Deans diary header
Issue 405 | 8 July 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

Sadly it was announced recently that Rob Cooper, leader of Ngāti Hine and long-time supporter and contributor to the development of Te Kupenga Hauora Māori and Vision 20:20 passed away. Rob Cooper’s contribution to the development of a highly credible pathway programme for Māori and Pacific students has been immeasurable. Rob and Professor Colin Mantell were the principal architects of our very successful Māori and Pacific Admissions and support programme. He Maimai Aroha Rob Cooper.

Academic Profiles Planning has engaged a considerable amount of time over the past few months and this week I present the final base and alternative scenario to the Vice Chancellor. These profiles provide a short-term and longer term (10 year) vision of what the faculty is likely to offer in academic programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Without describing in too much detail, I can say that we are not predicting any significant changes to our suite of professional degrees since they will continue to attract high quality students seeking much sought after fully accredited professional qualifications. It is also likely that our two big non-professional undergraduate degrees, BSc Biomed and BHSc will continue as they are, so long as they continue to attract high quality students.

There is certainly no rationale for “dropping” any of our professional programmes in favour of alternatives, since as a faculty, it is predicted that we will continue to have more students applying than places available. However the predicted drop in school leavers over the next 10 years is likely to put added pressure to attract similar numbers of students each year. We have looked at the possibility of introducing some smaller specialised courses in some specialist allied health disciplines where current national training is deemed inadequate and where we could build credible expertise quickly.

Last Wednesday, we celebrated Matariki with a relaxing and enjoyable event in the Atrium. Thanks to our Tumuaki Professor Papaarangi Reid and to the members of TKHM for again staging this annual event celebrating the winter solstice.

The faculty has done extremely well in the latest round of HRC programme and project awards and my warmest congratulations to all those who were successful. There will be a story highlighting these and programmes appearing in the next diary.

Best wishes,

John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Announcing the Dean’s Fellowship

Image of From left: Pravir Tesiram, Mary Jane Boland, Sir Graeme Douglas, Vice Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon and Dean Professor John Fraser
From left: Pravir Tesiram, Mary Jane Boland, Sir Graeme Douglas, Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon and Dean of the Faculty, Professor John Fraser
Image of From left: Pravir Tesiram and Sir Graeme Douglas
From left: Pravir Tesiram and Sir Graeme Douglas

One of the great privileges of being Dean is meeting and working with the generous donors that support the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

One of these, in particular, is Sir Graeme Douglas who met the Vice-Chancellor and myself on Monday to sign a generous $2 million gift agreement from the Douglas Charitable Trust.

Sir Graeme has donated the money to support a research fellowship and the significant funds given means long term support for the fellowship.

This exciting new Fellowship will be a prestigious award to a postdoctoral medical scientist for three years.

I will be calling for applications shortly and look forward to this fellowship further enhancing the Faculty’s reputation as a leader in helping retain our best young talent.

It is also intended to help us lure Kiwi post docs fresh with international experience back to our shores.

On behalf of the Faculty, I would like to thank Sir Graeme and his fellow trustees for this generous donation and for their vision in recognising the importance of supporting postdoctoral fellows.


Faculty researchers feature in Blake Leadership Awards

Image of Sir Peter Gluckman
Sir Peter Gluckman
Image of Dr Siouxsie Wiles
Dr Siouxsie Wiles

Two well-known University of Auckland medical researchers were featured in the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Awards on Friday.

Liggins Institute founder, Distinguished Professor Sir Peter Gluckman was presented with the top honour, the Blake Medal, and Dr Siouxsie Wiles from the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology was selected as one of six Blake Leaders for 2016.

Professor Gluckman’s leadership in Science and his research into a healthy start to life has won him numerous awards and international recognition including Fellowship of the Commonwealth’s most prestigious scientific organisation, The Royal Society (London).

He is the only New Zealander elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science (USA) and the Academy of Medical Sciences of Great Britain.

Professor Gluckman is an international advocate for science, promoting the translation of discoveries in biomedical research into improvements in long term health outcomes, who is passionate about communicating a better understanding of science in the community.

Senior Lecturer, Dr Siouxsie Wiles heads the Bioluminescent Superbugs Group - using organisms which produce light to help combat infectious diseases. She is also a passionate science communicator and is sought after by media, communities and schools to present scientific issues in an accessible and easily understood way.


Neuroscientist from the CBR wins top Kiwi-Indian Award

Image of From left: Prime Minister John Key with Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains
From left: Prime Minister, John Key with Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains
Image of Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains
Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains

Dr Malvindar Singh-Bains was one of three Kiwi Indians to be inducted into the Kiwi Indian Hall of Fame recently.

Dr Singh-Bains was the recipient of the Kiwi Indian Young Achiever’s Award. This accolade acknowledges an outstanding young person (aged 16-35), who has demonstrated their ingeniousness in any field such as academics, sports, art, culture or community service.

Malvindar was nominated by her fellow lab member and colleague, Dr Nasim Mehrabi, for her ongoing commitment to raising awareness of neurodegenerative diseases among both the Kiwi and the Kiwi-Indian communities.

The recipient of a four year fellowship by the Freemasons Foundation to study Alzheimer ’s disease in the human brain, Dr Singh-Bains is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Richard Faull and Professor Mike Dragunow.

Malvindar was a top-three finalist Young New Zealander of the Year for both 2015 and 2016, in recognition of her ongoing commitment to promoting brain health and awareness of neurodegenerative diseases.

She has also received two prestigious University of Auckland scholarships for her undergraduate degree and PhD studies; focusing on research into Huntington’s Disease, a debilitating hereditary neurological condition. Her Huntington’s research has been recently accepted into the Annals of Neurology; a major accomplishment for a young kiwi researcher.

Malvindar’s most cherished accomplishment is to have founded the Huntington’s Disease Youth Organization New Zealand (HDYO-NZ) - a charity dedicated to support, educate and advocate for young New Zealanders impacted by HD.

She co-chairs this charity with Lianne Knox, a young woman whose family life has been impacted by Huntington’s disease.

As a kiwi-Indian Sikh female neuroscientist, Malvindar practices “seva”, or service, through advocating brain health awareness in all communities, inclusive of all walks of life, ranging from schools and Baptist churches to Sikh Gurudwaras.


Looking ahead to the world of tomorrow

Professor Steven Dakin
Professor Steven Dakin
Image of Associate Professor Cathy Stinear
Associate Professor Cathy Stinear

Earlier this week, two Faculty staff members – Professor Steven Dakin and Associate Professor Cathy Stinear, took part in the panel for the University of Auckland Society’s first Society Salon for 2016.

The topic was, ‘What are we doing today to help the world of tomorrow?’ and highlighted the work of three academics and researchers from across the University working in the areas of vision science, education and neuroscience addressing the big question.

Our researchers (along with Associate Professor Anne Hynds from Education and Social Work) discussed the challenges, opportunities and priorities in their fields, as well as the impact their work is having.

Professor Dakin is one of only two visual neuroscientists in New Zealand, and is the head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the Faculty. Professor Dakin came to the University from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, where he was Professor of Visual Psychophysics.

His research combines measurement of how well people can use their vision (psychophysics) with imaging (of eye and brain), to investigate vision in normal and clinical populations. His clinical research focuses on vision in developmental disorders (such as autism) and psychiatric disorders (such as schizophrenia).  

Associate Professor Stinear's research specialisation is in neuro-rehabilitation, human neurophysiology and neural plasticity. As an applied clinical neuroscientist, she is focused on translating neuroscience discoveries into clinical practice.

Her current work is using neurophysiology and neuroimaging tools to accurately predict the potential for motor recovery after stroke for individual patients. She is also testing a range of neuro-rehabilitation and neuro-modulation techniques for promoting neural plasticity.

Dr Sylvia Rosevear, who graduated from the School of Medicine in 1980, chaired the evening session. She is an obstetrician and gynaecologist in private practice since 1993.  


New Zealand third in International Brain Bee Challenge

Image of From left: Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, Brain Bee winner Stefan Ivanov, his teacher from Westlake Boys High School, and Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon
From left: Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, Brain Bee winner Stefan Ivanov, his teacher, Sean McWilliams from Westlake Boys High School, and Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon
Image of North Island Brain Bee Challenge winner Stefan Ivanov from Westlake Boys’ High School awaits the next question during the final round of the competition yesterday.
North Island Brain Bee Challenge winner Stefan Ivanov from Westlake Boys’ High School awaits the next question during the final round of the competition yesterday
Image of From left: Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull, Brain Been Champion, Matthew Fulton and Ken Rapson
From left: Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull, 2015 Brain Been Champion, Matthew Fulton and Ken Rapson

Auckland Grammar student and 2015 New Zealand Brain Been Champion, Matthew Fulton was this week placed third in the International Brain Bee Challenge in Copenhagen.

First prize went to Romania, followed by Canada in second place, in the global event hosted by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS)

The International Brain Bee Challenge is a global neuroscience competition that has taken place for almost a decade.

The Challenge aims to encourage bright year 11 students to get involved in science, and to increase brain awareness among students, teachers, parents and the community at large.

A record-breaking 26 nations participated in this year's programme, representing all six continents: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt (first year), England (first year), Germany, Grenada, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Qatar (first year), Romania, Taiwan (first year), Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America. 

North Island Brain Bee Challenge organiser, neuroscientist, Associate Professor Maurice Curtis, says “Matthew performed extremely well and placed third in the international Brain Bee competition, demonstrating that New Zealand Brain Bee champions can make it with the best in the world.”

“Matthew worked hard in the build up to the international competition and I am very proud of his efforts to come third out of 26 countries that competed,” he says. “The Brain Bee is a unique competition that allows students to participate in a competition about the brain with questions ranging from patient diagnosis, gross anatomy and theory about the workings of the brain.”

The first round of the 2016 New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge took place at the Grafton Campus on Thursday, hosted by the Centre for Brain Research. In this week’s round of the Brain Bee Challenge, more than 39 secondary schools fielded up to four teams of four students each with 159 students competing for the title.

Winner of the 2016 North Island Brain Bee Challenge held at the Faculty yesterday was Stefan Ivanov from Westlake Boys’ High School in a closely fought and entertaining final round. Second place went to Kassandra Wang from St Cuthbert’s School, and third was Nick Vu from the Auckland International College.
The teams result was; first place to St Cuthbert’s School, second place to Westlake Girls’ High School, third place to Auckland International College and fourth place to Tawa College from Wellington.

This was the tenth anniversary of the North Island Brain Bee Challenge, hosted for nine years by the Faculty and run by the CBR since 2010.


Dean’s List Award

Image of Fiona Crichton
Fiona Crichton

Congratulations to Fiona Crichton from the School of Medicine who was successfully cited in the School of Graduate Studies Dean’s List.

The list recognises the achievement of excellence in a PhD thesis.

Fiona completed her thesis on ‘Tilting at Windmills: The power of expectations to influence symptom reporting by people exposed to wind turbine sound’. ‘

Professor Keith Petrie was Fiona’s main supervisor on her thesis with co-supervisor Professor Timothy Cundy and advisers, Professor Simon Chapman and Dr George Dodd.

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