Wednesday 28 February 2018 9:30am

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton.

Kia ora koutou kātoa,

It is a pleasure to welcome staff, students and health colleagues to this first edition of Pulse for 2018. The year is off to a roaring start, with numerous welcome events and OWeek now behind us. Thank you to everyone who helped make the start of the year a success, especially those involved with the various admissions and course advising processes.

2018 will be a year of change and growth. I have two tower cranes within meters of my office. I look outside my office window as I write and can see the steel frame of the new Dental School building, and the new Research Support Facility starting to rise out of the ground. As well we have the collective responsibility to ensure the changes that result from the Support Services Review fit the requirements of the Division's schools, faculties, departments and research groups, and meet our needs so that we can continue to excel.

I congratulate the new Professors and Associate Professors whose promotions took effect from 1 February. Also, please join with me in welcoming to their new Divisional Associate Dean roles: Professor Richard Cannon (Research), Darryl Tong (International), and Paul Glue (Research Commercialisation).

I will be stepping down from my roles later this year. The appointment process for the new PVC Health Sciences and Dean, Otago Medical School is underway. Interviews are taking place in the second half of May.

Wherever you work in the Division of Health Sciences and/or in the health system I wish you a peaceful, productive and rewarding 2018.

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

General news

Divisional Associate Dean appointments

Alongside the appointment of Richard Cannon, Associate Dean (Research), included in our last edition of Pulse, we welcome Darryl Tong (International) and Paul Glue (Research Commercialisation) to their new roles. We also express our thanks and appreciation to retiring Associate Deans: Peter Dearden, Andrew Tawse-Smith, and Ian Tucker.

Professor Darryl Tong, Associate Dean (International)
Darryl TongDarryl is the Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and a specialist surgeon at Dunedin Hospital.

He qualified in dentistry and medicine at the University of Otago and completed his specialty training at the University of Washington, Seattle. He completed his PhD from Otago on war surgery of the face and jaws, and is active in the NZ Army Reserves holding the rank of Colonel and the positions of Health Reserves Advisor and Honorary Surgeon to Her Excellency, the Governor General of NZ.

Darryl's research interests include clinical aspects of maxillofacial surgery, ballistic trauma, military medicine and history, sports-related concussion and the development of a simulant head model for forensic research. Darryl is a committed teacher and has received a number of teaching awards including an Otago Teaching Excellence Award and a National Teaching Excellence Award from Ako Aotearoa.


Darryl Tong
Associate Dean (International)
Tel +64 3 479 6530

Professor Paul Glue, Associate Dean (Research Commercialisation)
Professor Paul GluePaul Glue is Professor of Psychological Medicine in the Dunedin School of Medicine. He graduated MBChB from the University of Otago. He completed his psychiatry training (MRCPsych) in Oxford UK, and was elected FRCPsych in 2010. In 1987 he moved to the US National Institutes of Health for preclinical neuroscience research and completed an MD in clinical psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol, UK in 1992. Since 2009 he has also been working as a consultant psychiatrist for the Southern District Health Board, in adult general psychiatry.

Paul works with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor to promote research commercialisation activities in the Division. Commercialisation of research is about developing new intellectual property from our research into products and services, thereby contributing to the knowledge-based economy of New Zealand. It is also about building links with industry through knowledge transfer (consulting, commercial research contracts) and technology transfer to enhance the product / services of existing companies. These activities require intimate interaction with the University's Research and Enterprise Office and Otago Innovation Ltd. Together with senior colleagues in the Divisions of Sciences and Health Sciences, Paul aims to encourage and support staff and research students to be involved in commercialisation of their research.


Professor Paul Glue
Associate Dean (Research Commercialisation)
Tel +64 3 470 9430

Shared Research Infrastructure Manager, Operations, appointment

Colleen CoopDr Colleen Coop has been appointed Shared Research Infrastructure Manager, Operations, in the Divisional Office.

Colleen joins us from a long career in health-care management and brings a wealth of experience to the position.

Colleen graduated from the University of Otago with a Diploma in Clinical Psychology and a PhD. Colleen's research was in the Psychology Department, supervised by Prof Neil McNaughton. After working in London for two years she returned to Dunedin to take up a post as a clinical psychologist. After several years in clinical practice, Colleen was appointed Group Manager for the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability services, and had this role for 10 years. This was followed by 6 years as general manager for Emergency, Medicine and Surgery services in the District Health Board, then 5 years with the Ministry of Social Development as regional manager for Child, Youth and Family services, Otago and Southland.

Since May last year Colleen has been Development and Operations Manager in the School of Biomedical Sciences Dean's Office. Colleen has maintained her interest in tertiary education following completion of her PhD by gaining a Diploma in Health Services Management (Massey University), a Master of Public Management, and a Master of Public Policy (both from Victoria, University of Wellington).


Colleen Coop
Shared Research Infrastructure Manager, Operations
tel +64 3 479 4143

MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship reports

Deanna Barwick visited Professor Tom Carmichael, University of California (UCLA)

Professor Carmichael is a highly regarded expert in post-stroke brain repair, particularly the sprouting of new connections.

Deanna says, "During my time at UCLA I worked on two in vivo axonal tracing studies with the guidance and mentorship of Dr Mary Teena Joy. I investigated the influence of a novel set of compounds on brain re-mapping after motor stroke, and changes in connectivity after stroke to the prefrontal cortex. I was able to complete the entire experimental process and I was taught the analysis to continue here in New Zealand."

Deanna was trained in very skilled techniques and was able to use custom-designed software for the analysis, which she retains access to. The results will be used in her PhD thesis.

"The trip was an intense and inspiring experience. As a young scientist, the MacGibbon Travel Fellowship was the opportunity of a lifetime."

Deanna continues her research with supervision from Dr Andrew Clarkson, Department of Anatomy.

Michael J Maze visited US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta), and the Centre for Precision Medicine, Duke University (Durham)

The MacGibbon Travel Fellowship enabled Michael to explore the prevalence of acute leptospirosis among patients from a community of pastoralist farmers who were admitted with fever to hospital in northern Tanzania.

“During my time at the US CDC, I learnt skills in leptospirosis microscopic agglutination serology and tested samples from a febrile illness surveillance study conducted in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, that we have conducted alongside collaborators from Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, Tanzania, University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Duke University, North Carolina.”

At the Center for Precision Medicine, Duke University, Michael worked with collaborators on identifying the genomic and metabolomic signatures of host cell responses to leptospirosis. This work may lead to new diagnostic tests for leptospirosis.

"The Fellowship was a complete success. It enabled me to acquire new laboratory skills, extend the scope of my PhD, and develop collaborations with major US institutions."

Michael is continuing his PhD under the supervision of Professor John Crump, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.

Amy Dowdle visited the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City

Amy was able to develop many new skills especially in genomic methods and bioinformatics. In performing ATAC-seq she learned new techniques for early zebrafish embryo handling, next generation sequencing methodology, and programming for data analysis.

"ATAC-seq is an experiment design to determine the regions of open chromatin, or accessible DNA. If the DNA is accessible then it is able to be expressed and therefore "used" by the embryo.

"I was able to produce a dataset within a few months that would have taken over a year to produce in New Zealand, and would have been prohibitively expensive.

"There were many visits by distinguished researchers from around the US and the world, who came to give talks and greatly contributed to the collegial, collaborative atmosphere at the I,nstitute."

Amy continues her PhD research under the supervision of Associate Professor Julia Horsfield, Department of Pathology.

Amy Dowdle touring in California
Amy Dowdle touring in California.

This travel funding opportunity is provided by the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc and represents a great opportunity to build collaborations in the USA. Applications are open to PhD and DClinDent students, and 2018 details are expected to be available in July.
MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowships

Dunedin School of Medicine

  • Dr Kate Thomas, Department of Surgical Sciences has been awarded the prestigious Servier Research Fellowship for 2017-2019 from the UIP - International Union of Phlebology last month, to continue her studies on the size, flow and function within the deep and superficial veins of the legs in athletes. As part of this, Dr Thomas will also be studying individuals with varicose veins, and hopes to characterise the effects of long-term, high-volume exercise training on the veins, and to understand how any adaptations might impact on the development of varicose veins.
  • Congratulations to Professor Andre van Rij, Department of Surgical Sciences, who received a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australasian College of Phlebology at the International Union of Phlebology World Congress (UIP).
  • Professor Kate Scott, Department of Psychological Medicine, has published a new book, Mental Disorders Around the World: Facts and Figures from the World Mental Health Surveys, which presents original research from the largest cross-national survey of the epidemiology of mental disorders ever conducted. This publication provides the latest findings from the WHO World Mental Health Surveys based on interviews of nearly 150,000 individuals in twenty-six countries on six continents. This is one of the most comprehensive summaries of the epidemiology of mental disorders ever published, making it an invaluable resource for researchers, clinicians, students and policy-makers in the fields of mental and public health.
    Preview Professor Scott's new book: Mental Disorders Around the World
  • The Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM) warmly welcomes the Bioethics Centre as the ninth Department to the School. The Centre will be formally welcomed at DSM's new 'Hot Health' and 'Grand Round' series in April, where the Centre will be sharing its research with the DSM community.
  • Professor Michael Shultz, Head of Department of Medicine, recently volunteered at Camp Purple where 60 children and teens with Crohn's and colitis attended the fourth annual Camp Purple Live. The camp is a place where the children and teens can be surrounded by those who understand the challenges of living with these diseases and make new friends, providing an opportunity for campers to interact with others facing similar challenges and a chance to experience fundamental elements of childhood – the ability to play outdoors, to learn independence, nourish self-esteem, challenge themselves physically, and be proud of their accomplishments.
    More about the camp here:

Camp Purple group photo
Michael Schultz (front left) with parents and volunteers at Camp Purple.

Faculty of Dentistry

Successful science outreach

The Sugar in your diet: kino te pai outreach to Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti concluded in December 2017 with a hui at which the project results were presented to whānau. Funded through the MBIE Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform, staff and students from the Faculty of Dentistry and Department of Human Nutrition helped kura students investigate the sugar in their diets. Led by Dr Carolina Loch from the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, the team visited the school seven times at monthly intervals to lead science experiments and activities. In addition, Bachelor of Oral Health students implemented a tooth brushing intervention and measured the increase in oral hygiene status over the timeframe of the project.

A highlight for the school children was a visit to the Faculty of Dentistry where they got a behind-the-scenes view of what's involved in dentistry, dental technology, and oral health therapy, with several hands-on activities. A leaflet summarising the results of the project has been produced in English and Te Reo, and interest has been shown in rolling out the project further afield. At the hui, the students and staff were presented with awards recognising their contribution to the success of the project.

Kino te pai hui
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti principal Mrs Tiahuia Kawe-Small at the Sugar in your diet: kino te pai hui.

Research grant for dental implant project

Momen Atieh The International Team for Implantology (ITI) research has agreed to support Dr Momen Atieh's project Titanium-zirconium narrow (3.3mm) versus standard (4.1mm) diameter dental implants for replacing single posterior missing teeth: a randomized controlled trial, with an ITI research grant to the amount of AUD $220,003.20.

The ITI is a global association that unites a network of professionals in implant dentistry and aims to promote professional development, knowledge sharing, and supports research in implant dentistry and related fields.

Art competition

The Faculty of Dentistry has held an art competition where Year 1-8 students from Dunedin primary schools were asked to send in their designs for what they thought our new digital dental school might look like at the end of our building project. The winning designs came from students at Waikouaiti School, with Sawyers Bay School and St Bernadette's School as runners up. Two hoardings showcasing all three schools' artworks are on display outside the Walsh building on the corner of Frederick and Great King Street.

hoardings showing children's artwork

School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Anatomy

Congratulations to Professor Neil Gemmell who has been awarded a Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Award to undertake research in the United States. He will visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute to research the usefulness of new gene-drive technologies for the control of predatory pests.

Department of Biochemistry

Fulbright Scholar award

Professor Tony Merriman has received a Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Award to undertake research in the United States. He has been awarded up to $US37,500 to research the genetic basis of urate control and gout in African-Americans, at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.

2017 Biochemistry Student Prizewinners

The Department of Biochemistry would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2017 Department of Biochemistry student prizes:

  • Bridget Thomas and Nick Tenci - the Edson Prizes for the highest attainment in the 300- and 400-level biochemistry classes, respectively
  • Sarah Trevelyan - the Petersen Prize for the greatest promise for original research in the 400-level class
  • Josiah Doorman - the Mervyn Smith Prize for the highest level of attainment in biochemistry in the first year MSc class

Bridget Thomas
Bridget Thomas carrying out research in Richard Macknight's lab over summer.

Congratulations also to Bridget Thomas for jointly winning the prestigious Prince of Wales Prize for 2017. This is the University's premier undergraduate award, awarded annually to the most outstanding student completing an undergraduate or honours degree across all Divisions of the University. Bridget, who majored in both Biochemistry and Plant Biotechnology, has just completed a summer studentship in Associate Professor Richard Macknight's lab studying the genetics of drought resistance in plants.

Funding success for brain disease research

Research into neurodegenerative disease in the Department of Biochemistry has been boosted recently with funding successes for Dr Stephanie Hughes and the Neurodegenerative and Lysosomal Disease Lab.

Dr Hughes and her research team will receive funds from the Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray Foundation in the USA. The funded research will look at the effects of combining gene therapy and drugs to treat a preclinical model of Batten disease.

Three PhD students in the Neurodegenerative and Lysosomal Disease Lab have also received funding. Sophie Mathiesen and Oluwatobi Eboda have each been awarded three-year scholarships from Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ), and Stephanie Mercer has been awarded the Roche Hanns Möhler Doctoral Scholarship from the Brain Health Research Centre (BHRC) to provide support during the completion of her thesis.

Research highlights

Professor Catherine Day, Dr Adam Middleton and colleagues have recently published new insights into the complex protein signalling mechanisms that regulate inflammation in human cells in the journal Nature Communications. The X-ray crystallography-based study revealed the structure of one of the key proteins in this signalling process, TNF receptor-associated factor 6, and its interactions with key binding partners.

Research into the molecules behind glowworm bioluminescence has also been published recently. Professor Kurt Krause and Dr Miriam Sharpe, along with co-authors Professor Nigel Perry of the Department of Chemistry and former PhD student Dr Oliver Watkins, found themselves a little overwhelmed by the media interest in the glowworm work, which featured in TV1 news, Newshub, Jesse Mulligan on RNZ, and the comedy show 7 Days.

New equipment available for studying metabolism of cells

Thanks to the recent Major Equipment Funding Round, the Department of Biochemistry has recently acquired a Seahorse Extracellular Flux Analyzer. The Analyzer measures oxygen consumption rate and extracellular acidification rate of live cells in a multi-well plate, investigating key cellular functions such as mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis.

Anyone who is interested in using the equipment in their own research, please contact Dr Liz Ledgerwood:

New staff members

A warm welcome to the newest academic staff members in the Department of Biochemistry:

  • Dr Paul Gardner, who brings with him extensive bioinformatics expertise, especially in RNA biology and analysis of genome variation, and he also develops new tools for bioinformatics.
  • Dr Sarah Diermeier, whose cancer research interests include Mammary Tumor Associated RNAs, and 3D mammary organoids as an ex vivo model of mammary gland development.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Fineran lab receives two significant awards

Associate Professor Peter Fineran and his team have received two of the top distinctions in the annual School of Biomedical Sciences (BMS) end of year awards. Members of the lab group authored one of the joint winners of the 'Research Paper of the Year', while Associate Professor Fineran received the 'Distinguished Researcher of the Year' award.

Fineran lab members with their awards

The first-equal leading research paper, Quorum Sensing Controls Adaptive Immunity through the Regulation of Multiple CRISPR-Cas Systems, was published in the high-impact journal 'Molecular Cell' by Adrian Patterson, Simon Jackson, Corinda Taylor, Rita Przybilski, Raymond Staals and Peter Fineran, with contributions from Gary Evans (Victoria University of Wellington), and George Salmond (University of Cambridge).

Read more in our website:
Fineran lab receives two significant awards at BMS end-of-year awards function

PhDs recognised as exceptional

The 2017 academic year has been a successful one for Microbiology and Immunology PhD students, with not one but three completed works being added to the Division of Health Sciences' List of Exceptional PhD Theses, out of a total of nine from across the Division. Congratulations to Dr Morad Remy Muhsin, Dr Adrian Patterson and Dr Kiel Hards.

The list comprises only those doctoral candidates whose research is assessed by examiners as being of an exceptional standard in every respect—research content, originality, quality of expression and accuracy of presentation—and is among the top 10% of theses examined.

Read more in our website:
Three 2017 PhDs recognised as exceptional

Anti-viral mechanisms have unexpected abilities

A recent study from the Fineran Lab has shown that bacterial immune systems can increase the transduction of bacterial genetic material, such as the genes associated with antibiotic resistance. The findings have been published in the latest issue of mBio, a premier journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Prior research has demonstrated that CRISPR-Cas systems can block invasion by phages (viruses that infect bacteria). However, authors Bridget Watson (PhD student), Dr Raymond Staals (former Postdoctoral Fellow) and Associate Professor Peter Fineran (Principal Investigator) have discovered unexpectedly that CRISPR-Cas can actually enhance the spread of genetic material when it is transferred by phages.

Read more in our website:
Anti-viral mechanisms can both enhance and prevent gene transfer in bacteria

Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology

Staff achievements

Paul Smith
Professor Paul Smith.

Professor Paul Smith achieved Astat accreditation with the Statistical Society of Australia Inc. Accredited Statistician is the highest level of professional recognition and means that Professor Smith can officially hold the title of Professional Statistical Consultant.

Funding successes

Dr Sarah Baird was successful with her application to the Toxicology Strategic Fund for her project Bioreactor development for removal of drugs from wastewater ($7,729).

Dr Yiwen Zheng was successful with her Eisdell Moore funding application for her project A pilot study to identify metabolic network changes in tinnitus patients using metabolomics ($32,000).

Professor Paul Smith was successful with his Eisdell Moore funding application for his project Towards a national animal vestibular function testing platform: Development of a national vestibulo-ocular reflex testing facility for rodents ($33,508).

Professor Rhonda J Rosengren was successful with her BMS Strategic Research Fund (Category 1) application to support collaborations with the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa ($5,000).

Orleans Martey (PhD student) was successful with his application to the Elizabeth Jean Trotter Travel Scholarship for funding to attend the Society of Toxicology annual meeting to be held in San Antonio, Texas USA, from 11-15 March 2018 ($4,355).

Gowthami Vangala (PhD student) was successful with her application to the Elizabeth Jean Trotter Travel Scholarship for funding to attend the International Society for Stem Cell Research annual meeting that will be held in Melbourne Australia, from 20-23 June 2018 ($3,410).

Department of Physiology

Dahlia research in the press

Large pink dahlia flowerDr Alex Tups and his lab, in partnership with Plant and Food Research, will soon begin human drug trials of a drug made from dahlias for a potential diabetes prevention treatment.

Media interviews:
Dahlia drug may doom diabetes (ODT website)
Game-changing flower extract treatment to prevent diabetes (RadioNZ website)

Academic promotions

Congratulations the following staff who have been promoted to (effective 1st Feb):

  • Ruth Empson - Professor
  • Rebecca Campbell - Associate Professor
  • Daryl Schwenke - Associate Professor


We would also like to congratulate the following students who have completed their examinations:

  • Elliot Pilmore - MSc (supervisors Dr Kirk Hamilton and Assoc Prof Fiona McDonald)
  • Ranjan Roy - PhD (supervisors Assoc Prof Daryl Schwenke and Prof Colin Brown)

School of Pharmacy

White Coat Ceremony

2018 Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony
Over 200 students, family members, alumni, staff members and volunteers gathered at the Link on Saturday 24 February to celebrate and welcome our new 2018 cohort of students.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crampton, Dean of Pharmacy Professor Carlo Marra and Associate Dean Māori, Leanne Te Karu, welcomed over 130 P2 students and 10 P3 students to their first professional year of their Otago pharmacy degree.

Pharmacy students read principles with Diana Phone
Waimauku pharmacist and Otago Alumna, Diana Phone received our 2018 Honorary White Coat this year. Diana led the reading of the principles for The Pharmacy Council of New Zealand's Code of Ethics, emphasising the patient-oriented nature of the pharmacy profession.

Special guest pharmacists presented students with (and assisted them into), their new white coats (sponsored by the Pharmaceutical Society of NZ).
The presenting pharmacists were:

  • Angela Harwood, Otago Alumna and Clinical Pharmacist Facilitator, Wellsouth Primary Health Network
  • Ian McMichael, Managing Director, Pharmacy 547
  • Leanne Te Karu, Associate Dean Maori for the School and Council Member
  • Graeme Smith, President, Pharmaceutical Society of NZ
  • Diana Phone, Pharmacist, Waimauku Pharmacy

Each coat had a message to our students from Otago Pharmacy Alumni who shared words of wisdom, encouragement and congratulations for our Well Wishes Campaign. This campaign was new to the ceremony this year with over 40 of our alumni sending through messages with our online registration form. Students truly valued their notes, sharing them with each other following the presentation.

Pharmacy students at white coat ceremony 418px copyStudents enjoy proceedings at the White Coat Ceremony.

Thank you to our sponsor, The Pharmaceutical Society of NZ; our guest speakers, Harlene, Peter and Diana; Leanne for your mihi; coat presenters, Angela, Ian, Graeme, Diana and Leanne; all staff, postgraduate students and NZAPS-O representatives for volunteering; Jared, Tracey, Heather and the team from the University Union for making it all happen; the team at the Alumni office and Web Services for orchestrating our online Well Wishes Campaign; Ryan and the team at Uniprint for getting our alumni messages to us in record time; Victoria and her team at Fashion Uniforms for designing our new coats; Liane, Kim and the team at the Communications Office for your media coverage; Alan Dove for photographing our event and Cy and Roy at Impressions Audio Visual for our stage, TV screens and the last minute PA system. We could not have done it without you all!

Congratulations to our 2017-18 Summer Students

Congratulations Gigi Low, Diana Shaul, Ayoung Cho and Ryan Mostert on completing your 10-week Summer Studentship for 2017-18.


It is with regret that we have accepted the resignation of two of our professional staff:

  • Tim Campbell (IT) who has dedicated 8 years of his time to the School
  • Sarah Wilson (Postgraduate Administrator) has given the school 9 years of dedication and undertaken a number of valuable roles within the administration team
  • Bas Postma who was a visiting researcher working with Greg Walker


It is with great pleasure we welcome a number of new staff and students to the school:

  • Tegan McKegg has joined us in her role as PPF Instructional Designer
  • Esther See has joined us in her role as Scientific Officer for the Bayer Group
  • Our new Professional Practice Fellows Angela Wong, Sanja Mirkov and Louise Lord
  • PhD student, Abdullah Derbala who is working under the supervision of Dr Hesham Al-Sallami and Professor Stephen Duffull
  • Max Moliter, a visiting researcher from Germany who is working with Dr Andrea Vernall. He will be with us for 6 months.

Congratulations to our students

  • Congratulations to PhD candidate, Ms Lea Doughty for receiving an Australian Army History Unit Research Grant for AUD$5,400.00 for her project titled Military Medicines: Australian and New Zealand Military Pharmacy, 1914-1918
  • Congratulations to Dr Shyamal Das who has received a $25K Laurenson Grant this year. He will be working with Dr Jack Dummer and Dr Ben Brockway (Respiratory Research Unit of Dunedin School of Medicine) and Professor Philip Hill (Centre for International Health Research). This project is a part of our PhD student, Prakash Khadka's research to conduct a Dose finding study for Inhaled Rifampicin.
  • Congratulations to Basanth Babu Eedara whose abstract was shortlisted for the Pat Burnell New Investigator Award. He received an invitation for a 10-minute oral presentation during the Drug Delivery to the Lungs conference in Edinburgh. Basanth presented his research Cocrystal approach to reduce the aqueous solubility and dissolution rate for an improved residence time of an anti-tubercular drug in the lungs as both an oral and poster presentation, and was selected as a finalist for the Pat Burnell New Investigator award.
  • Congratulations to Momin Mohammad who has won the Best Presentation Award at the New Zealand-Australia Controlled Release Society (NZ-AUS-CRS) joint workshop 2017 at the University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Congratulations to Anna Cooper who recently completed her PhD. Anna was supervised by Dr Andrea Vernall, Associate Professor Joel Tyndall and Professor Sarah Hook.

Fellowship of the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand

Rhiannon Braund The National Executive of the Pharmacy Society of New Zealand resolved unanimously to designate Rhiannon Braund as a Fellow of the Society in recognition of her having made a significant contribution to the advancement of Pharmacy in New Zealand. A formal presentation of the Award of Fellowship will follow.

School of Physiotherapy

Invitation to Ageing Well's colloquium: Biological, psychological, and social dimensions

  • Wednesday 21 March, 10am–4pm (Reception 4pm-6pm)
  • Dunedin Public Art Gallery

This colloquium showcases the work of CARE researchers and their colleagues, and celebrates the contributions of Amanda Barusch on the occasion of her retirement.

Ageing Well colloquium draft programme (PDF 140 KB)

RSVP to Helen O'Sullivan:
Tel 479 7951

University of Otago, Christchurch

Staff appointments

Long-standing Christchurch staff have recently been appointed to key senior academic roles.

Professor Richard Gearry is the new Head of the Department of Medicine, replacing Professor Lutz Beckert, who has become the new Associate Dean (Medical Education). Professor Beckert replaces Professor Tim Wilkinson, who stepped down to focus on his role as director for the Otago Medical School's MBChB programme.

Associate Professor Margaret Currie is the new Associate Dean (Postgraduate Studies), replacing Professor Marie Crowe.

Dr Niki Newman takes over from Dr MaryLeigh Moore as director of the UOC Simulation Centre.

Associate Professor Jan McKenzie has been reinstated as Associate Dean (Students Affairs), and Professor Gary Hooper has been reinstated as Head of the Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine Department.

UOC website

The Christchurch homepage has been overhauled. It has a new image and layout designed to make information easier to find for potential postgraduate students.

Christchurch website home page

University of Otago, Wellington

New leadership role for Karen Coleman

Karen ColemanAfter 20 years of leading Radiation Therapy education in New Zealand, Karen Coleman, Head of Department of Radiation Therapy at UOW, is leaving to take on the role of Radiology Manager at Hutt Valley DHB. Karen is looking forward to still being part of the wider profession and is confident that she can continue to make a difference in this new leadership role. Karen says: "The recent Registration accreditation report was a highlight for the Dept of Radiation Therapy and I leave knowing we have great staff in the profession both clinically and academically. I will continue in my current role until Easter and will ensure the transition for everyone is as smooth as possible."

Dean and Head of Campus Professor Sunny Collings acknowledged Karen Coleman's leadership and contribution to UOW and the University: "Leading clinical departments comes with special challenges and I am grateful for Karen's outstanding commitment to her Department and the UOW."

New Associate Dean (Pacific) welcomed to the Wellington campus

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu has been appointed to the role of Associate Dean (Pacific) at the University's Wellington campus. Dr Sika-Paotonu is the first Tongan and Pacific biomedical scientist to be appointed to this role within the Division of Health Sciences at Otago. She will be leading the Pacific team at the Wellington campus to support Pacific students to ensure the successful completion of their selected study courses and programmes.

"I am committed to supporting the Wellington campus' ongoing commitment to strengthening pre-existing relationships with our Pacific communities locally and abroad, and also committed to establishing new partnerships locally and extending into the Region and beyond," she says.

Dr Sika-Paotonu is also the scientific lead for penicillin research work based in New Zealand that seeks to support global efforts to reformulate Benzathine Penicillin G for the management of Rheumatic Fever.
Read more in our website:
Award-winning Biomedical Scientist appointed to Associate Dean (Pacific) at University of Otago Wellington

Dianne Sika-Paotonu welcomed by colleagues
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, (front row, far right) with colleagues following a pōwhiri.

Third vaccine dose needed to protect young New Zealanders from mumps outbreak

Ayesha Verrall An infectious diseases physician and researcher Dr Ayesha Verrall from the Department of Pathology at UOW has said that urgent and proactive action is needed to protect young people from the current mumps outbreak in New Zealand. "This mumps outbreak, New Zealand's worst in decades, is the result of a perfect storm of low childhood vaccination in today's young adults, and waning vaccine protection over time in those who were vaccinated in childhood."

The outbreak started in Auckland early last year and was initially focused on five schools in the west of the city. Since then there have been more than 1000 cases with some spreading to other centres around the country. Dr Verrall says a third dose of the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is needed during this outbreak: "Young adults in high risk settings can benefit from a third dose, even if they completed their two doses as a child. The vaccine is about 90 per cent effective against mumps, but its protection reduces over time so young adults who received two doses might have lost their protection from the vaccine. Previously-vaccinated people need to know that they might also be susceptible," says Dr Verrall.

She is also calling for stronger efforts on the 'catchup campaign' which the Ministry of Health had announced as a school-based campaign in December 2017 for those who did not complete two doses in childhood. "As New Zealand students return to school and travel to tertiary institutions around the country, the Ministry of Health needs to urgently fund and offer a third dose to these people aged 10 to 29 even if they have received two doses already," she suggests. For more information read the full release and Dr Verrall's Sciblog on this issue:
Third vaccine dose needed to protect young New Zealanders from mumps outbreak

Considering public health issues: The 22nd Public Health Summer School

Hon Dr David Clark
Hon Dr David Clark.

Leading international and New Zealand health experts have been in Wellington to participate in the 22nd Public Health Summer School run by the University of Otago, Wellington in February. The Public Health Summer School was officially opened by the Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Clark on 7 February. It is one of the largest and longest running events of its kind internationally. More than 800 people attended one or more of the 30 courses.

To coincide with the public health symposia and courses, the School offered three free public evening lectures on important issues:

  • Why do we still need to know about the 1918 influenza pandemic? The influenza pandemic in 1918 is by far New Zealand's worst natural disaster with an estimated 9000 deaths. What made its impact so severe, especially for Māori, and what are the lessons for controlling future pandemics?
  • Dr Freddie Bray from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France spoke on Development and diversity: assessing the future burden of cancer worldwide.This talk examined the global patterns and trends of cancer worldwide and emphasised the need for local data and long-term investments in the prevention and early detection of the disease.
  • And on Monday, 26 February Professor Pat Dudgeon from the University of Western Australia spoke on Improving mental health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: Sharing the evidence of effective interventions. This talk focused on key success factors in Indigenous suicide prevention.

Public Health Summer School team
Some of the hard-working Summer School team from left: Kerry Hurley, Moira Smith, Fran Wright, Michael Baker and James Stanley.

Out of prison and back to smoking?

Sarah Twine
Sarah Twine, 5th year medical student.

Prisoners wanting to continue being smokefree on release from prison are finding a lack of support, University of Otago, Wellington, research has found. The pilot study by a team of medical students, supervised by Public Health Professor Richard Edwards was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. With support from the Salvation Army, the students surveyed recently released prisoners, and professionals who work with them, to better understand experiences about remaining smokefree once out of prison.

Richard Edwards
Professor Richard Edwards, Department of Public Health.

"In health terms, prisoners are a very vulnerable group, and with the introduction of Smokefree Prisons in 2011, there is a real opportunity to help people quit smoking long term, bringing health and financial benefits to them and their families. The findings of this study are in line with international research, which shows that relapse rates are very high when prisoners leave smokefree prisons," says Professor Edwards.

Full media release:
Out of prison and back to smoking?

Clinical trials are about to start on a potentially game-changing diabetes treatment

University of Otago researchers are ready to take a significant step in the development of a new natural product that could potentially prevent diabetes. The product is a natural extract derived from the dahlia plant. The preliminary clinical study is about to start at UOW on a potentially game-changing diabetes treatment, which shows promise for people with prediabetes.

Ready to start as soon as participants are found, the study is being conducted in the Endocrine, Diabetes and Research Centre at Wellington Hospital. Those taking part would need to attend on four occasions to have blood samples taken after taking a capsule of the dahlia extract followed by a glucose drink. Men keen to take part should contact the research centre, by email on or phone +64 4 806 2458. You can check whether you have prediabetes by completing the risk test on

Talking about diabetes - improving health, one sentence at a time

Primary care physicians can improve their communication to newly-diagnosed diabetes patients by offering more information specific to the patient's experience, new research from Otago, Auckland and Victoria universities shows. The study, just published in the international journal Annals of Family Medicine, highlights the importance of good and appropriate communication by healthcare professionals to patients.

Read more in our website:
Talking about diabetes - improving health, one sentence at a time

Rachel Tester, Tony Dowell, Maria Stubbe
Some of the research team, from left: Rachel Tester, Tony Dowell and Maria Stubbe, from the University of Otago, Wellington.

More research news

Drinking fountain with grass growing in it
A poorly maintained fountain with grass growing in the drainage sink.

New research has found that only 20 per cent of childrens' playgrounds in the lower North Island had drinking fountains.

Other news

He Kitenga research highlights

Health Sciences researchers feature in 16 stories in the latest edition of He Kitenga.

He Kitenga 2017 cover tn

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