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HRC supports Otago’s up-and-coming Māori and Pacific health researchers


Tuesday 26 November 2013 3:25pm


Two University of Otago researchers have gained top Māori and Pacific health research awards from the Health Research Council (HRC) to pursue studies into testicular cancer and heart disease, respectively.

A $358,982 HRC Eru Pomare Postdoctoral Fellowship was awarded to Dr Jason Gurney (Ngāpuhi) of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington. Dr Gurney will use his funding to research why Māori men have significantly higher rates of testicular cancer than non-Māori men.

Dr Allamanda Faatoese (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch) gained a Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship, valued at $243,003, to explore if new biological markers can identify Māori and Pacific peoples at risk of heart disease.

The fellowships form part of the HRC’s 2014 Career Development Awards programme, which also saw two clinical training research fellowships awarded at the University of Otago, Wellington. A Māori Health Research Masters Scholarship, two Māori Health Research Summer Studentships and two Pacific Health Research Summer Studentships went to Otago students at the Dunedin campus as well.

In 2012 and 2013, Dr Gurney led a research team that discovered ethnic inequalities in the rates of undescended testes, one of the well-known risk factors for testicular cancer – the most common cancer to affect young men between 15 and 40 years of age. His fellowship will build on this work to better understand what’s driving the higher rates of both undescended testes and testicular cancer in Māori men. It will include the first pilot case-control study on testicular cancer in New Zealand.

Rates of heart disease remain consistently higher for Māori and Pacific peoples than New Zealand Europeans. However, Dr Faatoese recently discovered that new lipid biomarkers, which have been shown to be associated with a high risk of heart disease across various ethnic groups, were actually significantly lower in a Māori study group than in the general New Zealand population. Preliminary evidence suggests this may also be true for Pacific peoples.

“Emerging lipid biomarkers, such as lipoprotein(a) have been proposed as markers to identify individuals at high risk of heart disease, but it’s important to establish whether this would be misleading in individuals of Polynesian descent,” says Dr Faatoese.

Recipients of HRC 2014 Career Development Awards at Otago:

Eru Pomare Postdoctoral Fellowship

Dr Jason Gurney, (Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Testicular cancer in Māori men: what is driving the disparity?
36 months, $358,982
(04) 918 6182

Pacific Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship

Dr Allamanda Faatoese, (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Lipoprotein biomarkers and cardiovascular risk in Māori and Pacific communities
30 months, $243,003
64 3 364 1209

Clinical Research Training Fellowships

Dr Richard Carroll, University of Otago, Wellington
Mechanisms of obesity and type 2 diabetes; insights from bariatric surgery
1 year, $83,333
64 4 38 5599 ext 82140

Dr Paula King, University of Otago, Wellington
Transforming research into child health equity: a 21st century approach
4 years, $250,000
64 4 816 3947

Māori Health Research Masters Scholarship

Miss Paris Pidduck, University of Otago, Dunedin
What do tamariki have to say about hauora? A qualitative study using photography
34 months, $19,300

Māori Health Research Summer Studentships

Ms Leanda Harris, University of Otago, Dunedin
Identifying barriers and enablers to physical activity among Māori tertiary students
4 months, $5,000

Mr Brendon McIntosh, University of Otago, Dunedin
Impact of increased prescription charges on Māori
4 months, $5,000

Pacific Health Research Summer Studentships

Manatu Fia, University of Otago, Dunedin
The effects of parent-child interactions and early mental state language on children
4 months, $5,000

Puipui Su’a, University of Otago, Dunedin
Breaking the walls: What is preventing Pacific Peoples from accessing health care
4 months, $5,000

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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