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Issue 390 | 2 October 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

It has been a busy week with our Spring Graduation on Tuesday. My warmest congratulations to all our newest graduates and a big thank you to Kate Snow and her Academic Services team for organising the Spring Graduation event. Dr Margaret Wilshire, Chief Medical Officer of Auckland District Health Board gave the graduation address and spoke eloquently on the nature of teamwork and its crucial place in patient care.

The Chancellors Dinner was held on Wednesday night in the marquee at Old Government House. This glittering black tie dinner is where the University recognises its major donors and supporters. The Auckland Medical Research Foundation received special recognition for its extraordinary contribution of more than $50 million towards medical and health research, most of which has been within our faculty. The AMRF celebrates its 60th anniversary and this will be marked by a special event on the 23 November.  

I am regularly asked why staff and students must book their university travel through our travel agent, APX. The reason was brought home in sharp relief on Thursday 17 when I received a call from APX within 30 minutes of the 8.3 magnitude earthquake north of Santiago, Chile informing me that two of our students were in the region. 

The University Risk Office was able to contact both students within just a few hours of the quake to confirm they were safe and to organise for their evacuation if necessary. This was an amazing example of the support provided when you register your travel through the University.

Best wishes,


John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Sun shines for Spring Graduation


The sun was well and truly out in full force on Tuesday 29 September – just in time for our University’s Spring Graduation, when many graduands proceeded from the Alumni Marquee outside Old Government House via Bowen and Victoria Streets to the Aotea Centre in the morning. 

Our faculty was joined by the Faculties of Education and Engineering for Ceremony two which had more than 600 graduates present; including more than 50 doctoral graduates across all three faculties.

We were well represented on the day with three MD graduates, 19 PhD graduates and 140 other postgraduate qualifications being conferred; including 67 at Masters level. 

Graduating is a special time in a student’s life and I extend my warm congratulations to all of our graduating students and their families.


National award recognises outstanding research

Image of Amy Chan receives the 2015 Value of Medicines Award from the Minister of Health, the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman.
Amy Chan receives the 2015 Value of Medicines Award from the Minister of Health, the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman.

Warm congratulations to Amy Chan, a final-year PhD student in our School of Pharmacy, who last month received the Value of Medicines Award 2015 at a Parliamentary Dinner in Wellington.

Minister of Health, the Hon Jonathan Coleman, presented Amy with the national award. The award recognises an outstanding piece of research that will improve the understanding, effectiveness or safety of the use of medicines or vaccines in New Zealand. The award is also intended to stimulate and reward contemporary research.

Amy is undertaking clinical research into electronic monitoring and feedback devices to improve adherence to preventative therapies in asthma.

Her research centres on a randomised controlled trial of the device, published earlier this year in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The trial demonstrated a significant benefit for children and teenagers whose asthma symptoms had been poor enough to result in hospitalisation. Amy’s study demonstrated markedly better medicines adherence in the reminder group and this translated to reduced symptoms and better quality of life.

Dr Jeff Harrison (from our School of Pharmacy) and Professor Ed Mitchell (from our Department of Paediatrics) are supervising Amy, and Alistair Stewart (from our Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics) is advising her.

Now a clinical pharmacist at Auckland Hospital, Amy is no stranger to success having been the overall winner at the inaugural HealtheX Conference as an undergraduate. She has also won a series of national pharmacy awards.

What makes Amy’s current success particularly impressive is that much of her PhD was undertaken alongside a full-time clinical role at the hospital. 


Medical student wins award for Service and Leadership

Image of Hazel Wilks
Hazel Wilks

On the evening of Friday 25 September the University hosted the annual Blues Awards ceremony, where more than 100 awards were presented to students in the categories of Service and Leadership, Sport, and Arts.

Congratulations to fourth year medical student Hazel Wilks, who is 2015 Auckland University Medical Students’ Association President, and was presented with an award for the most outstanding contribution (Service and Leadership).

During her Presidency Hazel has pioneered the establishment of a portfolio for student advocacy on major health-related issues to raise awareness and tackle broader health issues such as climate change, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, child poverty, global health and mental health. 

Hazel is also on the executive board of the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association. The President of NZMSA describes Hazel as someone who "has consistently contributed to her fellow medical student colleagues above and beyond expectations. She has led a team of students relentlessly advocating for the rights of students and for the health and wellbeing of the New Zealand public".

Associate Professor Warwick Bagg, Head of our Medical Programme, commended Hazel’s contribution noting her achievements are all the more remarkable given her considerable commitments as a Year 4 Medical Programme student.

The full list of the Blues Award winners:

  • Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution (Service and Leadership): Hazel Wilks (FMHS)
  • Sportswoman of the Year Award: Eliza McCartney (Science)
  • Sportsman of the Year Award: George Muir (Law, Business)
  • Māori Sportsperson of the Year Award: Michael Brake (Engineering)
  • Award for the Most Meritorious Performance (Sport): Rosin Giles (Law, Science)
  • Award for the Most Meritorious Performance (Arts): Joshua Cesan (NICAI)


Physiology success during Queenstown Research Week

Image of Professor Laura Bennet (left) with Christopher Lear
Professor Laura Bennet (left) with Christopher Lear

Congratulations to Professor Laura Bennet and PhD student Christopher Lear who were recognised by the Physiological Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) at the 2015 Queenstown Research Week.

Professor Bennet received the PSNZ Triennial Medal in recognition of ‘distinguished original physiological work published by a member of the Society in the previous five years’.

Christopher Lear, PhD student, won the Bullivant Oral Prize for Best Student Oral Presentation. Christopher is supervised by Professor Bennet and Professor Alistair Gunn from our School of Medical Sciences.

The annual research week is composed of three main meetings; Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting, Australasian Winter Conference on Brain Research and NZ Medical Sciences Congress. There are also a number of satellite meetings held on a diverse range of themes.


Liggins Institute student wins at HealtheX

Image of Stephanie Segovia (left) with Professor Andrew Shelling
Stephanie Segovia (left) with Professor Andrew Shelling

Congratulations to Stephanie Segovia, a PhD student in the Liggins Institute, who won first prize in the Poster Presentation Category at the faculty’s 2015 HealtheX Student Conference.

The poster summarised her work on 'Conjugated linoleic acid supplementation improves maternal high fat diet-induced programming of metabolic dysfunction in male rat offspring'.

Stephanie says HealtheX gave her an excellent opportunity to present her research in a concise manner and engage in meaningful discussion with fellow researchers in our faculty.

She will now represent the Liggins Institute and our faculty at Exposure, the University-wide student competition running 12-14 October 2015.

Read more for a full list of winners at this year’s HealtheX event.