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Tuesday 23 July 2019 12:58pm

PVC's welcome

Professor Paul Brunton image
Professor Paul Brunton.

Kia ora koutou katoa,

It's hard to believe we are more than halfway through the year in what must be, in my recent experience of New Zealand, the mildest winter I have ever encountered in the Southern Hemisphere – long may it continue.

The Division has had an interesting three months with some very positive projects coming to fruition. These include the opening of the new Clinical Services Building for the Faculty of Dentistry a few weeks ago coupled with the opening of the Physiotherapy Clinic (Christchurch) and Pharmacy Clinic, and a celebration of the new Virtual Professional Practice Laboratory in Pharmacy.

In tandem with this we have had unprecedented success in attracting external research funding and my congratulations to all those colleagues who were successful in the latest HRC round. The Division was most successful in the recent PBRF round and congratulations to all colleagues who contributed to the process. Inevitably there are winners and losers within the PBRF assessment exercise, however as a Division overall we have improved our position and so my congratulations to all. It's very impressive and an indication of the quality and esteem in which the research in our Division is held by external funding bodies.

As you know many of our programmes require accreditation by external bodies and it's pleasing to note that the maximum accreditation period has been awarded to our Medical and Physiotherapy Schools, which is outstanding. The amount of work that goes into an accreditation exercise such as this is significant and this represents a major achievement for our colleagues.

It's budget time and next year I think will be a financial challenge for the Division. One of the things I am personally very keen on is growing income wherever possible to alleviate the financial pressures we are working under. This in my view includes increasing student numbers wherever we can, and, as you know, it is an ambition of mine to increase international student numbers across the Division – as one way of further improving our financial situation.

Spring is on its way (hopefully)…

Professor Paul Brunton
Division of Health Sciences

General news

HRC Grants of almost $35 million to Division of Health Sciences researchers

Beta blockers, smoking cessation, stress suppression in motherhood and synthetic cannabinoid signalling are just a few of the areas of University of Otago Division of Health Sciences research to receive a total of almost $35 million in funding this year from the Health Research Council.

In all 26 grants have been made to the Division, with the total across the University hitting more than $40 million. That total includes $5 million to Professor Janet Hoek and her colleagues from the University of Otago, Wellington, for a five-year 'programme' aiming to close smoking disparities, particularly for Māori and Pacific people.
HRC Grants of almost $35 million to Division of Health Sciences researchers

New building opened at national centre for dentistry

One of the 'highest tech' dental facilities in the world was officially opened last month – the hospital-level patient-treatment building for New Zealand's only national centre for dentistry, at Otago.

Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton told the packed event that he believes it is possibly the largest building of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne highlighted how this is the single largest and most complex project the University has attempted in its 150 year history so involved a lot of risk but the University had gone ahead because of the faculty's incredible dedication to teaching, research and clinical practice.
New building opened at national centre for dentistry
Video: Our new dental school

Health Research Excellence Awards

Neurosurgeon Professor Dirk De Ridder has been awarded the prestigious Dean's Medal at the annual Health Research Excellence Awards, for his work on neuromodulation to treat brain conditions ranging from addiction to Parkinson's Disease.

Awarded for significant and long-standing achievement in research, the medal was one of more than 30 awards announced at a function acknowledging the unique partnership between the University of Otago's Dunedin School of Medicine and the Southern District Health Board, which attracted staff from both organisations.
Health Research Excellence Awards announced

Otago medical programme achieves maximum accreditation

The University of Otago Medical School has been granted maximum accreditation for its medical programme in the latest Australian Medical Council (AMC) accreditation process.

The AMC assesses and accredits providers of Australian and New Zealand programmes leading to the qualification permitting registration to practice medicine. For New Zealand programmes, the accreditation is undertaken in partnership with the Medical Council of New Zealand.

The accreditation process is designed to ensure that New Zealand's health workforce is sufficiently competent to provide safe and effective care. It also provides an opportunity for our medical programmes to be benchmarked against other programmes in Australia and NZ. As such, all programmes are also provided with commendations and suggestions on areas to improve.

Professor Tim Wilkinson, the director of the Otago medical degree programme, was delighted with the accreditation report: “We received accreditation for the maximum period, with very few conditions. We're also very proud of some specific commendations highlighting how well we are doing in Māori and Pacific health, providing a positive learning environment for students, and developing and supporting clinical teaching staff.”

The AMC accreditation process involves a rigorous self and peer review against standards developed by medical education specialists from both Australia and New Zealand. The final stage of the process is a site visit during which the accreditation panel members interview staff, students and external stakeholders.

Professor Barry Taylor, OMS Dean comments: “We were really pleased with our accreditation result. Preparing for this is an enormous exercise that makes us review what we do and how we do it. It helps us evolve to an even better programme. Many thanks especially to Tim Wilkinsonand (AMC project manager) Philip Tilson and the Associate Deans Medical Education for each school who put so much work into this!”

Otago AMC 2018 Report (PDF)

Otago's emerging researchers secure more than $1.7 million in HRC funding

An occupational therapist who aims to improve the quality of life for children with disabilities is one of several University of Otago early-stage researchers who have together been awarded more than NZ$1.7 million in Health Research Council funding.

The council announced that seven University of Otago researchers have secured NZ$1,714,369 in Emerging Research First Grants, a fund dedicated to people who are in the early stages of their research career.
Otago's emerging researchers secure more than $1.7 million in HRC funding


The Brain Health Research Centre

The BHRC had it's 13th annual conference supporting the Centre's theme of women's brain health. We had over 100 attendees from across the University of Otago attend the conference.

Dr Belinda Henry from Monash University opened the conference with her public talk Lighting the fire in fat: Why women are protected against metabolic disease where she presented evidence for how the brain controls body weight and estrogen's role in this process.

The main day of the conference had 13 emerging researchers at Otago presenting their research as well as two more senior keynote speakers, Dr Andrea Kwakowsky from the University of Auckland and Professor Liana Machado from the Department of Psychology at Otago. Bradley Jamieson, a PhD student from the Department of Physiology won the best speaker prize presented by Lab Supply.

In addition to these oral presentations, we had a record number of poster presentations from BHRC students and early career staff. Madeline McIntyre Wilson, Shivani Sethi, and Sandesh Panthi won poster prize awards from the BHRC for their exceptional presentation skills.

New Zealand Doctors' Orchestra Dunedin debut

The New Zealand Doctors' Orchestra played in Dunedin for the first time on 23 June, performing to an audience of nearly 300 at the Town Hall as part of the University's 150th celebration programme.

For the orchestra's eighth annual concert, the doctors and medical students were conducted by Associate Professor Peter Adams of the music department – again for the first time. Also making a debut was the Hippocratic Hymn, a composition by Professor Anthony Ritchie commissioned by the NZDO, which featured brass, percussion and the Town Hall's famous organ, played by Auckland cardiologist Jonathan Christenson.

Brahms's Academic Overture and Dvorák's New World Symphony offered more familiar repertoire, but the programme's centrepiece was Séjourné's Concerto for Marimba and Strings, featuring Auckland medical student Rachel Thomas on the marimba, a dazzling performance on a rarely heard instrument that had everyone talking.

The orchestra expressed its appreciation for the support of the University and the Health Sciences and Humanities divisions, which made it possible to play in a venue like the Town Hall. The concert's proceeds are always donated to the local hospice; their next performance will be in Nelson on 5 July 2020.

Doctor's Orchestra image
Photo credit: Angela Jane

Teddy Bear Hospital a hit

Teddy patient prepares for an X-ray image
Third-year student Michael Nichols gets ready to give one of his 'patients' an x-ray.

Medical and dental students ran a Teddy Bear Hospital in May with hundreds of young pre-school children bringing in their favourite cuddly toy for a check up.

Otago University Medical Students Association (OUSMA) Community Outreach Officer Olivia Brown says they had about 100 kids – plus teddies – coming through the clinic each day.

"Both the students and kids alike are loving the experience. It is awesome to see the kids laughing and engaging with the teddy doctors and dentists and coming out of their shell. We have definitely had positive feedback from teachers, parents, kids and students.

"Hospitals, dental surgeries and medical centres can cause anxiety for children. So the aim of Teddy Bear Hospital is to create a positive and fun experience for them, to remove some of the uncertainty and confusion children can experience when visiting the doctor or dentist."

For the children, taking their cuddly toy to see a teddy doctor or dentist helps them become more used to medical equipment and tests such as taking blood pressure, looking in teddy's eyes and ears, checking their teeth, and listening to their 'heartbeat'.

"This is also a great learning opportunity for medical and dental students to interact with young children, which is something not all students have experience with."

The daily clinic-style sessions during the week were rounded out by a busy Community Day, featuring a range of additional activities on the Saturday at the Hunter Centre.

It was the eighth year this free initiative has been run by the medical and dental students. About 200 medical students and up to 30 dentistry students were involved with upward of 400 children taking part.

Cycle Challenge to help Heart Foundation

12-2pm, 31 July 2019 – University of Otago Union Hall

Cycling at the end of July may not be everybody's cup of tea but when you are raising money for the Heart Foundation and doing it indoors, anyone can join in – and you don't even have to wear lycra!

Event organiser Karl Iremonger, from the Department of Physiology, says the event is open to staff, students and the general public. All you have to do is to get together a team of up to four people and cycle as fast as you can on a stationary bike for 10 minutes.

"The idea is to get sponsors and challenge other teams so we can push each other to raise as much money as we can for the Heart Foundation."
Cycle Challenge to help Heart Foundation

Otago Cycle Challenge poster image

Teachers course: Academy of Medical Educators (AoME)

Otago Medical School is pleased to offer a four day AoME-approved course on 11-14 November 2019 at the University of Otago, Christchurch. This modular course is designed to develop skills in medical and clinical education, and prepares participants to apply for AoME membership.

AoME is a UK-based multi-professional organisation for all those involved in clinical education; its standards provide a recognised framework for developing and demonstrating expertise and achievements in medical education. It helps members to foster collaborative peer relationships. The AoME-affiliated course can be undertaken as five modules over four days, or as individual modules.

From Evidence to Everyday: Translating nutrition research for a healthy Aotearoa

The Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR) invites you to a one-day symposium at the University of Otago, Wellington, on Friday 20 September: From Evidence to Everyday: Translating nutrition research for a healthy Aotearoa.

Keep this date free and join us for a fascinating lineup of topics exploring how nutrition research is interpreted by health professionals, the media, policymakers, the community, and ultimately makes its way into our everyday food choices. Registrations are now open. Check out the EDOR website for more details and to see our exciting line-up of speakers: Evidence to Everyday symposium

Sign up to get updates on this symposium.

For more information email:

This is a University of Otago 150th anniversary event, supported by the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.

Dunedin School of Medicine

Little drops for little eyes

A Cure Kids Grant is allowing University of Otago researchers to examine the possible advantages of using smaller amounts of eye drops for routine eye tests on premature babies.

The collaborative study will involve staff based out of the Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington School of Medicine, Women's and Children's departments, Deans Department, and the School of Pharmacy, Dunedin.

Retinopathy is a common eye condition amongst premature infants, and routine eye tests are carried out all over New Zealand to screen for it. Missing the early signs of retinopathy can mean the opportunity to deliver early treatment is also missed, risking leaving the infant with irreversible blindness.

The study is designed to answer important questions regarding the eye drops that are commonly used to dilate the pupil so the ophthalmologist can do the eye test.
Little drops for little eyes

Otago researchers invited to Gates Foundation conference on TB vaccine development

University of Otago researchers Professor Philip Hill and Associate Professor Jo Kirman attended the annual invitation-only Collaboration for TB Vaccine Discovery (CTBVD) meeting at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently in Seattle.

Smaller meetings were held on the first day for seven individual 'communities' which specialise in particular areas relating to TB vaccine development research.

Professor Hill (McAuley Chair in International Health and Co-Director of the Centre for International Health), is part of the Innate Immunity community, while Associate Professor Kirman (Microbiology and Immunology), is in the Aerosol and Mucosal Vaccines community.

"We're both looking at very different aspects of TB vaccine development. I'm very much at the basic immunology level where we investigate things like how do you deliver vaccines and which type of vaccine you can use. We do preclinical vaccine testing as well."

"Philip's work is really at the other end of the spectrum looking at populations of individuals that are exposed to TB and looking at an epidemiological level at factors that correlate with protection against disease."

Kirman says the second and third days of the conference brought together all seven communities, which each have about 10-15 members, plus people from other research groups and organisations for a wider conference on collaborative TB vaccine development research.

"It's a conference that's trying to get collaborative research going and also providing some direction for future research."

The researchers and institutions involved in the CTBVD are mainly from the United States and UK, along with South Africa, where there are some significant study sites. Otago has the distinction of being the only New Zealand institution involved.

Faculty of Dentistry

Dentistry faculty gives schools 150 mouthguards to celebrate University's 150th birthday

The Faculty of Dentistry marked the University's 150th anniversary by donating 150 custom-fitted mouthguards to schools and promoting their use among students when playing sport.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Divison of Health Sciences Professor Paul Brunton explains the Faculty of Dentistry considered the initiative a practical way to drive home the message about the use of mouthguards.

“Up to 39 per cent of sports injuries are dental-related yet many of our young people continue not to wear a mouthguard when they play sport and practice,” Professor Brunton says.
Dentistry faculty gives schools 150 mouthguards to celebrate University's 150th birthday

School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Professor Gerald Tannock honoured

Gerald Tannock and colleagues image
Past and present members of Gerald's lab.

A symposium Understanding the Human Microbiome was held on 30 and 31 May in honour of Professor Gerald Tannock, whose whole career, beginning as an undergraduate 55 years ago, has been at Otago – except for two years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the USA.

The event attracted former students and colleagues of Gerald from around New Zealand and the world to present their work and honour him.

A dinner was held at the Savoy, and diners were presented with little jars of pickled food – symbiotic super food perfect for your gut microbiota.

Other news

  • Professor Eric Arts from Western University will be visiting the Department as a Williams Evans Fellow later this year
  • The newly formed Otago Virology Group held their first meeting in May
  • Professor Peter Fineran gave his Inaugural Professorial Lecture on 14 May and delivered his Fleming Prize lecture in April, in Dublin.

Department of Physiology

Funding Success

Congratulations to the following:

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – Rebecca Campbell (Co PI with Kristy Walters) was awarded an NHMRC grant of $756,560 on a project called The pursuit to develop mechanism-based interventions for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Also, Jeff Erickson (AI with Professor Ritchie) was awarded an NHMRC grant of $1.158 million over 4 years on a project called Therapeutic targeting to protect the diabetic heart.

HRC – Congratulations to Dr Karl Iremonger who was awarded a three-year HRC project grant titled A neural circuit to suppress stress in motherhood.

Alex Tups image
Alex Tups.

Living Cell Technologies – Congratulations to Alex Tups who has recently been awarded $604,000 in research funding to work on a drug treatment for diabetes.

Postgraduate news

Kaj Kamstra won the three-minute talk section at the School of Biomedical Sciences Postgraduate Symposium

Bradley Jamieson won the best speaker award and Shivani Sethi won a prize for her poster presentation at the Annual Brain Health Research Centre conference in June.

Mohamed Ibrahim image.
Mohamed Ibrahim.

Mohamed Ibrahim, attended the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience on North Stradbroke Island in Australia. This is a prestigious three-week course where students learn electrophysiology and optical imaging techniques in Neuroscience. Dr Karl Iremonger was part of the teaching team for this course.

Prizes and Awards

Dr Karl Iremonger was awarded the BMS Emerging Researcher for 2018.

Publishing Excellence Award is awarded to Associate Professor Rajesh Katare for publications with a cumulative IF >10 for 2018.

Other news and events

Associate Professor Daryl Schwenke's article Activation of oxytocin neurons in the paraventricular nucleus drives cardiac sympathetic nerve activation following myocardial infarction in rats in Communications Biology, has been selected as one of the editor's picks for their one year anniversary collection.

Congratulations to Fran Short for 30 years of wonderful service to the Department of Physiology on the 23 May 2019.

School of Pharmacy

Help with multiple medications

Patients having to manage multiple medications are being offered help via a new outpatient clinic in Dunedin, believed to be the first of its kind in Australasia.

A joint venture between the University of Otago's School of Pharmacy and Southern District Health Board, it will offer expertise in complicated medical regimes that require more time than busy GPs or pharmacists can offer in routine consultations

The Southern DHB has committed to funding a full-time pharmacist to run the clinic for patients referred from Dunedin Hospital. Professional practice fellows, who are pharmacists employed by the School of Pharmacy, will also be invited to practice in the clinic. Patients will be offered an hour of their specialist time to work through their needs and provide the service they require. This will include medicines education to increase their adherence, minimise side effects and improve health outcomes. Patients may also be referred for review of their medicine regime such as reducing the number of medications they are on or simplifying their regime. Patients will not be charged for the service.

New pharmacy clinic aims to optimise pharmacotherapy and improve patients' health

Pharmacy Clinic reception area image
School of Pharmacy clinic reception area.

School of Physiotherapy

New physiotherapy clinic opened in Christchurch

A new School of Physiotherapy clinic was opened in Christchurch in March with a ceremony attended by staff, alumni and former Silver Ferns physiotherapist Sharon Kearney who had the honour of officially opening the new facilities.

The clinic is in the heart of the Health Precinct in a new building at 32 Oxford Terrace, which also houses the Canterbury DHB's corporate office.

The clinic is open to the public and offers a range of cost-effective physiotherapy services. Patients can choose to be treated by senior clinicians or supervised physiotherapy students in their final year of training.

World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress

A group made up of ten staff and students attended the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) Congress in Geneva in May 2019.

Dr Margot Skinner stepped down as the Vice-President of WCPT to much accolade and a standing ovation at the WCPT General Meeting.

Meanwhile, Dr Hilda Mulligan was acknowledged by the International Organisation of Physical Therapists in Paediatrics (IOPTP) with a Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding performance and exceptional commitment as Chair for Committee on Research 2015-2019.

Professor Leigh Hale was a member of the conference's scientific organising committee.

Congratulations to our staff and students

  • Dr Prasath Jayakaran attained an HRC Emerging researcher grant
  • Kessava Sampath graduated with his PhD
  • Senior PPF in Christchurch , Ally Calder, submitted her PhD.

Farewells and welcomes

  • Senior Clinician in our Dunedin clinic, Lesley Inglis retired after 30 years' service to the School
  • We thank Kaye Jefferies for her time as Senior Client Services Manager for Physiotherapy and Pharmacy and we welcome Libby Wight into this position.

Southland Campus

Southland Study Hub opens

A new $1.5 million study hub at Southland Hospital, in use since April this year, is scheduled to officially open in July, University of Otago Chief Operating Officer Stephen Willis says.

The 443 square metre Division of Health Sciences study hub has been developed in Invercargill by the University of Otago to support the many students and teaching staff at the hospital, enable more local research, and enhance relationships with the community, University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine Dean Professor Barry Taylor says.
The hub contains flexible spaces for:

  • Student study 24/7
  • Teaching / tutorials / seminars
  • Research / consultations with research participants
  • Modern video conference facilities
  • Administration
  • Toilets
  • A kitchenette
  • Storage

The hub is on the ground floor of the recently renamed Southland Learning and Research Centre – previously the Education Centre Building – on the hospital campus.
Having the Centre should encourage more collaboration between the various health disciplines, and the University and health board, in training and research.
Southland study hub

University of Otago, Christchurch

Christchurch senior lecturer made a Dame

Christchurch senior lecturer Sue Bagshaw has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her advocacy of youth health.

Dr Bagshaw has been a senior lecturer at the University's Christchurch campus for more than a decade. Outside her work teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students how to better meet the health needs of adolescents, Dr Bagshaw has fought for better health services for youth in Canterbury and beyond.

She is best known for establishing the 198 Youth Health Centre in Canterbury in 1995. Its model of offering young people free doctor's appointments, counselling and addiction and social support services under one roof has since been applied around New Zealand.

Christchurch senior lecturer is made a Dame

Secondary school students get a taste of health science

More than 200 Canterbury secondary school students got a taste of what a career in health science is all about recently at the University of Otago, Christchurch's D.A.R.E (Discover, Achieve, Research and Engage) Otago event.

Staff and students from the campus shared their career and study stories and demonstrated the full breadth of health science pathways. Many of the talks were given by some of the campus' more than 700-strong postgraduate student population.

Secondary students from almost 30 schools were also introduced to the many different areas of health research at the University of Otago, Christchurch, through interactive displays.

Science-keen secondary students visit Christchurch campus

Christchurch campus celebrates academic achievement and values

Christchurch held its annual celebration of academic success and recognition of key values at an event postponed from March to July because of the mosque attacks.

Awards were given to medical students for academic success last year, and to staff and student exemplars of the campuses stated values of integrity, leadership, collaboration, social accountability, and respect.

Ten senior staff members were awarded the campus's highest recognition – a Gold Medal. Professors Tim Anderson, Vicky Cameron, Richard Porter, Bridget Robinson, Catherine Stedman, Tim Wilkinson and Associate Professor John Pickering received a Gold Medal in Research. Professor Steve Chambers and Associate Professor David Jardine were awarded a Gold Medal in Teaching.

Christchurch facilities manager retires after 30 years

Christchurch Facilities Manager Murray Clarke was farewelled by staff and contractors recently at an event to celebrate his 30 years' service to the University.

Mr Clarke's dedication, sense of humour and fortitude following the Christchurch earthquakes were particularly noted during the farewell event with staff and contractors who worked with him over the years.

To show their respect, contractors - including builders, engineers and painters – together made and presented Mr Clarke with a sculpture called 'Thor Hammer'.

Christchurch facilities manager retires after 30 years' service

Research highlights

Legionnaires' disease burden far higher than thought

The first New Zealand-wide study of the burden of Legionnaires' disease has found triple the number of cases of this form of pneumonia than previously reported.

The study, led by University of Otago, Christchurch Professor David Murdoch, has just been published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. It gives the first accurate picture of the burden of the disease in New Zealand, but has international implications as few places routinely test for the potentially deadly – and preventable – bacteria.
Researchers find triple as many Legionnaires' cases as previously reported

Sexual orientation and mental health studied

Gay, lesbian and bisexual New Zealanders are on average more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts as heterosexuals, new research shows.

A new University of Otago, Christchurch study confirmed the belief that members of sexual minority groups generally experience more mental health problems, but is understood to be the first to show this difference persists across adulthood from age 18 to 35.
Study of sexual orientation and mental health

University of Otago, Christchurch hosts session on Muslim culture for mental health professionals

The University of Otago, Christchurch recently played host to more than 240 mental health professionals gathered to learn about the Muslim culture in order to better support patients following the March terror attacks.

The training session was a joint initiative of the University's Christchurch health campus, and psychological industry groups.

In addition to opening themselves up to new perspectives and knowledge, participants at the event donated more than $3000 to be given in the form of supermarket vouchers to those in need in the Canterbury Muslim community.
Session on Muslim culture for mental health professionals

Christchurch Building

In what is possibly a New Zealand first, the University's largest ever construction project – a new building for the Christchurch campus – is being led by a team of women.

The four-strong female team is headed by University-employed project director Tanya Syddall. Her role at the Christchurch campus will be to drive the project team to achieve successful delivery of the project.

Jo Wells-Folau is the University-employed organisational delivery project manager and will ensure the buildings meet the specific health research and education needs of the campus.

The female project team is completed by external project manager Amanda Batchelor from The Project Office, and project architect Hayley Fisher from Warren & Mahoney.

Project director Tanya Syddall says the project is currently in preliminary design phase which focuses on detailing how spaces within both the new and existing buildings will be used.
Read more on the Building project blog.

Techweek a big success

The University of Otago Christchurch teamed up with Canterbury Tech to host an official Techweek'19 event and bring more than a hundred local tech experts to the campus.

University of Otago, Christchurch marketing adviser Nina Lamb says Techweek is a two-week-long festival of innovation that sees over 560 events taking place across New Zealand to celebrate innovation that's good for the world.

"It was an excellent opportunity to invite members of the local tech community … and learn about ground breaking research and innovation in healthcare that is being driven out of Christchurch and mores specifically this campus.”

University of Otago, Wellington

Research news from Wellington campus

Sugary drink taxes reduce consumption, major review shows

A 10 per cent tax on sugary drinks has cut the purchase and consumption of sugary drinks by an average of 10 per cent in places it has been introduced, a just published major review shows.
Sugary drink taxes reduce consumption, major review shows

Hard hitters share weight management knowledge

A postgraduate distance education paper in Obesity Prevention and Management run by the University of Otago, Wellington has enlisted help from some hard hitters in a quest to improve the management of patients in the community.
Hard hitters share weight management knowledge

High quality websites and apps could help those in chronic pain to manage symptoms

Smartphone apps and pain management websites could fill a significant gap in helping to support the one in five New Zealanders living with chronic or persistent pain, a pain researcher from the University of Otago, Wellington says.
High quality websites and apps could help those in chronic pain to manage symptoms, researcher says

Butting Out: Researchers gauge public opinion on tobacco product waste

Requiring cigarettes to contain biodegradable filters, fining smokers who litter cigarette butts and expanding smoke free outdoor areas are measures the public considers are most likely to reduce tobacco product waste, new University of Otago research reveals.
Butting Out: Researchers gauge public opinion on tobacco product waste

Study points to need for care in inappropriate use of stigmatising terms in weight management

A large quantitative research study has found using the terms 'weight' or 'high BMI (body mass index)' to describe excess fatness was rated as less stigmatising and less blaming than commonly used medical terms, such as 'fat' or 'obese'.
Study points to need for care in inappropriate use of stigmatising terms in weight management

Award for ASPIRE2025 research team

Our ASPIRE2025 research team recently received the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand President's Award, which recognised the research theme's “exemplary efforts and achievements in the field of smoking cessation and tobacco control”.
ASPIRE 2025 Recognised for Tobacco Control Excellence

Research For Life awards $149,340 to medical researchers

Wellington-based medical researchers have received $149,340 in Research For Life's first funding round for 2019. Ten researchers received a total of $119,021.92 to undertake innovative medical research and 13 travel grants totalling $30,318.13 were approved to help local researchers meet the cost of presenting their research findings at international conferences.

Research For Life funds innovative quality research undertaken by researchers in the early stages of their careers who, through their work, will advance the quality of healthcare in the Wellington region and beyond.

Research grants

The successful University of Otago applicants for research grants were:
Dr Brendan Desmond, a Masters student at the University of Otago, Wellington received $13, 834 to undertake research into 'liquid biopsies', or blood tests which may aid in the earlier detection of bowel cancer.

Terry O'Donnell, a PhD candidate at the University of Otago, Wellington, received $4,280 to advance research into the link between cold housing and obesity. Mr O'Donnell's PhD research will investigate the effect temperature has on factors which cause obesity. In particular, it will assess whether exposure to cold temperatures may be stimulating poor eating habits.

Travel grants

Travel grants were awarded to the following Otago researchers:

Denise Steers, a PhD student at the Paediatric Department, Wellington Hospital / Suicide and Mental Health Research Unit at the University of Otago, Wellington, received a $4,200 travel grant to present her findings to the second international conference on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Intersex at Lincoln University, United Kingdom this year. Steers' research interest lies in the bioethics surrounding the health care provided for children born with a variation in sex characteristics.

Jude Ball, a PhD candidate at the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago Wellington, received a $2,750 travel grant to present her research findings in Poland this year at a thematic meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society for Social Epidemiological Research on Alcohol. Jude's doctorate aims to describe and explain concurrent declines in adolescent drinking, smoking, drug use and sexual activity that have occurred in New Zealand since 2000.

Heidi Verhagen, a Masters student with the Rehabilitation, Teaching and Research Unit, University of Otago Wellington received an $881 travel grant to present her research at the Australian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment and the New Zealand Rehabilitation Association Inaugural Trans-Tasman Conference in May 2019. Heidi, in her practice as a massage therapist, developed a manual therapy treatment that aims to improve pain and function by assisting the expression of non-intentional movements which are responses to hand pressure.

Research For Life (Wellington Medical Research Foundation) is dedicated to supporting and encouraging young, talented people to engage in medical and biomedical research.
The Foundation considers appropriate applications from all individuals and research groups in the Wellington region.

Cross cultural celebration for IPL

Professor Jeremy Krebs IPL image
Professor Jeremy Krebs delivers his IPL.

Bagpipes and a karanga heralded Professor Jeremy Krebs' Inaugural Professorial Lecture held at the University of Otago, Wellington in June.

Professor Krebs, who is an endocrinologist with a particular interest in diabetes and obesity, spoke on the topic, From haggis to hāngi: Are we what we eat?

Professor Krebs completed his doctorate at Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge, UK and his research interests mainly concentrate on the nutritional approaches to addressing obesity and the close link with type 2 diabetes.

The celebratory event was attended by Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne and Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton from Dunedin, the Dean of the University of Otago, Wellington, Professor Sunny Collings, as well as staff, students and friends of the Wellington campus, and members of Professor Krebs's whānau.
View Professor Krebs' IPL

UOW Vigil held at CCDHB with UOW leadership, staff and students

From all UOW staff and students to all those affected by the Christchurch tragedy, our thoughts and prayers remain with everyone. Messages of support from UOW Staff and Students for those families directly affected by the shootings were recorded in condolence books delivered by UOW to each of the Christchurch Mosques, and with flowers delivered to the Mosque here in Wellington after a visit from UOW on Tuesday 19 March. A staff / student vigil was organised by the UOW leadership and was held at the Hospital on Tuesday 19 March in memory of those whose lives were lost. A number of other activities and programmes have also been organised and we will continue to support and do what we can from here.

UOW condolence books for Christchurch image

University of Otago Wellington Pacific Welcome

A pacific welcome was held at UOW on 7 March 2019 to welcome all our Pacific students to UOW this year. Pacific staff and student numbers at UOW have increased from 2018 and there are now 41 Pacific students at UOW in total representing various Pacific nations. This was the first UOW Pacific staff and student gathering for the year, organised specifically for our Pacific students and staff to come together, meet and interact in an informal setting. As many of our Pacific students are new to UOW, this was an opportunity for them to meet other Pacific staff and students and also help raise awareness of the support groups and key individuals on campus. This also provided an opportunity to reconnect with returning Pacific students.

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UOW Summer Studentship Programme Scholars in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine

The Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine hosted 19 students in the summer studentship programme this year, with the summer scholars taking on projects in cancer, medical education and penicillin research. Students in the cancer team worked on projects related to the pathology and genetics of certain tumours, and the development of ctDNA technology for early cancer diagnostics.

Their work was supervised by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Dr Michelle Thunders. In the medical education team, students worked on the design of a genetics component to the MB ChB curriculum and sought to understand more about wellness and arthritis.

This group was supervised by Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Dr Michelle Thunders and Associate Professor Rebecca Grainger. Students doing research on penicillin focused on the reformulation of benzathine Penicillin G (BPG), with the aim of developing a longer-lasting and less painful medicine for children and young people to prevent acute rheumatic fever and subsequent rheumatic heart disease. Their work in this area was led by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu. One of the highlights of this year's programme was the record number of Māori and Pacific participants involved.

Students Bridie Laing and Toni Anitelea from the penicillin team and Adam Fa'atoese from the cancer group received Pacific Research Summer Student Health Research Council scholarships. EstherPinfold, from the penicillin team, who was co-supervised by Dr Sara Filoche, received a Māori Research Summer Student Career Development Award Scholarship from the Health Research Council. Jessica Yuhoi also from the penicillin team was supervised by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Dr Ayesha Verrall. Overall, this year's Summer Studentship Programme saw 57 student participants and more than 70 supervisors work on a ten-week research project.

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The penicillin research team at UOW.

Pacific Health Dialogue Editorial by Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma from UOW

In an editorial in Pacific Health Dialog (subscriber access only), the Head of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women's Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma, discusses our collective response to racism and intolerance. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Pacific Health Dialog, and the Pacific Journal of Reproductive Health.

Pacific student takes Summer prize

Fifth-year Pacific medical student Bridie Laing was judged overall winner of this year's summer studentship oral presentation competition. Bridie investigated the reformulation preferences of children and young people who are receiving regular Benzathine Penicillin G injections for rheumatic fever prevention. Her work was conducted under the supervision of Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu. Bridie is the first Pacific winner of this prize. She was awarded a Health Research Council Pacific Summer Student Scholarship to help her undertake the work. The oral presentation prize was financially supported by the Dean's Department and the Division of Health Sciences. Dr Clint Gray and Associate Professor Rob Siebers undertook the difficult task of assessing the final written reports. The top four were from students Matthew Shum, Andrew Leighs, Joy Hu and Bridie Laing.

UOW Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Women's Health, Wellington Research Symposium

This Research Symposium was held on the 5 April 2019 and was convened by Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma. Hosted by the UOW Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Women's Health, Wellington Research Seminar Stock-take, Prioritise and Collaborate – Women's Health Research Wellington.

Upcoming UOW events

Official opening of the Pacific Office at the Wellington campus, a milestone event coinciding with the University's 150th Anniversary Celebration year

Date: 31 July 2019: 6 - 7.30pm
Venue: Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, Wellington campus, University of Otago.

The Dean and Head of Campus, University of Otago Wellington (UOW) Professor Sunny Collings together with the UOW Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, invite you to attend 'The UOW Pacific Office Opening'. The Pacific office opening in Wellington will be a milestone event for the University of Otago, and coincides with the University's 150th Anniversary Celebration year. We will also be joined by special guests for the evening. Acknowledgement of our new Pacific staff at UOW will also take place for Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma in his new position as Head of Department for Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UOW; Dr Ruth Toumu'a in her new position as Teaching Fellow for the Higher Education Development Centre at UOW; Ms Sepola Faavae in her new position as Pacific Programme Facilitator / Community Liaison Advisor at UOW.

Invitation to the official opening of the UOW Pacific Office (PDF)

Please be seated by 5:50 pm. Refreshments provided. Please join us as we celebrate together.

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Professor Alister Neill, Director of WellSleep Research Group, Department of Medicine

Date: 7 August 2019: 5.30pm
Venue: Nordmeyer Lecture Theatre, Wellington campus, University of Otago.

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