Deans diary header
Issue 386| 7 August 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

I have just returned from a relaxing holiday and I also managed to reduce my leave balance! Prior to this, I was in London for meetings with UK Alumni and also attended an alumni gathering at Wellcome Trust House featuring a presentation by Professor Stephen Dakin, Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science who talked about the differences between the UK and NZ.

I also met with Sir William Castell, Director of the Wellcome Trust who was very positive about the role New Zealand researchers could play in the Trust’s new funding goals of linking as he put it “the genotype to the phenotype”.  

At the last meeting of Senate, the Vice Chancellor sought opinion and approved a change in name of the Department of Anatomy with Radiology to the Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging. Head of Department professor Alistair Young presented to Senate that the new name better reflects the department’s current interests and future developments in the growing area of high resolution imaging in both research and clinical use.

As noted in the story below, we had a wonderful presentation to 4 members of parliament’s Health Select Committee last week, highlighting what research we do in the Faculty and its relevance to improving the lives of New Zealanders.

While we could only provide a small snapshot in the time we had with our guests, it was an excellent overview of the quality and diversity within the faculty and was as informative to me and I suspect it was for other faculty who were present. It gave me cause to think that we should repeat this event regularly as a means of broadening our understanding across the faculty of what others are doing.

Best wishes,


John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


MPs visit to discover medical and health research insights

From left: Matt Doocey, Professor Andrew Shelling, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Professor John Fraser, Simon O’Connor, Todd Barclay and David Bennett
From left: Matt Doocey, Professor Andrew Shelling, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Professor John Fraser, Simon O’Connor, Todd Barclay and David Bennett

On Friday 31 July our faculty welcomed Health Select Committee Chair, Simon O’Connor and four of his MP colleagues; Dr Parmjeet Parmar, David Bennett, Todd Barclay and Matt Doocey.

Facilitated by Professor Andrew Shelling (Associate Dean, Research) the ‘Discover Insights’ forum included a series of five-minute presentations, one from each school plus Te Kupenga Hauora Māori.

Each five-minute presentation focussed on an important research project that promises to have a high potential impact on our society.

It also included a high-level view of the purpose of each entity in society and our changing healthcare sector.

Congratulations to each of the presenting teams, and to all who contributed to the success of this important event.

The faculty will share videos of the presentations in the forthcoming weeks, and I look forward to showcasing these in future editions of the Dean’s Diary.


ACSRC Research Fellow wins international Biopharma Innovation Prize

Dr Hunter (left) with oncology team members, coach Arne Sutter (right) and Merck Serono CEO Belén Garijo (centre).
Dr Hunter (left) with oncology team members, coach Arne Sutter (right) and Merck Serono CEO Belén Garijo (centre)

Warm congratulations to Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Francis Hunter who has successfully represented our university in the 5th edition of the ‘Merck Serono Innovation Cup’.

The result follows Dr Hunter’s earlier successes in the National Cancer Institute’s ‘Breast Cancer Startup Challenge’ and the Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable’s ‘ONESTART’.

Dr Hunter says that close associations with industry are essential for realising the medical potential of the high-quality drug discovery undertaken in Auckland.

The biopharma company Merck Serono holds its awards annually in their German headquarters. A jury of senior Merck executives and divisional heads selected Dr Hunter and his oncology team as winners of the ‘Merck Serono Innovation Cup’ for their proposal describing a new approach to cancer treatment.

Over 800 applications were received from over 50 countries, with thirty doctoral, post-doctoral and MBA graduates being selected to participate.

Distinguished Professor Bill Denny (Director of the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre) congratulated Dr Hunter on winning this prestigious award. He also said it bodes very well for NZ science that our young graduates can achieve like this at the highest international level.


Success for PhD student

From left: Associate Professor Johanna M. Montgomery and Kevin Lee
From left: Associate Professor Johanna M. Montgomery and Kevin Lee

Congratulations to Kevin Lee, one of our faculty students who was successfully cited in the School of Graduate Studies Deans List.

The list recognises the achievement of excellence in their PhD theses.

From our School of Medical Sciences, Kevin completed his thesis on ‘Synapse Dysfunction Induced by Autism Spectrum Disorder Associated Shank3 Mutations’.

Associate Professor Johanna M. Montgomery was the main supervisor on Kevin’s thesis, with Associate Professor Maurice Curtis as his co-supervisor.

Professor Craig C. Garner from Stanford University worked in collaboration on the project.

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


2015 Inaugural Lecture series

From left: Professors Ian Civil and Chris Bullen
From left: Professors Ian Civil and Chris Bullen

Congratulations to Professors Ian Civil (Department of Surgery) and Chris Bullen (National Institute for Health Innovation) who both gave outstanding inaugural lectures at our Grafton and Tāmaki Campus this week.

Professor Civil’s lecture (‘Trauma care in the 80s and where we have got to now’) explored the developments in injury prevention, system development and a structured approach to injury care over the past 30 years that have led to these improvements.

Professor Bullen’s lecture (Bugs, bedrooms and smoke: my career in public health research) outlined his journey from clinical medicine to public health practice and research in two very different settings: New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.  

Our next three inaugural lectures promise to be as entertaining and compelling as the first two.


Professor Andrew Shelling, who is our Associate Dean (Research) and from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in our School of Medicine, will give his lecture Tuesday 11 August.

Professor Shelling’s lecture – ‘A genetic diagnosis of Professor” – will highlight part the development of his condition, from his rural origins in Sunny Nelson, to a Bachelor of Physical Education, BSc(Hons) and PhD in Otago, to Post-Doctoral studies in Oxford, UK, and to the recent years in Auckland/rural South Kaipara Head.
Read more for further details about this event


Professor Peter Adams, Deputy Head of our School of Population Health and from our Centre for Addiction Research, will give his inaugural lecture on Thursday 13 August.

Professor Adams’s lecture - Swimming upstream till it hurts: Should the University of Auckland accept industry money from tobacco, alcohol and gambling?’ – will illustrate how the act of accepting industry money enables companies to influence policy-makers.
Read more for further details about this event


Professor Cristin Print, from the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology in our School of Medical Sciences, will give his lecture on Tuesday 18 August.

Professor Print’s lecture - ‘Looking into a hidden world: seeing the changes to our genes that cause disease’will focus on the people and teams who have helped his rollercoaster ride from studying clover pasture enzymes, through spells in mountaineering medicine, gene knockouts and biotech companies, to the current excitement of genomics.
Read more for further details about this event