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Issue 368 | 20th February 2015 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

Welcome to the latest edition of the Dean’s Diary.

Next week we welcome our students for the 2015 academic year. The week will be filled with orientation activities across the University before teaching begins in earnest.

I wish to thank Kate Snow and her team in Student Services (and indeed all those who will spend time helping with orientation) to making our new and returning students feel so welcome.

I am pleased to announce that at our first faculty meeting for 2015, it was recommended that the faculty establish a sixth school - Optometry and Vision Science.

This recommendation was accepted unanimously. The recommendation will now go to Senate for final approval.

No sooner do we start the academic year when we are visited by a five member AMC medical accreditation panel. Professor Tim Usherwood from Sydney, the chair of the panel, will provide the preliminary findings of the panel at a faculty presentation.

The presentation on Friday 6 of March and we invite all interested faculty to attend. We will provide notification closer to the time.


John Fraser PhD FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland

Obituary – Chris Horton

Image of Christopher Horton
Christopher Horton

It is with great sadness that the faculty acknowledges the sudden passing of Christopher Horton CBE JP.

Chris has been a significant supporter of medical research in Auckland, and specifically in the University of Auckland for many years.

He has been a board member of the Auckland Medical Research Foundation since 1999, and a long serving trustee of the Manchester Charitable Trust.

Chris was generous of his time and wisdom, and it is fitting that donations in memory of him have been made to the Auckland Medical Research Foundation.

Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends.

Health advocates lead call for TPPA transparency

Dr Pat Neuwelt
Dr Pat Neuwelt

Universities are charged with being a critic and conscience of society.

In this role, several University of Auckland academics and over two dozen international health advocates are calling for transparency and wide discussion on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Writing in the 14 February issue of The Lancet, Dr Pat Neuwelt, Senior Lecturer in public health at our Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences joins other health leaders in saying ‘new generation’ trade deals like the TPPA threaten the ability of government to deliver affordable health care, protect public health, and reduce health inequities.

They say the TPPA is in the final stages of negotiation between 12 Pacific-Rim countries, affecting more than 700 million people. While USA-based industry advisers have been granted privileged access to negotiating documents, health agencies have been forced to rely on leaked information.

In their article, they charge that TPPA negotiators are protecting the profits of multinationals instead of the health of private citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

Dr Neuwelt and her colleagues are pressing for TPPA discussions to be transparent and for there to be an assessment of the broad health impacts before the agreement is signed.

They argue that the present TPPA wording will lead to an unprecedented expansion of intellectual property rights, push up the cost of life-saving medicines, and threaten public health by freezing government ability to pass laws for better health.

Even more chilling, they say governments could be sued for protecting health – yet governments could not sue the multinationals. They say we need to think of the global health implications in regards to tobacco, alcohol, obesity, climate change, antibiotic resistance and who knows what challenges we might face in the future.

The article was signed by 27 health leaders (from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, USA and Vietnam, and including leaders of the World Medical Association and World Federation of Public Health Associations).

Lead signatories/co-authors are Drs Joshua Freeman (University of Auckland), Gay Keating (University of Otago, Wellington), Erik Monasterio (University of Otago, Christchurch), Pat Neuwelt (University of Auckland), and Deborah Gleeson (La Trobe University, Melbourne).


New post graduate nursing programme produces high achievers

Congratulations to our four new nursing honours graduands in the Waikato, who are the first globally to qualify in an innovative programme that combines postgraduate study with a leadership programme.

The four students, (Michelle Cameron, Kimberley McAuley, Sara Hablous and Victoria Prendergast) have achieved the Nursing Honours degree based within Waikato, and will graduate with first class honours. 

One of these students, Victoria Prendergast, is continuing her studies this year with a Doctorate in Health Sciences investigating infectious disease outbreak in New Zealand, specifically modelling ebola spread.

In 2013, an initiative to increase the number of nursing leaders in the Waikato was developed by the University of Auckland and the Waikato District Health Board.

The initiative combined an existing academic programme for top achieving nursing graduates from across the country with a pragmatic leadership mentoring programme delivered jointly by the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland and Waikato DHB.

Nurses on the two year programme worked on research directly relevant to the Waikato, alongside senior managers across the DHB while continuing to study towards expanded nursing roles.

This initiative is the first of its kind internationally and promises significant rewards to these nurses as well as the Waikato DHB. The programme funding for the DHB was supported by Health Workforce NZ.

The aims of the programme include: enabling these nurses to develop key relationships with and understand the roles of senior managers and executive team members at Waikato DHB; work collaboratively with them around solving clinical problems; develop clinical research skills; and graduate with the Honours programme, giving them the option of enrolling in doctoral or Nurse Practitioners programmes later on.


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

Image of Dr Francis Hunter (centre) with his PhD supervisors, Professor Bill Wilson and Dr Jingli Wang
Dr Francis Hunter (centre) with his PhD supervisors, Professor Bill Wilson and Dr Jingli Wang

Congratulations to Dr Sarah Bristow and Dr Francis Hunter, two of our FMHS students who were successfully cited in the School of Graduate Studies Deans List. The list recognises the achievement of excellence in their PhD theses.

Dr Bristow is a research assistant in the School of Medicine, where she also completed her thesis on ‘Effects of Calcium on Indices of Bone and Cardiovascular Health, and on Cancer.’

Distinguished Professor Ian Reid was the main supervisor on Sarah’s thesis, supported by Dr Mark Bolland as co-supervisor and Associate Professor Andrew Grey as adviser.

Dr Hunter is an oncology researcher in the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre within the School of Medical Sciences, where he produced his thesis.

Professor Bill Wilson was his main thesis supervisor and Dr Jingli Wang was co-supervisor on Francis’ thesis on ‘Old target; new paradigm: Determinants of sensitivity to hypoxia-directed anticancer prodrugs.’

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


Spark – the University of Auckland entrepreneurship programme

Spark is a student-led initiative that stimulates the creation of wealth in New Zealand by fostering and promoting a spirit of innovation and a culture of entrepreneurship amongst the students and staff of the University of Auckland. Spark achieves this by running an eventful calendar of free educational seminars, clinics, workshops and competitions throughout the year to inspire, educate, motivate and connect entrepreneurial minds across the University.

This initiative has gained international recognition. The MIT/Skoltech report has cited the University of Auckland as “one of the top 5 most highly regarded entrepreneurial universities in the world operating in more challenging environments” and recognised Spark as the “beating heart of the entrepreneurship at the University”.

Spark’s Ideas Challenge of “$1000 for 1000 words” encourages those with a business or social enterprise idea to test its potential and receive expert feedback and the opportunity to win from the $36,000 pool. The flagship $100k Challenge involves writing a 3500 word venture summary with selected finalists having 7 weeks to develop a business plan and pitch with the support of two mentors each  and workshops. Prizes of up to $25,000 in cash along with business incubation are available to help launch the winning ventures.

Now in its thirteenth year, Spark has helped establish over 100 ventures, which have raised over $190 million in funding and created more than 400 jobs. FMHS alumnus Dr Privahini Bradoo (Founder, Blue Oak) was Spark’s inaugural CEO, and our faculty enjoys a proud track record in the programme with notable alumni such as Professors Colin Green (CoDa) and Simon Malpas (Telemetry Research now Miller Instruments), Drs Graeme Fielder and Francis Hunter (Mesopharm), Dr Divya Dhar (P3 Foundation, Seratis).

For more information visit: