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Issue 377 |01 May 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

This week we all witnessed the terrible tragedy unfolding in Nepal. Some of us have connections to this beautiful country, but perhaps no more so than Associate Professor Ian Bissett, Head of the Department of Surgery, who has only just returned from work in a volunteer surgical clinic in the small Nepalese village of Rolpa.

Ian is now on standby to return to assist in the recovery. Selfless dedication to apply one’s clinical skills to assist those truly in need is a story worth hearing and I encourage you to read Ian’s story below.

Next week will focus on graduation and we will be seeing the largest number of graduands in the history of the faculty, walk across the stage.

We are now split into two ceremonies on Wednesday afternoon but will be holding the all-important graduation morning tea on the Old Government House lawn at 11am for graduands, family and friends. I do hope as many faculty as possible can attend.

At VCDD this week, a major topic of discussion was the progress with the Review of Research Support that is underway across the University. The selected interviews are about half completed.

I realise that there are some disappointed people who were not included in the interview schedule but the team simply cannot consult with everyone.

To give you some idea of how big our faculty has become, we have over 200 research/senior research fellows, 590 research support staff, and 370 technical support staff as part of a total of 1,868 academic and professional staff (by head count). 

Clearly it would be an impossible task to interview all these, but I can assure you there is very good representation across all research roles and functions. 

A second issue is comments from some staff that this is just a thinly disguised research FAR exercise. This is not the case.

The intention is to understand the complex interdependent research activities and requirements so the faculty and university can rationally provide better across the large research continuum (the numbers above give you some idea of just how large).

Richard Swain and I have just received our power consumption figures which show a 4.3 percent increase in power usage in the year to March 31 for Grafton, equating to an extra 151,000 kWh or 25 tonnes of carbon emission. 

The consumption at the School of Population Health I am pleased to say is down 9.7 percent. 

One of the most notable results is that our consumption increased over January and February- months when you would expect the lowest consumption rates. More worrying is that 60.8 percent of energy consumption in the month of March was after hours!  

Can I remind staff of the importance of:

1.    Switching off your computer screen when you don’t need it

2.    Shutting down your computer when you go home at night.

3.    Turn off lights, printers and photocopiers when you leave.



John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Condolences to the family of Dr Rae West

Image of Dr Rae West
Dr Rae West

I extend my sincere condolences to the family of Dr Rae West after his passing earlier this week.

Dr West joined the University of Auckland staff in 1978 as an Associate Professor, joining Associate Professor John Richards (who first taught general practice as a discipline in the Department of Community Health in 1973).

In the 1960s Dr West was a member of the Central General Practitioners Committee of the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA), and then became the Chairman for some years. For many years after his retirement he continued to attend the annual general meetings of the Auckland Faculty of the RNZCGPs, where he took an active role.

Dr West was also the third appointed Editor of the RNZCGP’s journal, the New Zealand Family Physician, from 1990 to 1995, and he wrote an editorial in the final issue of NZFP in December 2008 about his time as editor.

Dr West was one of the pioneers of academic general practice in New Zealand, and he paved the way for us following on behind. His passing marks the ending of an era.


Our surgical camp volunteers escape earthquake

Image of Rolpa District Hospital Entrance
Rolpa District Hospital Entrance

Our Head of Surgery, Associate Professor Ian Bissett and his wife Jo, were recently part of a surgical team of volunteers in Rolpa in Nepal. Fortunately, the surgical team escaped the ravages of the recent earthquakes that struck on 25 April.

They had recently finished volunteering for the annual International Nepal Fellowship surgical camp (held at Libang, in Rolpa) in the mid-west of Nepal.

Ian had left Nepal a week before the earthquakes to return to work in Auckland, but Jo and family members were sitting in a plane on the tarmac at Kathmandu airport, waiting to depart when the first earthquake of 7.9 magnitudes struck.

After a delay to check the runway was useable, they were able to fly out. Ian says it was incredible that he was able to Skype-call Jo on the plane as it sat on the tarmac, despite phone and mobile networks having crashed with the earthquake.

As it is well west of the epicentre, Ian believes Rolpa will be largely unaffected by the major earthquakes. He is now on standby in case he is needed in Nepal.

The following is a wonderful story from Ian about the recent surgical camp in Rolpa and his charity work there, which is outstanding. Read more


AAHA calls for ‘seed funding’ applications

The Auckland Academic Health Alliance (AAHA) has an established research fund that is co-funded by A+ Trust and our Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. The fund supports joint research projects and develops relationships between the ADHB and our FMHS staff.

It provides further opportunities to develop collaborative, translational research.

Through these ‘seed funding’ grants, the AAHA aims to directly encourage and boost relationships between FMHS and ADHB research staff, and to encourage researchers from both our organisations to further work together.

A number of longstanding research relationships already exist, and this fund has the potential to further strengthen these relationships by providing cooperative grant funding.

These collaborative translational research opportunities have the potential to contribute further to success in international and national research grant applications, such as those for the Health Research Council.

I encourage you to apply for the ‘seed funding’ from the AAHA for your collaborative research project.


School of Medicine leads the way with the Research Induction Course

More than 40 new postgraduate students have just completed the 2015 Research Induction Course. This annual course is run under the auspices of the School of Medicine Research Committee and provides students with an intensive and practical introduction to essential research skills (such as scientific writing, applying for competitive grants, oral presentation skills, ethics in medical research, statistical methods etc.) to help them ‘hit the ground running’.

For the first time, the core programme this year has been complemented by the ‘Science Café’, which offered the course participants the opportunity to meet with eminent scientists on an informal basis over lunch.

It is pleasing to see how the Research Induction Course has evolved over the years from an innovative initiative for postgraduate students in the School of Medicine only, to a course that is now also attended by PhD and Masters Students from the School of Medical Sciences, Population Health, Nursing, and the Liggins Institute.

Congratulations to all involved in the Research Induction Course - especially Professor Alan Merry (Head of School of Medicine), Professor Innes Asher (Chair of the School of Medicine Research Committee), Dr. Max Petrov (Course Director), and the staff members in the School of Medicine.

FMHS speakers at the 2015 course:

Special thanks go to