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Members of Microbiology: Meet Callum August

Thursday 9 June 2022 10:41am

Callum August image
Callum August hopes his research will help reduce the burden of tuberculosis within the Māori community.

PhD candidate Callum August shares what brought him to the University of Otago and how his upbringing inspired his research into Tuberculosis (TB) and health inequalities.

Callum came to Dunedin from the North Island because he wanted to pursue tertiary studies in a student-focused city.

Having been born and raised in Rotorua, Callum noticed that his hometown had not only a large Māori community, but also that a large portion of the community had people living in poverty.

“Inequalities in Rotorua were visible throughout my life but became particularly evident during my secondary education at Rotorua Lakes High School, where the cohort was made up of students from both decile 1 and decile 10 areas,” Callum says.

“This meant that the students were made up of people from both high deprivation and low deprivation areas and it was this, very obvious, presence of inequalities that inspired me to want to contribute to a solution.”

It was this motivation, alongside a passion for science, that guided him to the School of Biomedical Sciences when he began his studies in Dunedin.

“Throughout undergrad, I struggled with a sense of direction,” Callum says.

“I knew I wanted to do research with tangible benefits to my community, but I didn’t know how I would go about achieving this, especially following my first year of study.”

Callum consulted with a career adviser about his passion for science, research and reducing inequalities, and was encouraged to enter the field of microbiology and immunology; quickly discovering that he rather enjoyed it!

While in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, he met Dr Htin Aung who encouraged him to pursue postgraduate studies on the topic of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for TB.

Dr Aung explained that this would be the perfect platform for Callum to be able to do scientific research that practically contributes to minimising New Zealand’s health inequalities.

“The decline of TB rates in New Zealand has not been equitable because even though transmission has almost fully been eliminated in Pākehā communities, Māori communities still face this struggle,” Callum says.

A unique strain, known as Rangipo, continues to exist within Māori communities which demonstrates a noticeable inequality in New Zealand’s population.

Callum’s research aims to better understand this strain with the goal of reducing the burden of this disease in Māori communities.

“I’m proud of how far I have come as I believe that this area of research is so important,” Callum says.

“Not only because resolving health inequalities is required under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but also because it is a stepping stone to truly bettering the lives of Māori.”

Department of Microbiology and Immunology: Callum August

Department of Microbiology and Immunology