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Issue 406 | 22 July 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

The campus is in quiet mode with students on their inter-semester break and the school holidays seem to make the Auckland traffic bearable. It’s just a pity about the weather, but it is mid-winter.

As we prepare for semester two, 69 percent of our second semester courses are now in CANVAS - another excellent result and worthy of congratulations to all staff involved. We hope that by the start of semester two, we will be close to 90 percent. CANVAS is proving to be a powerful tool that is enhancing course delivery to students across the University.

You will have noted in an email last week that Richard Swain, our Director of Faculty Operations will be leaving us. Richard has given 14 years of service to the faculty and we will be holding a farewell function for him scheduled for the afternoon of Monday 8 August.

Last week, we held our annual Auckland Otago Medical Dean’s meeting in Wellington. This annual meeting brings together the Deans, Heads of School and Assistant Deans of both medical programmes to discuss common issues and strategies. It is an extremely positive and productive meeting and is an indication of how the two universities work collaboratively rather than competitively to provide the highest quality medical education and training for New Zealand.   

Best wishes,


John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Heart Foundation Chair of Heart Health wins ongoing support

Image of Professor Rob Doughty, Heart Foundation Chair of Heart Health
Professor Rob Doughty, Heart Foundation Chair of Heart Health

Professor Rob Doughty, the Heart Foundation’s Chair of Heart Health at the Faculty, recently participated in a comprehensive review to assess the impact of his work over the last five years.

A review report was presented to Heart Foundation trustees and ongoing support for Professor Doughty was unanimously approved for the next five years, starting this July.

Associate Professor Gerry Devlin, Heart Foundation Medical Director, says “We were very impressed with the productivity of the Chair and current and future work programmes. Of particular note was the supportive environment Professor Doughty has created to encourage young researchers.”

Professor Doughty is a practising cardiologist, teacher and researcher in cardiovascular medicine at the Faculty and at the Auckland District Health Board. His vision was to establish a team including biomedical, clinical and population health expertise, focused on improving the heart health of New Zealanders.

Rob generously shared his personal story about his own heart attack with 20,000 Heart Foundation supporters in July’s fundraising appeal, highlighting the critical need for immediate action when symptoms are felt.

“I wanted Heart Foundation supporters to know that the best chance of survival and recovery is to recognise symptoms and get help fast,” he says.

The Heart Foundation’s Heart Attack Awareness campaign promotes these important messages and received coverage on ONE News.

The clinical and research environment in New Zealand continues to evolve with major opportunities for continued improvements for heart health.

Nationwide registries and quality improvement programmes, including the “All New Zealand Acute Coronary Syndromes Quality Improvement” (ANZACS QI) led by Associate Professor Andrew Kerr at Middlemore and implemented across all hospitals admitting patients with heart attacks, have led to the development of large, cost-efficient clinical studies and trials addressing important heart health related issues relevant to the NZ environment.

The Multiethnic NZ Study of Acute Coronary Syndromes (MENZACS), led from the University by Associate Professor Malcolm Legget and Professor Doughty, involving multiple centres, aims to determine the genetic and gene-environment factors that contribute to heart attacks in New Zealand’s ethnically diverse population.

The establishment of the Chair of Heart Health was the culmination of an enormous fundraising effort by the Heart Foundation which created a $5 million endowment fund five years ago.

Dean of the Faculty, Professor John Fraser thanked the Heart Foundation’s Heart Health trustees for their renewed commitment and says “We look forward to the continuing development of our relationship, as we work together to improve the heart health of our community.”


Nurse to Mexico for global perspective

Image of Kathryn Van Der Maas
Kathryn Van Der Maas

A registered nurse in her first year of the combined Waikato District Health Board/ University of Auckland’s Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) programme, has just taken part in the Universitas 21 Conference in Mexico.

Passionate about healthcare, travel and philanthropy Waikato DHB registered nurse, Kathryn Van Der Maas participated in the Universitas 21 Conference, ‘A Global Perspective on Ageing Societies’, in Te de Monterrey in Mexico, last week.

Kathryn attended along with two other New Zealand representatives and about 100 international attendees.

“Population ageing is arguably the single most influential factor that will face the New Zealand Healthcare sector in the next 10 to 20 years,” says Kathryn who was excited about attending Universitas 21.

The conference had participants from all industries, not just healthcare, and she hoped to bring back valuable learnings from all corners of the world about how to influence positive change in an ageing society of healthcare needs.

Kathryn’s research topic seeks to address the factors that influence trauma patient’s care transitions from specialty surgical wards at Waikato Hospital to regional domicile hospitals.

With multiple services involved to address trauma patients complex physical and psychological needs the care transition needs to be a comprehensive, collaborative process and Katheryn will be taking a holistic view at how these affect the quality of their care continuation.

“I’ve always been interested in community healthcare and empowering patients to succeed with their recovery plans when they leave the hospital,” she says. “Transition for trauma patients can be a time of turmoil and vulnerability in their journey, in particular older persons.”

“With a higher proportion of the population over 65, and as tertiary acute hospital service needs continue to increase, healthcare delivery has to be challenged to meet these needs closer to home,” says Kathryn.

“The opportunity to network in Mexico and widen my research will strengthen my report findings and insights for the Waikato DHB.”

Kathryn’s commitment and will to support patient journeys and Waikato DHB’s need to gather fresh insightful information on this research topic was critical to help us improve our quality of care in and out of the hospital to create a more sustainable workforce, says the driving force behind Waikato’s involvement in the Honour’s programme and Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Waikato DHB, Sue Hayward.

“Waikato DHB is committed to continuous development and investing in young stars to becoming specialists in their field.”

Now in its fourth year, the Waikato DHB/University of Auckland Honours Programme mentors and supports high achieving students with leadership potential. The programme involves four DHBs: Waikato, Counties, Bay of Plenty, and Auckland.

The programme supports academically excellent (minimum GPA 8.0) and clinically highly competent young registered nurses to participate in an Honours programme that not only prepares students for doctoral study but also engages them in leadership preparation.

To date, around 75 percent of graduates continue to doctorate level. The programme only accepts four students a year from the Waikato DHB.


Commonwealth Fund invites applications for Harkness Fellows

The Commonwealth Fund invites promising mid-career professionals to apply for an opportunity to spend up to 12 months in the United States as a Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice.

The invitation applies to government policymakers, academic researchers, clinical leaders, hospital and insurance managers, and journalists from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

Fellows work with leading US experts to study health care delivery reforms and critical issues on the health policy agenda in both the US and their home countries.

A rich program of seminars organised by the Fund throughout the year further enhances the fellowship experience. The Harkness Fellowship awards up to US $130,000 in support with an additional family allowance (approximately $60,000 for partner and two children up to age 18).

The deadline for applications from New Zealand is 6 September 2016. Interested applicants are welcome to contact Robin Osborn (Director, Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice) with any additional questions about eligibility, the project, or the application process.


Transplant specialist surgeon visits Faculty

Image of Dr Simon Talbot and Professor Ian Bissett visiting the Auckland Medical Sciences Learning Centre recently.
Dr Simon Talbot and Professor Ian Bissett visiting the Auckland Medical Sciences Learning Centre recently.

Hand and face transplant surgeon Simon Talbot stopped by his alma mater last week during a visit to New Zealand to talk to a surgical conference about his pioneering work in America.

Dr Talbot attended the NZ Orthopaedic Association’s annual conference in Queenstown and spoke at a session held by the NZ Society for Surgery of the Hand. He was given a tour of the Faculty here and met the HOD Surgery, Professor Ian Bissett.

A 39-year-old reconstructive plastic surgeon, Dr Talbot now runs the hand transplant programme at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston. He is also an academic plastic surgeon as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Dr Talbot was born in Palmerston North, grew up in Hamilton and studied at the University of Auckland Medical School.

Dr Talbot’s time is divided between clinical patient care, teaching, and research. His clinical focus is on hand and microsurgical reconstructive surgery and he is also the Director of Upper Extremity Transplantation at BWH.

As an educator he supervises up to 27 plastic surgical trainees annually and is the director of the HMS plastic surgery clerkship.

He is actively involved in numerous research projects including strategies to improve nerve regeneration in the extremities using bioengineering technologies; microsurgical device development; and outcomes research related to upper extremity transplantation.

He has participated in the seven full and partial face transplants done at BWH - work which he says has overcome initial perceptions of its being a "Frankenstein-type experiment".

Face transplants are an enormous undertaking, and aside from the medical and psycho-social preparations, they require a main operation of 12 to 24 hours involving around 14 surgeons and 30 theatre staff in total. The post-operative care and rehabilitation can involve a further 70 or more health and support workers.

He says a face transplant could help a patient with devastating disfigurement from injuries or abnormalities to regain a normal life. They could regain a relatively normal appearance, the ability to speak intelligibly, raise their eyebrows, smile, eat, smell, taste and other functions.


2016 Inaugural Lecture series

Image of Professor Ian Bissett
Professor Ian Bissett
Image of Professor Peter Gilling
Professor Peter Gilling
Image of Professor Janie Sheridan
Professor Janie Sheridan

Promotion to professor at the University of Auckland is a mark of distinction, recognising professional and academic eminence at an international level.
Our faculty’s annual Inaugural Lectures introduce our newest professors to our community.
The lectures are a chance for people to come along and find out about the work of our eminent academics and its impact on the world around us.
Our series of inaugural lectures will begin next week on Thursday 28 July with a lecture given by Professor Ian Bissett from the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine.
Professor Bissett’s lecture (‘The starved, the malignant, the unmentionable: my journey in colorectal research’), will explore tackling surgical malnutrition with minimal resources; a new understanding of rectal cancer assessment and treatment; and a novel approach for reducing faecal incontinence.
Read more for further details about this event.
Our next edition will feature Professor Peter Gilling and Professor Janie Sheridan, who will be giving their inaugural lectures in August.
Read all the upcoming inaugural topics here.