. These gains will have particularly benefit for our highest risk populations, thereby reducing health inequalities. In this research, our goal is to reduce the burden of gastric cancer in vulnerable New Zealand populations through a series of linked, multidisciplinary projects.

Associate Professor Brian Cox (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
The molecular pathological epidemiology of NHL

  • 18 months
  • NZ$485,572
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Professor Ian Morison (Pathology, DSM)
    • Dr Mary Sneyd (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)

The research will assess the relationship among similar and disparate risk factors for various types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and variations in the gene controlling mechanisms that are passed on when cells divide. The NHL patient series will also provide a basis for survival studies for patients with different types of NHL and allow the impact of new types of therapy to be estimated.

Professor Catherine Day (Biochemistry, BMS)
Integration of inflammatory signalling by TNF receptor associated factors

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,185,038
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Peter Mace (Biochemistry, BMS)

Initiation and resolution of inflammation is essential for cellular homeostasis, and aberrations are associated with a range of diseases. Regulation of inflammation relies on signals transmitted from receptors on the surface of cells to the nucleus. Often, several cell surface receptors act in combination to elicit a particular inflammatory response. TNF receptor associated factors (TRAFs) are a key family of proteins that recognise many different activated receptors, and translate their signals into an appropriate response. Improper TRAF signalling is implicated in cancer, chronic inflammatory disorders and immune deficiency. The proposed project will investigate precisely how TRAF proteins function in combination with each other to reliably integrate inflammatory signals. This work will provide fundamental knowledge about the mechanisms of inflammatory signalling, identify possible molecular targets for cancer and chronic inflammation, and explain how existing therapies that target immune receptors control downstream signalling pathways might be used for maximum benefit.

Professor Leigh Hale (Physiotherapy)
Community exercise for long-term management of diabetes and multimorbidity

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,181,772
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Professor Jim Mann (Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research)
    • Professor Tim Stokes (General Practice and Rural Health, DSM)
    • Dr Ramakrishnan Mani (Physiotherapy)
    • Dr Prasath Jayakaran (Physiotherapy)
    • Dr Fiona Doolan-Noble (General Practice and Rural Health, DSM)
    • Dr Trudy Sullivan (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
    • Mr Christopher Higgs (Physiotherapy)
    • Mr Andrew Gray (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)

We know that exercise assists the management of diabetes but presently no specific advice is available as to how people can safely and confidently engage in exercise. The Community Exercise Programme (CEP) is an inter-professional coordinated, patient centred, whānau-supported package of care for people living with type II diabetes. It was developed in Dunedin to specifically target Māori and Pacific people and those living in low socioeconomic areas. It combines twice weekly education with tailored exercise for 12 weeks, followed by an ongoing weekly maintenance exercise class. The aim of this exploratory randomised controlled trial is to investigate whether those taking part in CEP have more control of their diabetes and have better health outcomes one year later than people who do not participate in it. We will also find out whether CEP is cost effective and what is required to roll it out into other areas of New Zealand.

Professor Allan Herbison (Physiology, BMS)
GnRH neuron control of ovulation

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,167,633
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Xinhuai Liu (Physiology, BMS)
    • Professor Brian Hyland (Physiology, BMS)
    • Dr Rob Day (Biochemistry, BMS)
    • Professor Parry Guilford (Biochemistry, BMS)

Nearly 40 per cent of women suffering from infertility are unable to ovulate normally. While it is known that the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons in the brain control fertility, the molecular and cellular characteristics of the sub-population of GnRH neurons that drive ovulation are not established. This project aims to identify and characterise the specific GnRH neurons responsible for generating the "GnRH surge" that initiates ovulation. This will be achieved by implementing cutting-edge optogenetic neuroscience methodologies. In addition, the use of a novel genetic cell activity detection strategy will allow the electrical membrane properties and gene expression profiles of GnRH surge neurons to be identified. These studies will generate an in-depth understanding of the key cells that drive ovulation and thereby provide a platform for developing therapeutic agents for fertility control.

Professor Allan Herbison (Physiology, BMS)
Deciphering the dendron for fertility control

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,092,337
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Michel Herde (Physiology, BMS)
    • Mr Robert Porteous (Physiology, BMS)

The gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons control fertility in all mammals including humans. We have recently discovered that GnRH neurons have a cellular process previously unknown in the central nervous system termed a "dendron". We propose that the unique features of the GnRH neuron dendron allow neural inputs to generate and modulate the pulsatile release of reproductive hormone levels in the blood. Correct levels of hormone pulsatility are critical for fertility. This project will use innovative neuroscience technologies to identify the neural inputs acting upon the dendron and then establish their physiological role in regulating the secretion of GnRH.Together, these studies will determine how this unique neuronal structure operates and provide a foundation for exploring the utility of dendron-targeted therapies for fertility control in humans.

Associate Professor Keith Ireton (Microbiology and Immunology, BMS)
Role of host exocytosis in infection of human cells by Listeria monocytogenes

  • 36 months
  • NZ$932,485
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Mihnea Bostina (Microbiology and Immunology, BMS)

Listeria monocytogenes is a potentially deadly cause of food-borne illnesses including meningitis and abortion. Listeria is internalised into human cells and spreads from infected cells to neighbouring healthy cells by generating 'protrusions' - bacteria encased in finger-like projections of the host plasma membrane. How protrusions form and elongate to allow cell-to-cell spread is poorly understood. This proposal tests the novel hypothesis that Listeria subverts the function of a human complex called the exocyst to direct the insertion of host-derived membrane that fuels the growth of protrusions.

Dr Hamish Jamieson (Medicine, UOC)
Using the InterRAI to improve identification and management of frailty

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,167,728
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Prasad Nishtala (Pharmacy)
    • Professor Dee Mangin (General Practice, UOC)

Older people with frailty are more vulnerable to sudden declines in health in response to seemingly small trigger events such as drug side effects or overmedication. Identifying older people in the community with frailty offers an opportunity to prevent or delay these adverse events. This study takes advantage of New Zealand's world-leading comprehensive assessment system for older people (the interRAI). In partnership with Canterbury DHB we will develop and trial a measure of frailty within the interRAI to guide better medication treatment plans and enhance clinical management. We will compare possible measures statistically using existing data and then evaluate the impact of utilising the interRAI to identify frailty and target medication reviews in a stratified randomised-controlled trial. The research may offer a specific workable improvement to the national interRAI assessment system to help prevent unnecessary medication complications and hospitalisations for older people with frailty.

Associate Professor Greg Jones (Surgical Sciences, DSM)
An epigenome-wide study for coronary artery disease

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,139,534
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Professor Michael Williams (Medicine, DSM)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the leading cause of death in our community. Unfortunately, current risk prediction tools lack both sensitivity and specificity and there is a clear need to develop improved methods of identifying those at risk. While both inherited and environmental factors each contribute significant risk, our current lack of understanding of gene-environment interactions has limited our ability to identify new adjunctive risk tools. In this study we will use epigenetics, specifically genome-wide DNA methylation profiling, as a marker of some of these interactions, in order to identify novel CAD risk markers. Our own preliminary data, suggests that this approach may not only yield significant advances in CAD risk prediction, but may also identify novel therapeutic targets amenable to drug treatments. By combining genetic, epigenetic and demographic risk information for each study participant this research represents an important step towards the delivery of personalised cardiovascular disease medicine.

Professor Iain Lamont (Biochemistry, BMS)
Unmasking genes for antibiotic resistance in a superbug

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,151,504
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Wayne Patrick (Biochemistry, BMS)

The rapid rise of superbugs, bacteria that are resistant to all available antibiotics, is an increasing threat to health with the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system. However, our understanding of how bacteria resist antibiotics is far from complete. During infection the superbug Pseudomonas aeruginosa undergoes multiple mutations and evolves very high antibiotic resistance but only a subset of the mutations causing resistance have been identified. In this research we will obtain the first full overview of mutational events that result in high-level resistance. We will do so by developing highly resistant mutants of P. aeruginosa under controlled laboratory conditions, comparing the underlying mutations with those that occur during infection, and determining the effects of key mutations in a mouse model of infection. The results will provide a major step forward in understanding how bacteria resist antibiotics and may lead to improved treatment regimens for P. aeruginosa and other superbugs.

Associate Professor Bev Lawton (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UOW)
He Tapu Te Whare Tangata

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,194,662
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Miss Kendall Stevenson (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UOW)
    • Dr Dalice Sim (Biostatistical Services, UOW)
    • Associate Professor Merilyn Hibma (Pathology, DSM)
    • Associate Professor Peter Sykes (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UOC)
    • Dr Jane MacDonald (Obstetrics and Gynaecology, UOW)

Māori women are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and three times more likely to die of cervical cancer than Pākehā women. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the cause of cervical cancer. HPV testing is new technology which will replace present cervical cytology screening in the future. Prevention and early detection remain the key interventions for addressing Māori needs and reducing inequalities in cervical cancer in New Zealand. To meet this need we have designed a community based Kaupapa Māori research project called He Tapu Te Whare Tangata to improve access to cervical cancer screening. He Tapu Te Whare Tangata gives Māori ownership of the process of instigating this innovative HPV screening using a community research partnership model rather than responding to future national models that may not suit Māori needs. To improve health outcomes for Māori its essential to have input and collaboration.

Dr Lianne Parkin (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
Are treatments for COPD increasing the risk of acute coronary syndrome?

  • 36 months
  • NZ$842,444
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Jack Dummer (Medicine, DSM)
    • Associate Professor Katrina Sharples (Medicine, DSM)
    • Dr Jiaxu Zeng (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
    • Dr Simon Horsburgh (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
    • Mr Dave Barson (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)

Acute coronary syndrome (heart attacks and unstable angina) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are among the commonest reasons for hospital admission and death in New Zealand. Māori, Pacific peoples, and lower income groups are particularly affected. Acute coronary syndrome is common among people with COPD. Inhaled long-acting bronchodilators (long-acting muscarinic antagonists [LAMAs] and long-acting beta-agonists [LABAs]) are the main drugs used to treat people with COPD. However, there is concern that both LAMAs and LABAs may further increase the risk of acute coronary syndrome. This is important because the clinical benefits of these drugs are modest and people with COPD are more likely to die from coronary events than from respiratory failure. We propose to undertake a study to determine the risk of acute coronary events in people taking LAMAs and LABAs. The study will use anonymised existing data only, no patients will be approached.

Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie (Anatomy, BMS)
Implantable light stimulator to treat Parkinson's disease

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,186,366
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Professor Dirk de Ridder (Surgical Sciences, DSM)
    • Dr Sonja Seeger-Armbruster (Physiology, BMS)

Parkinson's disease (PD) affects 10,000 people in New Zealand. Current drug and deep brain stimulation treatments help reduce symptoms, but they also produce unwanted side effects. We aim to improve the quality of life for PD patients by developing the next generation of deep brain stimulation technology that has greater target specificity and reduced stimulation side effects. We have recently discovered that light stimulation in the brain improves parkinsonian movements. In this preclinical study, we will optimise the effect of chronic light stimulation to improve precise movements and activities of daily living. To do this, we will create an implantable light stimulator capable of delivering high-resolution optical stimulation patterns to support lifetime treatment options for PD patients. Although the project is focused on PD, the light stimulator has broad utility for treating other neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Dr Anna Ranta (Medicine, UOW)
Geographic and ethnic inequities in stroke outcomes

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,195,238

Stroke is the third most common cause of death and the most significant cause of adult disability in New Zealand. We know of several key interventions that reduce disability after stroke. While much effort has gone into implementing these treatments through NZ hospitals it is unclear whether all hospitals achieve the same patient outcomes given existent variation in service set-up. Also, while we know that stroke occurs at a younger age in some ethnic groups (notably Māori and Pacific people) we do not know whether, once the stroke has occurred, they also face poorer access to optimal services. This project aims to investigate potential geographic and ethnic variation in service provision and stroke outcomes to inform the national stroke programme in its efforts to optimise stroke care delivery to all New Zealanders regardless of domicile or ethnic background.

Professor Stephen Robertson (Women's and Children's Health, DSM)
Defining human specific genetic variants in brain developmental disorders

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,199,930
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Wenhua Wei (Women's and Children's Health, DSM)

Stem cells within the developing human brain have the potential to repair neurological damage whether it is caused by in-born or acquired factors. A limited understanding of the genetic regulation of these cells limits the exploitation of this capability. We will study the genetic factors that underpin a disorder caused by mutations that affect brain stem cells. By identifying these factors, particularly those that occur in regions of the genome that are specific to humans, we aim to catalogue factors that will form a lens through which we can understand human brain development better. Aligned with this aim is our intention to study these mutations and their affects in human brain organoids, tiny self-organising brain-like structures that can be grown the laboratory from human cells. Together these experiments will help develop more specific therapies for brain damage that are aimed directly at brain stem cell functions.

Dr James Stanley (Public Health, UOW)
The impact of racism on the future health of adults: A prospective cohort study

  • 36 months
  • NZ$818,257
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Ricci Harris (Public Health, UOW)
    • Dr Donna Cormack (Public Health, UOW)
    • Professor Richard Edwards (Public Health, UOW)
    • Mr Anaru Waa (Public Health, UOW)

Racism—at an individual or structural level—is recognised as an important determinant of health. Most evidence comes from cross-sectional studies, where experience of racism and health status is measured simultaneously, making it difficult to tell whether racism actually causes poorer health. We propose a study to strengthen this evidence base by examining the impact of experience of racial discrimination on subsequent health. We will recruit people who participated in the 2016/17 NZ Health Survey and reported experiencing racism, matching them with other participants (similar by ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status but without experience of racism), and re-interviewing them about their health status approximately two years after their NZHS interview. We can then determine if people who experienced racism had a different change in health in this period. This will strengthen evidence to support developing interventions to reduce levels of racism, reduce inequities and improve New Zealanders' health.

Professor Richard Troughton (Medicine, UOC)
Reducing heart failure readmission: The IMPERATIVE-HF study

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,418,549
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Professor Chris Frampton (Medicine and Psychological Medicine, UOC)
    • Professor Mark Richards (Medicine, UOC)

Heart failure is a common condition and a major cause for hospitalisation in adults. One in four patients hospitalised with HF will be readmitted within 30 days of discharge. These very high readmission rates are a global problem for which no effective strategy has yet been found. The IMPERATIVE-HF study is testing a new strategy to reduce heart failure readmission. We are using blood levels of the heart hormone NT-proBNP to guide the management of heart failure from the time of hospital discharge and testing whether this reduces readmission and improves survival in the first 3 months after discharge compared to usual care guided by clinical assessment alone. If successful, the study findings can be immediately applied to clinical care and incorporated into international guidelines for heart failure management.

Dr Logan Walker (Pathology, UOC)
Genetic modifiers of risk of familial breast and ovarian cancer

  • 36 months
  • NZ$1,142,728
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Dr Peter Mace (Biochemistry, BMS)
    • Dr John Pearson (Population Health, UOC)

The recent development of new gene screening technologies has revolutionised genetic testing of high-risk breast and ovarian cancer patients. Genetic information from these technologies is vital for directing clinical care of patients and their families and has significant implications for disease prevention. Approximately 1/250 individuals inherit a genetic mutation in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, which means they are at high-risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. However, the risk of cancer for these individuals varies significantly due to other (unknown) genetic changes, creating a significant challenge for counselling and clinical decision making. Our proposal aims to exploit a large international collaboration to identify and functionally characterise genetic changes which modify the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women who have inherited a BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation. Discoveries from this unique proposal will facilitate accurate clinical decision making, and provide new insights into the aetiology of breast and ovarian tumour development.

Dr Rose Richards Hessell (Preventive and Social Medicine, DSM)
Sleep and well-being among Pacific children and adolescents

  • 32 months
  • NZ$577,528
  • Other Otago Named Investigators:
    • Associate Professor Barbara Galland (Women's and Children's Health, DSM)
    • Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald (Anthopology and Archaeology)
    • Professor Rachael Taylor (Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research)

Ensuring children and adolescents receive sufficient good-quality sleep is critical for their physical and emotional health. We currently know little about sleep in Pacific children and their families and how to best support good sleep/wake patterns within Pacific contexts. The overarching objective of this project is to inform the development of effective sleep interventions by capturing Pacific perspectives about sleep, health and interventions. The first study will involve interviews with Pacific parents, exploring intergenerational changes in sleep patterns, associations between sleep and wellbeing and appropriateness of current sleep measurement and intervention strategies. A second study will use key informant interviews with Pacific health and educational professionals to explore the role of sleep in health/education outcomes for Pacific families and explore ways to maximise the effectiveness of sleep interventions for Pacific communities.

Matariki Awards 2017

Joanne Baxter
Associate Professor Joanne Baxter.

Congratulations to Associate Professor Joanne Baxter, Associate Dean (Māori), Dunedin School of Medicine and Division of Health Sciences, and Director, Māori Health Workforce Development Unit, who has been nominated for a Matariki Award. Te Ururangi Award for Education recognises the extraordinary contribution, sacrifice, and commitment of an individual in the New Zealand education sector. The Matariki Awards gala ceremony will be held at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on Friday, 21 July 2017, and will be broadcast on Māori Television.

Māori success to be celebrated at 2017 Matariki Awards (Māori Television)
Te Ururangi Award for Education (Māori Television)
Matariki change to celebrate Māori success (Waatea News)

Otago delegation forges closer collaboration with National University of Samoa

In May, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crampton was the Special Guest Speaker at the 70th anniversary of the Samoan Medical Association's AGM in Apia. While in Samoa, Professor Crampton also facilitated the Medical Education and Workforce Capacity Building workshop with Associate Dean (Pacific) Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga. The visit was in response to the invitation extended by Namulauulu Dr Potoi, President of the Samoan Medical Association, during the inaugural International Pacific Health Symposium, which was hosted by the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific) in Dunedin last year. Professor David Murdoch (Dean, UOC) facilitated the Community Integrated Medicine session during the conference.

Professor Crampton also met with the Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Samoa (NUS), Professor Fui Le'apai Tu'ua 'Īlaoa Asofou So'o; Dean of NUS' Faculty of Medicine, Le Mamea Lemalu Dr Limbo Fui; the New Zealand High Commissioner, Mr David Nicholson; and Director General of Health, Leausa Toleafoa Dr Take Naseri. The focus of the meetings was to harness a way forward for a collaboration that can build on the strengths both the Division of Health Sciences and NUS' Faculty of Medicine can bring to the table, and a sharing environment of expertise to provide a better service to their students which would in turn extend to their communities. Further collaboration in teaching, an insight that can help in curriculum development for both sides, and an opportunity for students of both universities to share their knowledge and experiences are a few of the outcomes that are expected.

Delegation in Samoa
From left: Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga, Namulauulu Dr Potoi, Professor Peter Crampton, Mr David Nicholson, Dr Debbie Ryan.

Bioethics Centre

Staff of the Otago Medical School and Bioethics Centre are preparing for the second cycle of the action research project CAPLE (Creating A Positive Learning Environment) to begin in a Southern DHB clinical site in July/August of this year. Dr Althea Gamble Blakey and Dr Kelby Smith-Han, with team Associate Professor Lynley Anderson, Professor Tim Wilkinson, Emma Collins (School of Nursing, Otago Polytechnic), and Otago Trainee Intern Liz Berryman have been undertaking research into student bullying in the clinical workplace for the last 18 months. The CAPLE project has a focus on working alongside staff to help develop skills in teaching and learning in what can be stressful, demanding workplaces. Following some encouraging initial findings from the project instigated in a clinical department in 2017, the current repeat project contains refinements with which the team hope to further pin down methods to help staff develop their skills and help learners thrive.

CAPLE researchers
From left: Dr Althea Gamble Blakey, Associate Professor Lynley Anderson, Dr Kelby Smith-Han.

As part of the 2018 study, the CAPLE project will incorporate the smartphone app Particip8. Having been successfully tested by current Otago medical students and presented to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' congress in May, the app, developed by Otago medical students Liz Berryman and Daniel Leonard (with study supervisors Professor Barry Taylor and Associate Professor Ralph Pinnock), will be used to measure staff and student wellbeing over the CAPLE research period. Specifically, wellbeing in relation to clinical experiences and interactions with staff, and in relation to a modified version of the NZ WHO-5 Wellbeing Index.

CAPLE webpage (Bioethics Centre)

Dunedin School of Medicine

Richie Poulton
Professor Richie Poulton.

Tonight at 6pm, Dunedin School of Medicine will host a very special lecture as part of its two-day Southern Health celebrations.

Professor Richie Poulton (Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, Department of Psychology) will present Staying ahead of the curve: best practices in the Dunedin Study. Professor Poulton will share his research journey and future plans for the Dunedin Study. This is a free event open to members of the public, so please feel free to invite your friends, whānau, and colleagues.

6pm tonight, 28 June 2017 (with complimentary refreshments from 5.30pm)
Glenroy Auditorium
1 Harrop Street
Dunedin 9016

Event listing on DSM website
Livestream link

Tomorrow, 29 June 2017, sixteen senior researchers and postgraduate students will present their work at the Southern Health Symposium in Dunedin, culminating in the Health Research Excellence Awards. These events are open to all Health Sciences staff.

Southern Health Symposium and Health Research Excellence Awards (DSM)

School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Anatomy

Second-year dental students taking the first semester Anatomy paper have been using 3D virtual reality technology to reinforce their knowledge and understanding of the neuronal pathways of the head and neck. Student response to this technology has been extremely positive.

Virtual reality a reality for anatomy dental students (Department of Anatomy)

Department of Biochemistry

Kurt Krause
Professor Kurt Krause.

In May, the Otago Daily Times published a magazine feature on the microbiome research of Professor Kurt Krause (Biochemistry), Professor Gerald Tannock and Dr James Ussher (Microbiology and Immunology), and Biochemistry alumnus Professor Rob Knight (UC San Diego).

Germs are us (ODT)

The same ODT feature also explored Dr Monica Gerth's quorum sensing research:

Keep calm and carry on (ODT)

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Associate Professor Alex McLellan and Dr Yoshio Nakatani have won the University's Proof of Concept Award for commercialisation, with their strategy to make modern cancer immunotherapy safer. A major limitation of immunotherapy is the sometimes lethal 'cytokine storm' that occurs in some patients, due to over-stimulation of the immune system. Associate Professor McLellan and Dr Nakatani's strategy is to make modern cancer immunotherapy safer by reducing the cytokine storm. The collaboration developed after a stairwell conversation between Associate Professor McLellan and Dr Nakatani.

Way to make cancer treatment safer wins Otago innovation competition (media release)

Peter Fineran
Associate Professor Peter Fineran.

Members of Associate Professor Peter Fineran's lab have published an article in Science, summarising the recent exponential growth of research on CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology. CRISPR-Cas systems are adaptive immune defence systems found in bacteria and archaea, which have evolved to protect the organisms from attack by viruses (bacteriophages). Their ability to remember and recognise past invaders, and exactly how information is processed by their memory banks, is an area of intense research in which the Fineran lab has made a significant contribution.

CRISPR-Cas: Adapting to change (Science)

Associate Professor Peter Fineran has been awarded the Ross Crozier Medal by the Genetics Society of AustralAsia (GSA), to recognise outstanding contributions to the field of genetics research by a mid-career scientist. As this year's recipient, Associate Professor Fineran will speak at the 2017 GSA Conference, which will be held in Dunedin in July.

Microbiology and Immunology students did a fantastic job of representing the Department at the 2017 School of Biomedical Sciences Postgraduate Symposium, winning four of the awards for talks and posters:

  • Zoe Williams (PhD Student, Cook Lab) – Best 15-Minute Talk
  • Brin Ryder (PhD Student, Kirman Lab) – Best 3-Minute Talk
  • Julia Leman (MSc Student, Kemp Lab) – 2nd Place, 3-Minute Talk
  • Ginny Niemi (MSc Student, Kemp Lab) – 2nd Place, Poster

Congratulations to the two academic staff who have received funding from the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, awarded for health science related research undertaken in New Zealand: Associate Professor Ros Kemp has been awarded conference support, and Dr Mihnea Bostina has received a contribution towards equipment for the Otago Centre for Electron Microscopy.

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

The Department is continuing to build on its expertise in augmented reality. Following the success of the teaching application Morpheus, we developed a scientific poster exploring Dr Belinda Cridge's research on swede toxicity in cows (see Pulse 61). With the relevance of the project to New Zealand farming, we have displayed the poster at both the South Island Agricultural Field Days in Kirwee and more recently the National Fieldays in Hamilton. Both events were in collaboration with the Ag@Otago theme. The poster and accompanying materials provided a discussion point for attendees as well as captured interest in the developing technology.

Building on these successes Dr Cridge is working with Fabriko Creative in Christchurch and Plattar Technologies to develop workshops for Māori teenagers to tell the stories of their people and their places. Titled Koneki, the first workshops are currently underway in Christchurch and will launch in Dunedin later in the year. The project is funded through a recent Nation of Curious Minds grant. Dr Cridge would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved.

Dr Phillip Aitken, whose PhD was conferred at the 13 May graduation ceremony, has been awarded a Postdoc position at Imperial College London.

Department of Physiology

Jason Lew
Jason Lew.

Congratulations to the following Physiology PhD students who were awarded prizes at the recent School of Biomedical Sciences Postgraduate Symposium:

  • Jason Lew – Best Poster Prize (for winning the Poster Prize, Jason will be invited to attend the University of Queensland Postgraduate Symposium later this year)
  • Adam Denny – 2nd Place, Oral Presentation
  • Ashley Gillon – 3rd Place, Poster

We would also like to congratulate:

  • Dr Martin Fronius, who has been awarded RSNZ Catalyst Funding over two years to develop a collaboration with the University of Munich
  • Julia Gouws (MSc Student), who won the OMSRS Summer Student Speaker Awards
  • Bradley Jamieson, who won the Best Poster Prize at the recent BHRC Conference
  • Hamish Aitken-Buck (BSc(Hons) Student), who received a Commendation for the OMRF Summer Scholarship Renshaw Prize

In the news:

School of Pharmacy

The School of Pharmacy will host the Green Cross Health Pharmacy Award Ceremony in Dunedin this August. The awards recognise achievements across the pharmacy profession. Undergraduate, postgraduate, research staff, alumni, and preceptor awards will be presented.

The School is holding an All the 7's reunion on Saturday, 18 November 2017. All staff and students from 1967, 1977, 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017 are invited back to the school to celebrate their time at Otago. Registrations open soon.

Five PhD students from the School of Pharmacy took on the challenging task of presenting their thesis to an intelligent lay audience in a Three Minute Thesis competition earlier this week. Congratulations to first place winner Mohammad Momin (supervisors Dr Shyamal Das and Professor Ian Tucker), who presented Dry powder inhalers for tuberculosis; and to second place winner Amber Young (supervisors Dr Alesha Smith and Associate Professor June Tordoff), who presented Tailored information please! The School would also like to thank event organiser Dr Ailsa McGregor; guest judges Diana Rothstein (Research Advisor for Preventive and Social Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry, School of Pharmacy, and School of Physiotherapy) and Dr Lynne Clay (School of Physiotherapy); and all other participants.

Pharmacy 3MT competitors and judges
From left: Sharmin Bala, Anna Widayanti, Mohammed Momin, Diana Rothstein, Dr Alisa McGregor, Dr Lynne Clay, Amber Young, Sarah Streck.

New appointments at the School of Pharmacy:

  • Aynsley Peterson has been appointed Professional Practice Fellow for Experiential Learning
  • Carla Dillon from Memorial University in St John's, Newfoundland, has taken on a new Professional Practice Fellow role overseeing the development of skills in the new curriculum
  • Emma Smith joins the School from Dunedin Hospital for a 0.6 FTE position teaching Clinical Pharmacy
  • School alumna Kasey Brown takes on a new 0.1 FTE position as a Wellington-based Pacific Advisor, working with the School to promote and strengthen its Pacific focus

School of Physiotherapy

School of Physiotherapy staff have key roles and 'punch above their weight' in a world congress. The World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress is taking place in Cape Town this July.

Professor Leigh Hale, Dean, is a member of the international scientific committee; Dr Margot Skinner (WCPT Vice President), amongst other roles, is an international symposium panellist presenting on a lifestyle-behaviour change tool kit and competencies to implement it within the physical therapy profession; Dr Gisela Sole is an international symposium panellist presenting on why rotator cuff tendinopathies become chronic; Dr Hilda Mulligan is an international symposium panellist presenting on Emerging use of interactive technology in rehabilitation for young people; and PhD Student Bahram Sangali will participate in an international discussion session on multiple sclerosis.

University of Otago, Christchurch

The campus' Māori/Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) won a prestigious bi-annual award for innovation and commitment to indigenous teaching for the third time in a row. MIHI Director Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama says the award recognises the University's commitment to ensuring a comprehensive indigenous curriculum for medical students.

UOC students with Department of Corrections participantsFourth-year medical students ran the first student-led community health programme for people on community work sentence, as part of their Public Health module. They conducted free sexual health screens and oral health screening, and offered advice about community services and affordable healthy eating. Pictured is a medical student discusses healthy eating with one of the Department of Corrections participants.

Half-marathon runnersPhD student Bailey Kennedy, whose father successfully battled bowel cancer and inspired her research topic on the disease, ran a half-marathon to raise NZ$3,000 for the Beat Bowel Cancer charity. Pictured are Bailey and her dad Steve crossing the finish line.

University of Otago, Wellington

Diana Kopua
Dr Diana Kopua.

Dr Diana Kopua has been appointed to the new part-time role of Associate Dean (Tairāwhiti). She will provide support for all Otago students in the Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) region, including Wairoa, and will make links within the community. Dr Kopua is Head of the Psychiatry Department at Hauora Tairāwhiti. She began her career as a nurse working in mental health in the Porirua region, before studying Medicine at Otago.

New appointment for the University of Otago in Tairāwhiti (UOW)
Gisborne doctor in new role supporting health students (Gisborne Herard)
Otago boosts support for Tairawhiti medical training (Waatea News)

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman has co-authored a major new International Council for Science (ICSU) report, which addresses the challenge of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the report, A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation, the authors considered interactions between different goals and targets, determining to what extent they reinforce or conflict with one another. It includes detailed analyses of four of the UN's 17 SDGs to help illustrate the value of this integrated approach.

Setting the world on a course toward sustainable development (UOW)
A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation (ICSU)

Congratulations to Kirsten Burlet (PhD Student, Surgery and Anaesthesia), who won Best Paper / Poster at the Association of General Surgeons meeting in Palmerston North, and won the Best Paper Award at the recent RACS conference in Australia. Congratulations also to Emily Wood, who has won a Pathology scholarship.

Matariki dinner
UOW celebrated Matariki in style with a range of activities, slightly earlier this year to accommodate the students. Staff, students, and whānau had the opportunity to join into a programme of activities including stargazing, talks on Māori astronomy, waiata, and a hakari or shared dinner (above).

Other news

Upcoming Inaugural Professorial Lectures

  • Professor Nick Chandler (Oral Rehabilitation, Dentistry) – Serendipity and the measurement of teeth
    • 5.30pm Thursday, 13 July 2017
    • Archway 4 Lecture Theatre, Dunedin campus
  • Professor Anthony Butler (Radiology, UOC) – A casual physicist's journey to MARS
    • 12.15pm Friday, 28 July 2017
    • Rolleston Lecture Theatre, Christchurch campus
  • Professor Sue Pullon (Primary Health Care and General Practice, UOW) – Competence, respect and trust: hallmarks of collaborative practice?
    • 5pm Tuesday, 1 August 2017
    • Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, Wellington campus
  • Professor Jing-Bao Nie (Bioethics Centre) – Title TBC
    • 5.30pm Wednesday, 23 August 2017
    • Archway 4 Lecture Theatre, Dunedin campus

Otago Spotlight Series: Child Health Research

Mark your diary now!

  • 9am–3.30pm Tuesday, 12 September 2017
  • Nordmeyer Theatre, University of Otago, Wellington

Following our very successful Spotlight events in 2015 and 2016, we invite you to join us for our child health research forum. Health Sciences researchers will be in the spotlight providing lay-friendly outlines of their work to fellow researchers and invited guests, including funders, policymakers, clinicians, research institutions, and community and government agencies. This will be a great end-user networking opportunity.

Student poster competition

A poster competition, with cash prizes, will be held for students involved in child health research. This will take place in Wellington the evening before the showcase (11 September). Some travel awards are available for Christchurch and Dunedin staff and students:

  • Christchurch staff and students, please contact your head of department
  • Dunedin staff and students, please contact the dean of your school

All students funded to attend the meeting are expected to enter the poster competition.

Otago Spotlight Series Child Health Research webpage (including competition guidelines)



University of Otago 150th anniversary celebrations

Founded in 1869, Otago is New Zealand's first and oldest university. A year of anniversary activities—for students, staff, alumni, and the wider Dunedin community—is planned for 2019.

Project Coordinator Kerry Buchan has been appointed to guide and oversee the celebrations, and soon a 150th anniversary website will be launched. The website will have online forms for submitting event ideas and signing-up to volunteer. Details will be sent to all staff once the website has launched.

Kerry Buchan coordinating Otago's 150th celebrations (Otago Bulletin Board)

Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice

The Harkness Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for mid-career academic researchers, government policymakers, clinical leaders, hospital and insurance managers, and journalists—from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom—to spend up to a year in the United States working with leading experts to study healthcare delivery reforms and critical issues on the health policy agenda, in both the US and their home countries. The 2017 deadline for New Zealand applications is Tuesday, 5 September.

Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice (The Commonwealth Fund)

Health Sciences Staff Expertise Database—have you checked your profile lately?

A large percentage of websites within the Division rely on the Health Sciences Staff Expertise Database as the go-to resource for staff profiles, particularly sites hosted in the Dunedin campus. Increasingly, Marketing and Communications are using profile links in corporate media releases too. We work hard to keep your information current from what comes to our attention, but you are best placed to make sure things are spot on.

  • Have you checked that your profile information is up-to-date? Your title, publications, research interests, groups you're affiliated with, contact info, your photo…
  • Did you know you can select the order of your publications?

Web editors, and others, will be very appreciative if you have a quick look and check:

  1. Go to the Health Science Staff Expertise Database to check your profile
  2. Spotted a fix? Or need to set up a brand new profile? Fill out our form in the 'For staff' section of the Health Sciences website:
  3. To put your publications in a specific order (and to make sure they are all there), log in to MyResearch (available via 'For staff' on the University website's main menu). This is managed by the Publications Office. The updated data feeds through to the publications component of your profile page—timely for PBRF too!


Pulse is sent to a dynamic mailing list of all Health Sciences staff employed by the University of Otago. System limitations mean staff not employed by the University (such as clinical or honorary staff employed by DHBs) may not receive these emails.
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