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Staff and students help in fight against COVID-19

Monday 6 September 2021 10:03am

COVID response image
Otago staff are involved in the fight against COVID-19.

The University of Otago’s staff and students continue to serve on the front lines of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response.

Staff and students have been involved in advising the Government, genome sequencing, processing test results, COVID testing and vaccination clinics.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says Otago experts have been following the emergence and evolution of the threat posed by COVID-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic.

“Expertise and advice has been provided to the Government or directly to the public at every point where this has been needed.

“These experts, many of whom have also become trusted friends and advisors to the Aotearoa team of five million through television and the wider media, are supported by teams of colleagues, students and professional staff from across the University. We need to acknowledge the huge effort of the many dozens of these unnamed colleagues, support staff and students.”

Among the staff working on the response, Professor Blaikie also acknowledges that there is a number of volunteers among the University’s final-year medical students and PhD students who, together with clinical staff, are coming forward to help work in diagnostic testing labs in Dunedin and Christchurch as well as in COVID testing and vaccination clinics.

Below is a list of University staff known to be involved at a high level in the Government’s COVID-19 response. However, the list is by no means exhaustive and there are likely to be staff involved who we have not mentioned below. The list will also grow larger as the response intensifies.

University of Otago staff working on COVID-19 response

Professor Patricia Priest (Preventive & Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)
• Seconded as a lead epidemiologist to the Ministry of Health
• Member, COVID-19 Testing Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Dr Jemma Geoghegan (Microbiology & Immunology, School of Biomedical Sciences)
• Highly involved in genomic testing, seconded part-time to ESR

Dr Pippa Scott (Pathology & Biomedical Science, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Seconded to Ministry of Health as an epidemiologist
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Associate Professor James Ussher (Microbiology & Immunology, School of Biomedical Sciences)
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health
• Lead in Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand Ohu Kaupare Huaketo

Professor David Murdoch (University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Deputy Chair, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health
• Chair, COVID-19 Testing Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health
• Member, Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group
• Member, COVID-19 Expert Advisory Network, Ministry of Health
• Chair, COVID-19 Vaccine – VAANZ Research Oversight Committee

Professor David Skegg (Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)
• Chair, Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group

Dr Ella Iosua (Biostatistics Centre)
• Member, Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group

Professor Philip Hill (Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)
• Member, Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group
• Member, COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group

Dr Nigel Raymond (Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Chair, COVID-19 Testing Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Dr Michael Maze (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Member, COVID-19 Therapeutics Technical Advisory Group

Professor Peter McIntyre (Paediatrics, Dunedin School of Medicine)
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine – VAANZ Research Oversight Committee

Dr Tony Walls (Paediatrics, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Professor Sue Crengle (Preventive & Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Professor Stephen Chambers (Pathology & Biomedical Science, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Member, COVID-19 Expert Advisory Network, Ministry of Health

Dr Anja Werno (Pathology & Biomedical Science, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Member, COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health
• COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, Medsafe and Ministry of Health

Associate Professor Matt Doogue (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, Medsafe and Ministry of Health

Professor Lisa Stamp (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, Medsafe and Ministry of Health


Professor Michael Baker (Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Member, Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Dr Tim Chambers (Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Led trials of the CovidCard, a Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing device, for the Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Health and Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation

Dr Tristram Ingham (Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Invented New Zealand’s ‘bubble’ concept while advising the Ministry of Health about COVID-19 for the disabled community
• Member, COVID-19 Disability Sector Leadership Group
• Member, COVID-19 Immunisation Implementation Advisory Group, Ministry of Health

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig (Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Member of Public Health Response Strategy Team (PHeRST), Ministry of Health, 2020
• Providing direct advice to Government on a range of issues including Alert Level design, mask use, surveillance, children and Covid-19, NZ’s elimination strategy

Dr Maria Stubbe and Dr Tony Dowell (Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington)
• Co-leading (together with Gayl Humprey University of Auckland) the evaluation of the IMAC COVID19 Immunisation Education Programme.
(The Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) has been contracted by the Ministry of Health to provide the training and workforce support for vaccinators and immunisation support workers involved in the current COVID-19 vaccination rollout).

Associate Professor Michael Tatley (New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre, Division Health Sciences)
• Director: Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM) – COVID-19 Vaccine Adverse Event Monitoring
• CARM – COVID-19 Vaccine Adverse Event Monitoring - Cook Islands, Tokelau, Niue on behalf of Ministry of Health support to Realm Countries
• Member, COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board, Medsafe and Ministry of Health

Professor Suzanne Pitama, Dr Cameron Lacey and others in MIHI (Māori/Indigenous Health Institute, University of Otago, Christchurch)
• Lead organisation for vaccine rollout and delivery for Māori communities in Ōtautahi Christchurch