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Issue 379 | 15 May 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

On Tuesday night I had the great pleasure of assisting in the graduation of 56 Maori and Pacific students through the Certificate of Health Sciences. This is always a fun occasion with a large and enthusiastic whanau in attendance. 

It is wonderfully uplifting to see the positive outcomes of such a successful foundation programme Hikitia Te Ora – an integral part of the Faculty’s Vision 20:20 plan to increase Maori and Pacific involvement in our nation’s health workforce.

My warmest congratulations to Tumuaki, Papaarangi Reid and Dr Elana Curtis who leads Hikitia Te Ora as well as the entire teaching team, MAPAS and of course the excellent recruitment work of Whakapiki Ake.

I should note that Dr Curtis also received a University of Auckland Teaching Award at our graduation ceremony last Wednesday for her work with the Certificate. 

The citation reads:

Dr Curtis has expressed this enthusiasm (in teaching) through innovation in the Certificate in the following ways:

  1. Utilising innovative teaching and learning techniques – we have clickers, photo-essays, team-based learning, cultural wānanga and flipped classrooms.
  2. Leading innovative research that actively seeks and listens to student opinion and experience
  3. Rejecting the idea that poor results are due to poor students – instead being committed to finding structural solutions, whereby institutions adapt to student diversity rather than expecting students to adapt to the existing institutional culture.
  4. A commitment to improving Māori and Pacific health through a representative health workforce. Dr Curtis believes that passionate teachers inspire and excite learners to achieve their career vision and their whānau dreams.

My warmest congratulations to Elana for this well-deserved recognition.

On Wednesday I attended the official opening of the Newmarket campus by Hon Steven Joyce Minister for Science and Innovation. This is a remarkable facility which houses the Faculty of Engineering’s research facilities, the NZ Product Accelerator, the Centre for Advanced Composite Materials and the Light Metals Research Centre. There is some very impressive equipment particularly in the area of earthquake engineering and this is now the largest such facility in the Southern Hemisphere. 

In his speech, the Dean of Engineering Nick Smith stressed how technology would one day take over the workplace and gave a humorous vision of only two individuals employed– a man and a dog. The man fed the dog while the dog bit the man if he touched the equipment!

The slight downside of the opening was the noisy diesel trains that ran along the back of the campus with regular frequency, which Mayor Len Brown announced were being replaced with quiet electric trains this weekend.

Access to the Staff Survey ( is now open and I warmly encourage all staff to make the effort and have a say. We have been through some major changes in the past 18 months and it is a good time to reflect on the effect the changes have had on staff.



John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Leading the way in Optometry and Vision Science

Optometry reception

As many of you may know, earlier this year our Department of Optometry and Vision Science joined Medicine, Medical Sciences, Pharmacy, Nursing and Population Health by officially achieving School status.

Our School of Optometry and Vision Science (SOVS) is the only institution in New Zealand accredited to train optometrists - via a dedicated Bachelor of Optometry professional degree programme.

The conversion to a School represents recognition of Optometry as an important academic discipline within our University with its own identity in terms of the training it provides and research it conducts.

Giving Optometry an independent voice alongside schools like Pharmacy and Nursing is a positive move. It further reflects the diversity of primary healthcare in New Zealand and will help promote both the profession of Optometry and the School’s highly inter-disciplinary programme of research.


Nursing qualification first of its kind internationally

Tori Prendergast, School of Nursing

Tori Prendergast, an honours graduate of our School of Nursing, is one of four from the Waikato who are the first to qualify in an innovative two-year programme; combining postgraduate study with a leadership programme.

The new postgraduate nursing honours qualification is the first of its kind internationally. It was specifically developed to increase the number of nursing leaders in the Waikato region. Read more


New society established

Image of Official launch of the FMHS Postdoctoral Society
Official launch of the FMHS Postdoctoral Society

Earlier this year our faculty hosted the official launch of the ‘FMHS Postdoctoral Society’ at our Grafton Campus. Given that 150 research fellows and 50 senior research fellows advance scientific knowledge at our faculty, it was only matter of time until this essential group of staff members founded their own professional society.

Over the last six months, a group of eager research fellows has met to get this society up and running, with the inaugural committee constituting itself of scientists with diverse backgrounds and research interests.

This group is composed of:

Research fellows face a unique set of challenges during this crucial stage of their career development. The FMHS Postdoctoral Society has a mission to create opportunities for networking, collaboration, and professional development to support research fellows and senor research fellows.

If you would like to get involved in the committee or have ideas for future events, please email  


New medical career for Silver Fern

Image of Sonya Hardcastle (middle)
Sonya Hardcastle (middle)

Former Silver Fern Sonya Hardcastle says both inspiration from her grandfather and her netball training helped her during seven years of study to graduate as a doctor.

After a top-level netball career (when Sonya was renowned for her speed, daring and style as an attacking midcourt player, and won two silver medals), she retired from the international game in 1999. Read more