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Emeritus Professor Don Wilson image

Emeritus Professor Don Wilson

A pioneering researcher on the ‘hidden burden of women’s health’ is among Otago alumni and staff who received New Year Honours for 2024.

Emeritus Professor Don Wilson has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), recognising his 40-year career in obstetrics and gynaecology, particularly urogynaecology.

He joins 15 other staff and alumni recognised this year including current Otago staff member Associate Professor Tristram Ingham who was also named as an ONZM for services to the disability community. During the COVID-19 pandemic he invented the concept of the ‘Covid bubble’ isolation strategy, which was used nationally and internationally to save lives.

Emeritus Professor Wilson says he is “extremely honoured” to receive the award.

“It really has been a huge privilege caring for our wāhine during their pregnancies and deliveries over four decades, as well as researching and treating those women with pelvic floor disorders such as urinary and faecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and sexual dysfunction.

“The majority of those women still don’t discuss these issues nor seek treatment for them. Receiving this Honour recognises the plight of these women raising it to the public consciousness.”

Emeritus Professor Wilson studied medicine in his hometown of Glasgow before working as a junior doctor in Zimbabwe in the 1970s, where he developed an interest in urogynaecology after seeing the numbers of women suffering from obstetric fistulas.

He moved to Dunedin in 1980 where he began as a joint Consultant at Dunedin Hospital with the University of Otago. He then served as Head of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department in Dunedin between 1992 and 2001 and as Head of Women’s and Children’s Health between 1999 and 2003.

After receiving a Medical Research Council grant in the late 1980s, he studied physiotherapy treatment of urinary incontinence in Dunedin women, which led to his collaboration in an ongoing longitudinal study of pelvic floor disorders and childbirth and attracted funding of total more than $2 million to New Zealand, across 30 years.

Pelvic floor disorders have been described as the ‘hidden burden of women’s health’, as they have a significant effect on the quality of life for many women, he says.

“They reach epidemic proportions in later life, with 46 per cent of women having at least one major type of pelvic floor disorder.”

He is “naturally delighted but also a little surprised” to receive an honour.

“There are so many New Zealanders who are committed and dedicated to improving our society in many walks of life.

“I am also extremely grateful to the many people who have supported me over the years with my work on women’s pelvic floor health both in New Zealand and overseas.”

Emeritus Professor Wilson has published 130 peer reviewed journal articles, eight book chapters and has authored and co-authored 13 major systematic reviews.

He was a founding editor of the Cochrane Urinary and Faecal Incontinence Review Group between 1995 and 2013, providing reviews and up-to-date evidence-based management of urinary and faecal incontinence.

He became an Emeritus Professor in 2012 and retired from clinical practice in 2021, although he remains active in women’s health research.

Alumni and staff New Year Honours recipients with links to their citations

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM)

Professor Brian Joseph Anderson, of Auckland. For services to paediatrics and anaesthesia. MB ChB 1980.

Professor Graeme Mervyn Bydder, of Altrincham, United Kingdom. For services to medical imaging. MB ChB 1969.

Mr James Ross Wilson, of Wellington. For services to the trade union movement and workplace safety. LLB 1969; BA 1971.

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)

Associate Professor James Gregory Anson, of Auckland. For services to exercise sciences and neuroscience. DipPhEd 1974.

Mr Richard Waldron Bunton, of Dunedin. For services as a cardiac surgeon. MB ChB 1976.

Ms Rosemary Alice Henderson, of Christchurch. For services to social work and health. Dunedin College of Education 1975; DipMaor 1998; DipSCWk 1998; PGDipSW 2004.

Associate Professor Tristram Richard Ingham, of Wellington. For services to the disability community. MB ChB 1997 [Otago staff].

Mrs Norah Elizabeth Matthews, of Auckland. For services to curling. DipPhEd 1969.

Dr Hana Merenea O'Regan, of Christchurch. For services to education. DipArts 1996; MA 1998.

Emeritus Professor Peter Donald Wilson, of Motueka. For services to obstetrics and gynaecology. [Otago staff].

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)

Mr Tevita Filisonu'u Funaki, of Auckland. For services to Pacific health. BCom 2000.

Mr Richard Geoffrey Keddell, of Tauranga. For services to orthopaedics. MB ChB 1982.

Ms Philippa Agnes Laufiso, of Dunedin. For services to arts and the community. DipTchg (Primary) 1987. Former College of Education staff member; BA 2019.

Lemalu Silao Vaisola Sefo, of Auckland. For services to Pacific health. BCom 2004.

Queen's Service Medal (QSM)

Mr Allan John Kerr, of Fairlie. For services to music. Dunedin College of Education 1962.

Dr Michael John Hugh Miller, of Whangamatā. For services to rural health. PGDipHealInf 2000; PGDipMSM 2004; PGCertCPU 2011.

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