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Building the pipeline of New Zealand’s future clinician-scientists

Tuesday 13 July 2021 3:03pm

Research students image
Back row (from left): Andrew Xiao, Andrew Fordyce, Wilson Mitchell, Adam Nisbet, Jessica Berry. Front row (from left): Raquel Parackel, Janelle Divinagracia, Kyra Bingham. Inset: Ethan Marshall . Absent: Denzel Chung, Nathaniel Hutchinson-Wong, Mana Mitchell, Lachlan Lee, Jia-Wen Annabelle Sik.

The foundation for future medical advances is being built at the Otago Medical School with students electing to focus on research during their medical training.

A group of 14 students in the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) programme have chosen to take a year away from study in 2021 to add a research component to their education.

Otago Medical School Dean Professor Rathan Subramaniam said a key strategic aim of the medical school was to increase Aotearoa New Zealand’s future capacity of ‘clinician-scientists’, who will be leaders of scientific and clinical frontiers in the future.

“Our goal is to build the clinician-scientist capacity of New Zealand. These are doctors who are not only doing important clinical work but undertaking research that advances the field of medicine.

“The projects the students have chosen include cardiovascular medicine, cancer, mental health and nutrition. They are all very high-quality projects which compare favourably with the best student research I have seen internationally.”

The Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours (BMedSc(Hons) programme involves a full-time year of research, culminating in a thesis, in a field of medical science.

Domestic students admitted to the course have the year’s fees paid – approximately $10,000 each – and are awarded scholarships to assist with their living costs.

A number of BMedSc(Hons) students continued on to PhD research, while a high proportion went on to become clinician-scientists, Professor Subramaniam, said.

The medical school was nurturing a supportive research environment by providing Dean’s Research Scholarships and the Summer Studentship programme to incentivise students, ProfessorSubramaniam said.

The ultimate aim was to have 10 per cent of medical students undertaking a BMedSc(Hons) and 5 per cent in the intercalated MB ChB / PhD programme.

About the Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours (BMedSc(Hons))

The BMedSc(Hons) degree is available to students who have satisfactorily completed three or more years of study towards a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) degree. Most students enrol for the BMedSc(Hons) degree after their third year, but a few do so after their fifth year, prior to their trainee internship.

2020 Bachelor of Medicine with Honours (BMedSc(Hons) Awards

Brian Hardy Memorial Scholarship – Value $8,000

Established in 2016 in memory to the late Professor Brian Hardy who graduated from the Otago Medical School in 1964. The purpose of the scholarship is to assist students in the BMedSc(Hons) programme studying in a Paediatric discipline at the Otago Medical School.

Jessica Berry

Project title: To measure and evaluate the levels of specific novel inflammatory markers in children with coeliac
Supervisors: Professor Andrew Day, Paediatrics; Associate Professor Jacqui Keenan, Surgery.

Otago Medical School Scholarship – Value $5,000

The Otago Medical School Scholarships are available to assist students enrolled for the degree of Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons). Selection for the Scholarship shall take into account the applicant’s academic performance and research experience.

Kyra Bingham

Project title: Effects of acute metabolic stress and the role of human epicardial adipose tissue in the spontaneous contraction susceptibility of human trabeculae
Supervisors: Associate Professor Regis Lamberts, Dr Jeff Erikson, Physiology.

Denzel Chung

Project title: What are ethnic Chinese experiences of mental health services in New Zealand?
Supervisors: Dr Katherine Hall, General Practice and Rural Health; ProfessorJing-Bao Nie, Bioethics; Associate Professor Chrys Jaye, General Practice and Rural Health

Andrew Fordyce

Project title: Comparison of methods to detect patent foramen ovale
Supervisors: Dr Luke Wilson, Professor Gillian Whalley, Dr Sean Coffey, Medicine.

Nathaniel Hutchinson-Wong

Project title: Separating suffering from self-identity in patients with Major Depressive Disorder: a pilot study
Supervisors: ProfessorDirk De Ridder, Surgical Sciences; Dr Divya Adhia, Surgery; Professor Paul Glue, Psychological Medicine

Mana Mitchell

Project title: Analysing patterns of stress dysfunction relevant to Hauora Māori
Supervisors: Professor Christine Jasoni, Anatomy; Professor Peter Crampton, Ms Esther Willing, Hauora Maori.

Raquel Parackel

Project title: Characterising a novel mouse model of Nitric Oxide Based Cardiac Dysfunction
Supervisors: Dr Jeff Erikson, Physiology; Associate Professor Regis Lamberts, Biomedical Sciences.

Andrew Xiao

Project title: Using computational fluid dynamics to estimate haemodynamic stresses on the aortic valve in patients with aortic stenosis
Supervisor: Dr Sean Coffey, Medicine; Associate Professor Sarah Wakes, Mathematics and Statistics.

Phyllis Paykel Memorial Scholarship – Value $8,500

Established in 2016 by the Trustees of the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust. The award is to assist students enrolled for the degree of Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons).

Janelle Divinagracia

Project title: Lung function and cardiovascular disease risk factors at age 45 in the Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study
Supervisors: Professor Bob Hancox, Preventive and Social Medicine; Dr Jack Dummer, Medicine.

Lachlan Lee

Project title: Developing photograph-based AI-assisted food records for measuring dietary intake in obesity and diabetes
Supervisors: Associate Professor Jeremy Krebs, Medicine; Dr Richard Green, Computer Science, University of Canterbury.

University of Otago, Christchurch McGee Fellowship – Value $12,000

This Fellowship was established in 2000 from monies left to the University of Otago, Christchurch, by the late Mrs Vera Mavis McGee (nee Bedford). The Fellowship is available for a medical student to undertake supervised research into neurological, respiratory or muscular wasting disorders at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

Ethan Marshall

Project title: Artificial intelligence (AI) motion capture for evaluation and diagnosis in Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Supervisor: Professor Tim Anderson, Medicine; Dr Michael MacAskill, Medicine, University of Canterbury.

Tassell Scholarship – Value $8,000

Established under the terms of the late Lindsay Beatrice Hesketh Tassell Bequest to assist students enrolled for the degree of BMedSc(Hons) undertaking cancer research.

Wilson Mitchell

Project title: Novel synergistic drug combinations for the treatment of sporadic diffuse gastric cancer
Supervisor: ProfessorParry Guilford, Biochemistry; Dr Nicola Bougen-Zhukov, Biomedical Sciences


James Renfrew White Scholarship – Value $5,000

Established in 2017 in the memory of the late Mr James Renfrew White, a graduate of the Otago Medical School who was the Director of Orthopaedic Surgery for the Otago Hospital Board and Lecturer in Orthopaedic Surgery from 1920 to 1948. For research in a surgical discipline, with preference given to an Orthopaedic Surgery topic.

Adam Nisbet

Project title: The ulnar artery as a conduit for coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A morphological and observational cohort study
Supervisors: Associate Professor Stephanie Woodley, Anatomy; Dr Sarah Lesche, Biomedical Sciences.

A F J Mickle Scholarship – Value $600

The A F J Mickle Scholarship was established in 1935 by Mrs Mickle of Christchurch in memory of her husband; Dr A F J Mickle for research in Anatomy, Physiology, or Biochemistry fields.

Adam Nisbet

Project title: The ulnar artery as a conduit for coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A morphological and observational cohort study
Supervisors: Associate Professor Stephanie Woodley, Anatomy; Dr Sarah Lesche, Biomedical Sciences.


LF Hall Scholarship – Value $5,000

Established in 2011 under the terms of the estate of the late Lorraine Francis Hall for the education of future medical professionals in the Neurological disciplines.

Jia-Wen Annabelle Sik

Project title: Biomarkers and their relationship to acute brain injuries in the emergency department
Supervisors: Professor Peter Larsen, Surgery; Dr David McQuade, Surgery.