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HRC Cancer Fellowship

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Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Associate Dean (Pacific) at UOW has been awarded a Pacific Health Research Career Development Award by the Health Research Council to research the development of a blood test for cancer. Dr Sika-Paotonu will receive a grant of $195,162 over two years as part of her Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki Fellowship.

With collaborators, she will investigate the possibility of using circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) – small fragments of DNA from tumours that enter the bloodstream – to test for cancer at an early stage in New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands. Many tumours are picked up using biopsies but Dr Sika-Paotonu says this can be a significant barrier to care in Pacific countries where access to healthcare resources is limited and the cancer burden is growing. “Sometimes it's not that easy to get to a tumour and take a biopsy. Most biopsies will require some level of surgical intervention, so that compared to a blood test is a very striking difference.”

The career development award goes some way to help her fulfil a promise that she made as a child. “When I was little I promised my mother I was going to cure cancer – and of course, she keeps reminding me of my promise, so I've always gravitated towards cancer research,” she says.

Read more here:

UOW Pacific students and staff end of year event, December 2018

UOW Pacific staff and student Christmas dinner, was hosted at Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu residence, on 10th December 2018. An opportunity to bring together UOW Pacific staff and students for an end of year event.

Highlighting UOW Pacific PhD graduate

Dr Losa Moata'ane completed her University of Otago PhD. Based in the Department of Public Health her thesis topic examined aspects on “Improving Pacific Health and Reducing Health Inequalities: Policy Implications” (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Losa graduated and received her PhD in the December Graduation Ceremony in Dunedin.

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IMAGE: Dr Losa Moata'ane at the Graduation Ceremony

2018 UOW Hui Whakanui Tauira Awards Ceremony - Pacific Students highlighted

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IMAGE (L-R):Professor Sunny Collings (Dean and Head of UOW Campus), Dr Dianne SikaPaotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW), Associate Professor Diane Kenwright (HOD and Deputy Dean, UOW), Professor Paul Brunton (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences), and Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma (O&G HOD, UOW)

In the month of November undergraduate and postgraduate students from the UOW campus come together to celebrate and acknowledge prize recipients of high academic achievement at the annual University of Otago, Wellington Hui Whakanui Tauira Awards Ceremony and Dinner held at the Roxy Cinema.

Congratulations to all the prize winners and a special mention to the following Pacific students.

MBChB 4th Year - Tevita Vaipuna received the Pasifika Medical & Allied Health Prize, and accepted The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine (NZCPHM) 4th year medical student public health project prize which he lead.
Adam Faatoese received the Pacific Leadership Award.
Brooke Letoa received the Laennec Prize.

MBChB 5th Year - Tea Vaeau received the 5th year Pacific Award.

MBChB 6th Year - Jonathan Feki received The Wellington Faculty (RNZCGP) Prize for Professionalism in General Practice in the 6th Year and the 6th year Pacific Prize.

Postgraduate - Emma Dunlop-Bennett received the Pasifika Postgraduate Award.

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UOW Pacific students lunch, September 2018

UOW Pacific students end of semester lunch, was hosted at Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu residence, on Sunday, 12th September 2018 - the lunch was attended by UOW Pacific students and staff, an opportunity to strengthen UOW links.

Pacific International Health Symposium 2018

Participants at the Pacific International Health Symposium came together in Dunedin to strengthen partnerships for better Pacific health outcomes. This event was made possible by the Va'a o Tautai team, staff, students and community members who contributed to the success of the Pacific International Health Symposium at the Otago Museum on 29-30 November. The Symposium was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the US Embassy New Zealand which funded Pacific regional participants travel.

Representatives from across the Pacific region, including senior leaders in health and education from the Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, participated in the symposium alongside New Zealand delegates.

A copy of the Book of Abstracts is available to download from the symposium website at

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:

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IMAGE Pacific International Health Symposium Delegates

2018-2019 UOW Summer Studentship Programme Scholars in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine

Record number of Māori and Pacific Summer Scholars in Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine

There are currently 19 summer students undertaking projects focused on the three main areas of cancer, medical education and rheumatic fever related penicillin research. Students in the cancer area team are being supervised by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Dr Michelle Thunders and will be working on projects related to the pathology and genetics of certain tumours, and the development of ctDNA technology for early cancer diagnostics.

In the medical education team area, students will be working on the design of a genetics component to the MBChB curriculum and seeking to understand more about wellness and arthritis. They will be supervised by Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Dr Michelle Thunders and Associate Professor Rebecca Grainger.

Students engaged in penicillin research will focus on the reformulation of benzathine penicillin G (BPG) that is being lead by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu. The project aims to develop a longer-lasting and less painful medicine which can be given to children and young people to prevent acute rheumatic fever and subsequent rheumatic heart disease.

“Bridie Laing and Toni Anitelea from the Penicillin team and Adam Fa'atoese from the Cancer group were recipients of the HRC Career Development Award Scholarships for Pacific Summer Students. Esther Pinfold also from the Penicillin team was a recipient of the HRC Career Development Award Scholarship for Māori Summer Students.”

“We're delighted to have an opportunity to support a large number of students this year.” says Dr Sika-Paotonu. “Our students are at the focus of what we do” says Associate Professor Diane Kenwright.”

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IMAGE UOW Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine staff and summer students

UOW HRC Pacific and Māori Scholarships awarded 2018

The Pacific and Māori Health Research studentships administered by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, are worth $5,000 each. The aim is to support Pacific and Māori students wanting to develop their research skills with the supervision and guidance from experienced senior researchers. These scholarships provides an opportunity to develop a career in health research by working on a 10-week project over the summer break.

This year UOW celebrates the success of the following recipients of the 2018 HRC Pacific and Māori Health Research Council Summer Studentship Scholarships.

Mr Adam Faatoese, University of Otago [$5,000]
The applicability of ctDNA as a tool for early cancer detection.

Ms Fuakava Tanginoa, University of Otago [$5,000]
Kids' Cam: Protective and risk factors for infectious disease transmission among Pacific children in New Zealand..

Ms Toni Anitelea, University of Otago [$5,000]
The immunogenetics of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Ms Bridie Laing, University of Otago [$5,000]
What are the reformulation preferences of children and young people receiving regular BPG injections?

Ms Esther Pinfold, University of Otago [$5,000]
Pharmacokinetics of Benzathine Penicillin G in children and young people in New Zealand.

Ms Kathryn Hippolite, University of Otago [$5,000]
Exploring Māori health provider workers perspectives of medication challenges.

University of Otago Tongan Alumni strengthens Pacific links

During the month of October a team of Otago graduates travelled to the Kingdom of Tonga with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Richard Barker, Associate Dean (Pacific) Division of Sciences Dr Mele Taumoepeau and recent UOW PhD graduate Dr Losa Moata'ane, to present workshops at local schools, meet with key public officials, and launch the Tongan Alumni Network bringing local Otago University Alumni together with the Tongan community.

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:

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IMAGE: Dr Losa Moata'ane with student attendees from the local schools

Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma appointment

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IMAGE (L-R): Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga (Associate Dean (Pacific), Health Sciences Division), Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma (O&G HOD, UOW) and Dr Dianne SikaPaotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), UOW)

On Monday 10 September, a Mihi Whakatau was held at the University of Otago, Wellington to welcome Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma to his new role as the Head of Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

He is the first academic of Pacific origin to hold a professorial role in an area of medicine in New Zealand – and also the first to head a University of Otago department.

Previously he was Associate Professor at the University of Auckland and has held many leadership roles in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and with Pacific health organisations both within New Zealand and in the Pacific Islands.

Professor Ekeroma was awarded the chiefly Samoan title 'Aiono' by his aiga, or extended family group, in 2006.

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IMAGE Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma and Mrs Perri Ekeroma

Aiono Professor Ekeroma's area of expertise ranges across the fields of stillbirth, research capacity building, Pacific women's health, vitamin D, medical curriculum development, gestational diabetes mellitus and global health.

In conjunction with his leadership role at UOW, he has a clinical commitment to the Capital Coast District Health Board and a leadership role as founding professor of the School of Medicine at the National University of Samoa. He is the Chief Editor of Pacific Health Dialog and the Pacific Journal of Reproductive Health.

Professor Ekeroma says he is looking forward to building research capacity in collaboration with DHB staff and across the Christchurch and Dunedin sites.

“I will be working closely within the University and the DHB to address health inequities in access to care.”

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IMAGE Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma and distinguished guests

Prime Minister's Supreme Award Winner 2018

We were overjoyed to learn that Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga had received the Prime Minister's Supreme Award and the award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching and Endorsement for Excellence in Supporting Pacific Learners at the 2018 Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards in Wellington on 13 September 2018.

This is the sixth time in seven years that an Otago educator has won this award. Faumuina says receiving this award shows that her team's teaching in Pacific Health is valued.

Faumuina received an Endorsement for Excellence in Supporting Pacific Learners at the University of Otago graduation ceremony, a reflection of her exceptional commitment to curriculum development and pastoral care of Pacific students.

Link to AKO Aotearoa article:

Link to E-Tangata article:

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:

UOW Penicillin research highlighted at 2018 Cook Island Health Conference

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Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu presenting at the Cook Island Health Conference

The theme at the 20th Cook Island Annual Health Conference was “Mou I te ko, Mou I te ere, Kia pukuru o vaevae, Kia mokora o kaki” Celebrating Knowledge.

Our very own Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Associate Dean (Pacific) at UOW was at the conference to share about the Rheumatic Fever related Penicillin research work being undertaken at UOW, and the Pacific Region.

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IMAGE: Cook Island Health Conference Delegates

UOW Pacific Fono: Rheumatic Fever and Penicillin

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Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu with UOW Pacific medical students at the Hutt Valley Fono

On July 24 and July 30, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Associate Dean (Pacific) for the University of Otago Wellington (UOW), hosted two Pacific Fono community events in the Wellington Region.

These Pacific Fono gatherings provided an opportunity to present the research work being undertaken to generate a new Penicillin for Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). UOW Pacific Medical students were also involved to support dialogue and communication related to the ARF and RHD related Penicillin research.

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IMAGE (L-R):Ms Matafanua Hilda Fa'asalele (Ministry of Health) with attendees at the Hutt Valley Fono

Those in attendance also included community members and leaders, researchers who had assisted with previous work, with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Education in attendance.

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IMAGE (L-R):Dr Dianne SikaPaotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW), Ms Marama Ellis (Ministry of Health), Associate Professor Diane Kenwright (HOD and Deputy Dean, UOW) at the Porirua Fono

Samoan Prime Minister visit to University of Otago

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Dr Ramona Tiatia (Pacific Research Fellow UOW, Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC) Chair) with Samoan Prime Minister Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Samoan Prime Minister Susuga Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi launch of his 2017 memoir at the University of Otago yesterday. Dignitaries and the Dunedin Pacific community packed Marama Hall to hear the Prime Minister speak about his memoir Palemia- which translates from Samoan as ''Prime Minister'' - written with Victoria University of Wellington academic Dr Peter Swain.

The Prime Minister said he was heartened to see large numbers of Samoans studying at the Otago of University, along with Samoan faculty members.

The memoir covers Mr Malielegaoi's childhood in the small village of Lepa on Upolu Island before traversing his journey to Apia for education, then to New Zealand for university and around the world as an economist, but always returning to Fa'asamoa - a concept meaning the language and customs of Samoa.

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:


UOC Pacific Immersion Programme

Over the weekend of the 30 June – 1 July, fourth year medical students at UOC participated in the Pacific Immersion Programme (PIP), a unique learning opportunity for University of Otago medical students to gain first-hand experience of Pacific family life in the New Zealand context and learn about how culture, values and beliefs intersect with health.

The PIP has been part of the ALM 4 curriculum at the Dunedin School of Medicine since 2010, and was extended to students at UOC for the first time in 2018. Around 80 families from the Samoan, Cook Islands and Tongan communities around Christchurch each hosted a student.

Pacific community leaders from Dunedin and Christchurch and staff from across the three campuses were involved in the development and implementation of the programme, with support provided by health navigators from Etu Pasifika.

New Pro Vice Chancellor for Division of Health Sciences

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IMAGE Professor Paul Brunton (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences)

Professor Paul Brunton replaces Professor Peter Crampton who announced last October that he was going to step down from his roles as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences and Dean of the Otago Medical School.

A former British dental researcher and educator, Professor Brunton arrived in New Zealand in 2014 to take up the role of Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry.

He had previously been Director of Student Education at the University of Leeds' School of Dentistry. He has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Faculty and alongside overseeing planning and development of the new facility, his highlight has been success in promoting the Faculty internationally. He is however, looking forward to a new challenge moving into a broader role leading the Division of Health Sciences, which incorporates the Faculty of Dentistry.

Division of Health Science PVC office link:

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:

Director of Student Health Service Dr Kim Maiai farewell

Dr Kim Ma'ia'i, director of the University of Otago's Student Health Service, is stepping down. After 17 years in service, 14 of them as director, Dr Ma'ia'i said he would now be working on various, unspecified, health-related activities. A Pacific farewell was held in Dunedin to acknowledge his substantial contribution to the University of Otago and to wish him well in his future endeavours.

To view the Otago Bulletin Board write-up click here:

Rheumatic Fever and Penicillin research in NZ contributing to global Penicillin reformulation efforts

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Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW

A University of Otago, Wellington (UOW) Pacific biomedical researcher is leading a NZ based project to support global efforts to reformulate of a type of Penicillin known as Benzathine Penicillin G usually given to children and young persons with Rheumatic Fever.

The study has been designed to find out more about the pharmacokinetics of BPG which is administered as painful monthly injections for 10 years or more to children and young people who have had Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) previously, to prevent recurrent ARF episodes that could potentially lead to Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). This type of Pharmacology research work would usually require large blood volumes from participants. Thanks to research teams in Australia, this work can now be carried out using finger prick samples instead which is highly preferable to other methods requiring larger blood volumes in children.

It is recognised that Māori and Pacific peoples in New Zealand are affected disproportionately by ARF/RHD. This is the first study seeking to explore the pharmacokinetics of BPG in a Paediatric population of predominantly Māori and Pacific children and young people with ARF and will provide information to support development of a new type of BPG that is less painful and more appropriate to prevent ARF/RHD.

Read more here:

Pacific Development Office Director visits UOW

The University of Otago Pacific Development Office Director Dr Tasileta Teevale visited the University of Otago Wellington campus on 21st June, 2018 to meet with the Associate Dean (Pacific) and UOW Pacific Staff. As Director of Pacific Development Tasileta is responsible for monitoring the progress of the Pacific Strategic Framework (2013-2020), adopted by the University of Otago in December 2012. The Framework is the University's commitment to ensuring equity in student achievement.

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IMAGE (L-R): Associate Dean (Pacific) Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Dr Tasileta Teevale, Ms Tina Uiese

21st June 2018: Division of Health Sciences Pacific Takiala Leadership Network

The University of Otago Pacific Takiala Leadership Network is a network of Pacific leaders across the Division of Health Sciences. We have members spread across from the University of Otago Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington campuses and including Fiji. Established in June, 2018, the Network is comprised of all 7 Associate Deans (Pacific) and Pacific leaders in the Division of Health Sciences and which oversees all Pacific engagements for the Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago.

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IMAGE: Members of the University of Otago Health Sciences Division Pacific Takiala Leadership Network 2018 pictured with Professor Paul Brunton (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences). From (L–R) Ms Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai (Manager Pacific Islands Centre University of Otago), Associate Professor Daryl Schwenke (Associate Dean (Pacific) School of Biomedical Sciences), Ms Fran Cockerell (Manager, Va'a o Tautai, Division of Health Sciences), Dr Rose Richards (Associate Dean (Pacific) & Dunedin School of Medicine & Director Centre for Pacific Health, Va'a o Tautai Division of Health Sciences), Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga (Associate Dean (Pacific) Division of Health Sciences & Head Va'a o Tautai Division of Health Sciences), Professor Paul Brunton (PVC Candidate), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), UOW), Dr Kiki Maoate (Associate Dean (Pacific), UOC)

15th - 18th June 2018: Collaboration Research Meetings at the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute Perth, Western Australia:

In June, 2018 Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (UOW Associate Dean (Pacific) & Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine) attended collaboration research meetings held at the University of Western Australia and Telethon Kids Institute, Perth Western Australia. Held on 18th June, 2018 and hosted by Professor Jonathan Carapetis Director of the Telethon Kids Institute, these meetings sought to strengthen pre-existing working relationships and collaborations related to the New Zealand based Rheumatic fever related Penicillin research work at UOW with Australian partners.

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IMAGE: Back Row (L – R) Dr Joseph Kado (Clinical Research Officer, Telethon Kids Institute), Mr John Joseph (Head Scientist, PathWest Laboratories), Dr Rob Hand (Clinical Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute), Professor Kevin Batty (Head of School Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, Curtin University)
Front Row (L – R) Ms Amy Baker (Program Manager, Group A Streptococcal Diseases), Dr Sam Salman (School of Medicine and Pharmacology, University of Western Australia, Harry Perkins Research Institute, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch, Western Australia), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington) Professor Laurens Manning (Infectious Diseases Department, Perth Children's Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, University of Western Australia)

15th May 2018 Government House Reception Tongan Minister of Health Visit:

The Tongan Minister of Health, the Honourable Saia Piukala, visited Wellington on the 15th May, 2018, and attended the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Fred Hollows Foundation work in the Pacific. An event to commemorate the 25th Anniversary was held at Government House in Wellington and hosted by Their Excellencies, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor-General of New Zealand and Patron of The Foundation, and Sir David Gascoigne. An MOU was signed by Tongan Minister of Health representing the ongoing commitment of The Fred Hollow's Foundation's to continue to deliver quality eye care services in Tonga, helping to put an end to avoidable blindness in the Pacific, where four out of five people who are blind, don't need to be.

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IMAGE: Dr Telaite Biu (Director and Lead Opthamologist, Pacific Eye Institute, Suva, Fiji), the Honourable Saia Piukala (Tongan Minister of Health), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), Senior. Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington), Dr Paula Vivili (South Pacific Secretariat)

8th – 12th May 2018: Pacific Health Research Showcased at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Immunologists

Rheumatic Fever and Cancer research work based at the University of Otago Wellington and extending by collaboration into the Pacific Region were showcased at the recent Annual Meeting of The American Association of Immunologists, May 8-12, 2017, Austin, Texas, USA. Published abstracts included:

  1. Sika-Paotonu, D., Viali, S., Naseri, LTTK., So'o, FLTIA., Lameko, TV., Punivalu, M., Burich, B., Maiava, F., Ah-Ching, J., Guilford P. The application of ctDNA technology for early Cancer diagnostics in SAMOA.
  2. Sika-Paotonu, D., Aho, G., 'Ulufonua, LK., Ofanoa, M., 'Akau'ola, S., Vaea, K., Tiopulotu, AA., Toumoua, S., Lilo, F., Fotu, L., Titia, R., Sung, YK., Zonneveld, R., Poot, B., Norris, P., Betty, B., Thornley, C., Eddie, B., Wineera-Parai, W., Baker, M., Carapetis, J. The Benzathine Penicillin G (BPG) Reformulation Preferences Study - TONGA.
  3. Sika-Paotonu, D., Titia, R., Sung, YK., Thornley, C., Betty, B., Wineera-Parai, W., Eddie, B., Baker, M., Puni, R., Dalton, E., Taueetia-Sua, T., Maloney, M., Sanchez-Felix, M., Spector, J., Carapetis, J. The Benzathine Pencillin G (BPG) Reformulation Preferences Study-edging closer towards a new Penicillin for Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.

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IMAGE: Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington), Professor Madeleine W Cunningham, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

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IMAGE: Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington) with one of the UOW Pacific based posters

18th -19th April, 2018: Pacific Heads of Health Meeting Nadi, Fiji

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6th Heads of Health Meeting 2018 delegates in Denarau Island, Nadi, Fiji

Attended by Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu UOW and Ms Frances Brebner Pacific Regional Co-ordinator HSD, University of Otago. The Pacific Heads of Health Meeting for the Pacific Island Countries help develop a consensus view of health in the Pacific and set future directions in the effort to build Healthy Islands.

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IMAGE: Ms Frances Brebner (Pacific Region Co-ordinator, Va'a O Tautai, University of Otago), Dr Tenneth Dalipanda, Permanent Secretary for Health, Honiara, Solomon Islands), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific), Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago Wellington)

8th March 2018: UOW International Women's Day Event

The UOW Staff Women's Caucus hosted the International Women's Day celebration by having a BYOB (bring your own breakfast) in the newly revamped Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Women's Health. There was live streaming of the International Women's Day Breakfast from Parliament featuring our former Prime Minister Helen Clark. This presentation was followed with our very own Associate Dean Pacific Dianne Sika-Paotonu who spoke on 'Empowering Pacific Rural Women'.



Earlier this year, our Associate Dean Pacific Dianne Sika-Paotonu visited our friendly Pacific neighbours Tonga and Samoa to meet with Health Leaders, Clinical Staff and Research Collaborators.

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IMAGE: Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW), Dr Lisiate Ulufonua (Superintendent Vaiola Hospital, Nuku'alofa)

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IMAGE: Dr Siale 'Akau'ola (CEO Health, Ministry of Health, Nuku'alofa, Tonga), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW)

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IMAGE: Professor Fui Le'apai Tu'ua Ilaoa Asofou So'o (Vice Chancellor of National University of Samoa), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW)

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IMAGE: (L-R) Hon. Salausa Dr John Ah-Ching (Associate Minister of Health and Member Of Parliament), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW), Dr Monalissa Punivalu, (Clinical Head of the National Health Service)

Health Sciences Division Pacific Welcome in Dunedin

The annual welcome hosted by the University of Otago Health Science Division leaders to officially start the new academic year was held on 23rd February, 2018. This event formally welcomed new and returning Pacific students, their families and communities. Organised by Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga and her team, the evening also included Pacific performances from Pacific students and Pacific community groups and members.

Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga-Vaa o Tautai

Va'a o Tautai Launch, Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago

The development of Va'a o Tautai, the Pacific entity within the Division of Health Sciences sees the University of Otago continuing to lead the way in education for Pacific Peoples. This was launched on the 23rd February, 2018 to coincide with the Division of Health Sciences Pacific Welcome. Va'a o Tautai provides strategic leadership within the division bringing together the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific), the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit and a new Centre for research and teaching, the Centre for Pacific Health. Through Va'a o Tautai, Health Science students will have more exposure to Pacific health teaching. The formal introduction of Va'a o Tautai was a significant event and the evening was enjoyed by all.

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IMAGE: Members of the Pacific community presented Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Peter Crampton, with a traditional va'a (waka) at a welcoming function for Pacific Island students into the Division of Health Sciences on Friday. Photo: Sharron Bennett

website link

University of Otago Pacific Community Acknowledgement for PVC Professor Peter Crampton

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IMAGE: PVC Professor Peter Crampton and Associate Dean (Pacific) Kiki Maoate

Professor Peter Crampton was formally acknowledged by the Pacific Community in Dunedin for his work with Pacific students and staff at the University of Otago, and also for his work in communities and within the Pacific Region. This was held on 23rd February, 2018 together with the Health Sciences Division Pacific welcome, and also coincided with the formal introduction of the Va'a o Tautai and the cultural acknowledgment for a number of staff who were retiring who had contributed significantly to Pacific developments at the University of Otago. Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga says the University of Otago is leading the way in Pacific education among New Zealand universities. For example, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Professor Peter Crampton, strongly supported development of an inaugural Pacific Strategic Framework (2011-2015) for the division and this has since been replaced by a University-wide Pacific framework (2013-2020).

2018 UOW Pacific Students Welcome evening

A welcome event was held for new and returning Pacific students at UOW on Thursday 22nd February, 2018 where they were able to meet with fellow students and also with UOW leaders and support staff. This was supported by the UOW Deputy Dean Diane Kenwright and attended by the Associate Dean (Pacific) Dianne Sika-Paotonu. Another special guest for the evening was Dr Alvin Mitikulena Director of the Kilbirnie Medical Centre and also a University of Otago Pacific alumni.

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IMAGE: UOW Pacific Students with Associate Dean (Pacific) Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Associate Professor Diane Kenwright

Global Indigenous Suicide Prevention, Mental Health & Well being Research Symposium


A two-day Public Health Summer School Global Symposium focused on Indigenous suicide prevention and well-being was held at the Te Papa National Museum on the 20th – 21st February, 2018 and was organised by Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho and her team. This Symposium generated much media interest and was attended by local and international visitors and included global speakers and specialists. This Symposium had a strong focus on suicide prevention that centered on interventions that were appropriate for Indigenous health and well-being. Some speakers were able to share their personal experiences of losing a loved one to suicide. Valuable research findings and resources that were applicable to Indigenous populations were also highlighted.

more information:

UOW welcomes Pacific Leaders to the Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium 2018

UOW-Mihi Whakatau

Regional and global health leaders and collaborators who were attending the Department of Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium were warmly welcomed to the University with a Mihi Whakatau on Sunday 18th February, 2018 and included senior Health Leaders from the Pacific Region. Participants in this symposium were provided with the most up to date picture of the impact of cancer among the Indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. The University of Otago Wellington respects and recognises the Treaty of Waitangi, the University's relationship with Mana Whenua (local tribe Ngati Toa) in our region. This event was well received by those in attendance.

Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Mihi Whakatau
IMAGE (L-R): Dr Sunia Foliaki, Dr Kiki Maoate, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Paula Vivili

UOW Pacific Health Research Public Health Summer School 2018

Ramona Tiatia
IMAGE: Dr Ramona Tiatia

On Thursday 8th February 2018, the UOW held its annual Pacific Health Summer School Day. This was organised by Dr Ramona Tiatia and included other key-note speakers such as Dr Michelle Schaaf (co-Associate Dean Pacific, Head of Pacific Studies, University of Otago), Dr Patrick Vakaoti (co-Associate Dean Pacific, Snr. Lecturer, Sociology, University of Otago), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean Pacific, Snr. Lecturer, Pathology and Molesular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington), Ms Christine Ammunson (Snr. Communications, Human Rights Commission), and Mr Akerei Maresala-Thomson (NZ White Ribbon Ambassador, Co-founder of MYRIVR APP) on concepts and issues in Pacific health, cultural and demographic trends, priorities and insights into where the tide is moving and how we can work together to improve Pacific well being. The Summer School day was well received and took place at University of Otago Wellington Conference Centre.

Presenter Bios :

Emerging issues in Pacific Health research-Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Michelle Schaaf
IMAGE (L-R): Ms Mokalagi Tamapeau, Ms Christine Ammunson, Ms Gayle Lafaiali', Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Michelle Schaaf, Mr Andre Afamasaga

Emerging issues in Pacific Health research-Ramona Tiatia-Dianne Sika-Paotonu
IMAGE: Some of the Pacific Health Summer School speakers and Delegates

UOW Indigenous Peoples and Cancer Symposium 2018: A shared agenda for Aotearoa, Australia and Pacific Nations

Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Diana Sarfati
IMAGE: (L-R) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Professor Diana Sarfati, Dr Freddie Bray

A two-day Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium was held the UOW on the 19th – 20th February, 2018. Organised by Professor Diana Sarfati from the Department of Public Health and her team, renowned regional and global collaborators came together with attendees to share knowledge and discuss together the impact of Cancer among the Indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Region and beyond. The Symposium attracted a number of leading International Cancer, Indigenous and Pacific speakers who included Dr Paula Vivili, Head of the Pacific Health Division at Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Professor Neal Palafox from the University of Hawaii, Dr Kiki Maoate Associate Dean Pacific at University of Otago Christchurch and Paediatric specialist, and Dr Freddie Bray Head of the Cancer Surveillance Section at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Indigenous People and Cancer Symposium-Group Photo
IMAGE: Indigenous Cancer Symposium 2018 speakers, chairs and organizers

UOW Bake Sale [funds for the relief effort in Tonga]

IMAGE: (L-R) Dr Richard Egan, Dr Rachel Dryer, Dr Sunia Foliaki

On the 19th February the UOW Pacific Team along with the Pacific Medical Students held a 'Bake Sale' fundraising event as a contribution to the relief effort in Tonga after Cyclone GITA's devastation. The bake sale raised $2, 378,50 NZD which was donated to the RedCross and Tearfund agencies who have been actively working on the ground in Tonga. Pacific Health Leaders from the Region were at the UOW that day as guest speakers for the UOW Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium and kindly supported this event. A special acknowledgement and thanks to those who supported by making the delicious baked goods that were sold, and also to those who purchased items and made generous donations.

Special acknowledgement of Associate Professor Diane Kenwirght, Dr Paula Vivili, Dr Kiki Maoate and Dr Sunia Foliaki.

IMAGE: (L-R) Associate Professor Diane Kenwright (Deputy Dean UOW), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean (Pacific) UOW; Senior Lecturer Pathology & Molecular Medicine, UOW), Dr Paula Vivili (South Pacific Secretariat), Dr Kiki Maoate (Associate Dean (Pacific UOC), Paediatric Surgical Consultant & Urological Specialist, Christchurch Public Hospital), Ms Tina Uiese (Pacific Mentoring Co-ordinator, UOW), Mr Adam Faatoese (Medical Student, UOW), Ms Toni Anitelea (Medical Student, UOW), Mr Tevita Vaipuna (Medical Student, UOW)

University of Auckland, Head of Pacific Women's Health Research Unit Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma visits UOW

Alec Ekeroma-Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Ramona Tiatia-Tony Dowell

Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland and Head of the Pacific Women's Health Research Unit, visited the University of Otago Wellington on the 31st January 2018. Associate Prof Ekeroma's contribution to teaching and course development spans over 21 years, and he is noted as the only academic O&G in Middlemore Hospital responsible for scheduling and delivering the undergraduate teaching programme. During his UOW visit, Associate Prof Ekeroma presented a research seminar on "Building Research Capacity in the Pacific".

Alex Ekeroma with Pacific Students and Staff
IMAGE: (L-R) Dr Rachel Dryer, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Ms Tina Uiese, Mr Ron Puni

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