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Issue 383 | 26 June 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

We are now most definitely in winter and last night we warmly celebrated Matariki, the Māori New Year. Matariki means “little eyes” and is the 7 bright stars of the Pleiades star group that signal the end of the sinking sun. With the beautiful clear skies we are experiencing, it is well worth getting up before dawn to see Matariki rise on the northeast horizon.

Thanks to our Tumuaki Papaarangi Reid, Matariki celebrations have become an annual tradition and a wonderful way for us to take time out and think about others. The theme this year was Nepal and we were treated to a traditional Nepali dance by Yagya Raj Pant, who has just arrived to undertake a PhD in Education. Yagya Raj Pant is staying temporarily with Ian and Jo Bissett who have a long standing relationship with the Nepali people.

I have just returned from a trip to the US East Coast visiting some of our successful medical Alumni. What I would like to report back is how without any prompting, each one of them regaled on how they appreciated their high quality medical education at Auckland, making direct comparisons to US graduates who are essentially pseudo-specialists when they graduate with much less experience in general medical situations. They also reminded me about how cheap a medical degree remains in New Zealand compared to the US.

Unfortunately the timing of my trip meant missing a visit from a Princess and the important faculty teaching awards (see stories below). My warmest congratulations to all the recipients and my sincere apologies for missing the ceremony.

In the latest QS World Rankings our university has been ranked the top university in New Zealand for Medicine, Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Our University ranks in the top 100 in the world for those same subjects.


John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Staff recognised for their excellence in teaching

Image of FMHS Teaching Excellence Awardees for 2015
FMHS Teaching Excellence Awardees for 2015

On Thursday 18 June our faculty came together to celebrate our award-winning teachers for 2015, with the presentations of the ‘Dennis Pickup Clinical Educator Awards’ and the ‘Butland Teaching Excellence Awards’.

The event was a great success and brought together the many aspects of our faculty’s key activities, linking our clinical and faculty-based teaching and supervision. Read more

Congratulations to the following high achievers:

‘Dennis Pickup Clinical Educator Awards’:

  • Sue Hayward
    Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Waikato DHB and executive sponsor of the Bachelor of Nursing Honours programme within the DHB.

‘The 2015 Butland Award for Early Career Excellence in Teaching’:

‘The Butland Award for Excellence in Teaching Innovation’:

‘The Butland Award for Excellence in Research Supervision’:

‘The Butland Award for Sustained Teaching Excellence’:


Our faculty hosts a royal visitor

Image of From left: Dr Rick Acland, Professor Louise Nicholson, Holly Pretorius, Nikki Kaye, Zara Phillips, Catriona Williams and Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
From left: Dr Rick Acland, Professor Louise Nicholson, Holly Pretorius, Nikki Kaye, Zara Phillips, Catriona Williams and Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Spinal cord injury research drew a royal audience when Zara Phillips visited our faculty on Friday 12 June.

Zara Phillips was here to attend a talk arranged by the CatWalk Trust in the Faculty’s Auckland Medical Research Foundation’s Medical Sciences Learning Centre.

Other visitors included the Minister of Health, the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, local MP and Minister of ACC Nikki Kaye, CatWalk Trust Founder, Catriona Williams, CatWalk Board members and a host of television, radio and print media.

Professor Louise Nicholson gave a brief introduction to spinal cord injuries and research, while Dr Simon O'Carroll outlined the detail of the world-leading research carried out at our Centre for Brain Research.

Zara’s royal patronage of the CatWalk Trust is helping the group fundraise towards on-going support of this spinal cord injury research. The Trust is the sole funder of the University’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility.

Professor Colin Green, Professor Nicholson and Dr O'Carroll's research involves the use of a small piece of a protein (a connexin peptide) applied directly to an injury site, or indirectly through the bloodstream.

The peptide reduces the swelling and inflammation associated with spinal cord injury by up to 50%. This can, in turn, limit secondary injuries like paralysis, caused by swelling in cases of spinal cord injury.

The research is not yet in clinical trials, but the CatWalk Trust hopes to fundraise to move it on to the next phase.


School of Graduate Studies’-Dean’s List recognises PhD excellence

Image of From top: Helen Spence and Sheryl Tan
From top: Helen Spence and Sheryl Tan

Congratulations to Helen Spence and Sheryl Tan, two of our faculty students who were successfully cited in the School of Graduate Studies Deans List. The list recognises the achievement of excellence in their PhD theses.

Helen Spence, from our School of Population Health, completed her thesis on ‘How Feasible is it to Compare Effects of Companion Dogs and Service Dogs on Quality of Life in People with Movement Disorders?’.

Associate Professor Stephen Buetow was Helen’s main supervisor on her thesis, with Dr Denise Greenwood as her adviser.

Sheryl Tan, from our School of Medical Sciences, completed her thesis on ‘Toward understanding the structure and plasticity of the human olfactory bulb in the normal and Parkinson's disease brain’.

Associate Professor Maurice Curtis was Sheryl’s main supervisor and Dr Hector Monzo Gil and Professor Michael Dragunow were co-supervisors. Associate Professor Michelle Glass was her adviser.

Congratulations to all involved on the achievement of excellence in these and on the well-deserved recognition from the School of Graduate Studies’ Deans List.


Associate Professor Jenny Sim appointed CLeaR Fellow for 2016

Associate Professor Jenny Sim

Congratulations to Associate Professor Jenny Sim, director of our Medical Imaging Programme, who has been appointed as our 2016 Faculty Fellow for the Centre for Learning & Research (CLeaR) Fellowship Programme

The theme for the 2016 programme is ‘Engaging with elearning’, tying in with our University’s approaching transition from CECIL to Canvas as the institutional learning management system.

Associate Professor Sim has been piloting a clinical decision making model in which tutors have role modelled and made explicit their cognitive pathways via a ‘thinking aloud’ technique and engaging students in clinical decision-making discussions.

This has proven to be successful, and Jenny’s Fellowship project will focus on how the ‘thinking aloud’ technique can be facilitated online to ensure that online students will have similar learning opportunities to develop decision-making skills as their on-campus peers.

Prior to joining the University in December 2013, Jenny held leadership roles helping promote the scholarship of teaching and learning in health professional education at a number of Australian universities including Curtin University of Technology, Monash University and RMIT University.

Jenny brings to her Fellowship role existing research interests in higher education including online learning, simulation-based learning, communities of learning, reflective practice and continuing professional development.


Epsom Girls Grammar School honours Professor Louise Nicholson

Image of Professor Louise Nicholson and two Epsom Girls Grammar prefects
Professor Louise Nicholson and two Epsom Girls Grammar prefects

Professor Louise Nicholson, from our Centre for Brain Research, has recently been honoured with a ‘Foundation Award’ from the Epsom Girls Grammar Old Girls Association.

Established in 1997, the ‘Founders Award’ recognises Epsom Girls Grammar School alumnae who have demonstrated exceptional individual achievement or contributed significantly globally or nationally.  

In her citation, Professor Nicholson acknowledged her biomedical research - particularly in neuroscience, her passion for education and science, and for getting young people engaged about learning.

It was noted that ‘Louise loves to mentor graduate students who share her drive and desire to make a difference in people’s lives’.

Former University of Auckland lecturer, Dr Ngapare Hopa (Services to Maori and Maori Arts) and Rima Te Wiata (Services to Dramatic Arts) were also recipients of the award this year.

Please join me in extending your congratulations to Professor Nicholson for this exceptionally well-deserved award.


Our graduates win two prestigous Fulbright Awards

Image of From left: US ambassador Mark Gilbert, Stuti Misra and Minister Christopher Finlayson
From left: US ambassador Mark Gilbert, Stuti Misra and Minister Christopher Finlayson

Warm congratulations to two of our graduates, Gaurav Sharma and Stuti Misra who each recently won a prestigous Fullbright Award.

Gaurav Sharma, who graduated with an MBChB in Medicine in 2011, was one of 18 young people awarded a 2015 Fulbright Science and Innovation Award.

Gaurav received an award for promising New Zealand graduate students to undertake postgraduate study or research at USA institutions in fields targeted to support growth and innovation in New Zealand.

The awards are valued at up to US$33,000 each and sponsored by the Minister of Science and Innovation.

Guarav Sharma will complete a Master of Business Administration, specialising in healthcare management and entrepreneurial engagement strategy, at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Another FMHS graduate was awarded the Fulbright New Zealand Travel Award.

Stuti Misra, a clinical research fellow (Cornea and Anterior Segment) in our Department of Ophthalmology, received the Fullbright New Zealand Travel Award.

Stuti is one of seven recipients for the travel award that is valued at up to NZ$5,000 to New Zealand academics, artists or professionals to visit the US for 12 to 90 days to present their work to American audiences.


“PBRF Essentials” Information Sessions

A key task for our faculty in 2015 is to begin preparations for the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) 2018 Quality Evaluation assessment round. 

Staff who are likely to participate in PBRF are invited to attend an introductory information session about the PBRF.

This is a great opportunity for you to find out what the PBRF is all about, obtain an overview of what is expected for the 2018 PRBF Quality Evaluation round, understand where to focus your efforts, and find out where to get help you might need.

All staff are welcome, particularly those who are new to the PBRF at the University of Auckland. We look forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming presentations.

Grafton Campus

What: PBRF Essentials Information Session

Where: FMHS, Lecture Theatre 007, Grafton Campus

When: Wednesday, 1 July at 12-1pm

Hosted: Professor Andrew Shelling and Professor Merryn Tawhai

Tāmaki Campus

What: PBRF Essentials Information Session

Where: Function Hall 730-220, Tāmaki Innovation Campus

When: Thursday, 2 July at 1-2pm

Hosted: Professor Andrew Shelling and Professor Merryn Tawhai