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Issue 408 | 19 August 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

We were wonderfully entertained this week with the Sir Douglas Robb Lecture series by Professor Stuart Firestein from Columbia University, NY who at the time of writing, had given two of his three lectures to packed audiences.

His first lecture on Monday was entitled “Ignorance and Uncertainty” and his second on Wednesday, “Failure and Doubt”. In the first lecture he argued how mistaken we are that science stands on unshakable pillars of knowledge.

Instead he proposed that the knowledge should be used to frame better questions, that then challenge those pillars rather than assume that what we know now will remain true and immutable.

The second lecture argued how important failure was, to the progression of scientific research, but that we do not acknowledge this, and instead we demand only the reporting of positives.

He mischievously quoted a famous comment by Dr John Maddox, former editor of the journal Nature, who when asked how much research published in his journal was incorrect he replied “all of it!”

The lectures were lucid, hugely entertaining and thought provoking and it was a delight for us to be able host Professor Firestein and to continue to recognise the enormous contributions that Sir Douglas Robb made as the principal architect of the establishment of the Auckland School of Medicine and this faculty.

Our inaugural lectures were completed last week with Professor Janie Sheridan and I would like to thank all those who came along to provide support. I would especially like to thank Kirsty-Emma Gray and Natalia Jethender from our marketing team for organising this series and ensuring they were a great success.

The faculty learnt the sad news this week that the third Dean of the Faculty (1989-92), Professor Derek North has passed away. Derek North was Dean when I returned from Boston in 1988 and was hugely supportive of my attempts to get established as a young research fellow.

He was a kind, warm and gentle man and I know many in the faculty who knew him will be deeply saddened by his passing. Emeritus Professor Ian Simpson will be providing a formal obituary for Professor North to be presented at University Senate.

Best wishes,

John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ

Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The University of Auckland


Young academic receives prestigious Māori scholarship

Image of Erena Wikaire was awarded a prestigious postgraduate scholarship by the Rose Hellaby Māori Education Fund (managed by Perpetual Guardian) this week.
Erena Wikaire was awarded a prestigious postgraduate scholarship by the Rose Hellaby Māori Education Fund (managed by Perpetual Guardian) this week.

World-leading indigenous health researcher Erena Wikaire (Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Hine) who works and studies at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori was awarded a prestigious postgraduate scholarship by the Rose Hellaby Māori Education Fund this week.

The fund that is managed by Perpetual Guardian, has distributed almost $4 million to support Māori education since 1977.

Erena is working towards a Doctorate in Public Health at our Tāmaki Campus, focusing on how Māori healing traditions can be used to improve health outcomes for Māori.

She is researching how to re-normalise the use of rongoā Māori (traditional Māori health practices) in everyday life to empower Māori to regain control over our own wellbeing and thereby improve Māori health outcomes.

Erena took up the cause after her cousin Melissa Wikaire, who had been a tireless supporter of rongoā, passed away from cancer in 2013. Erena’s research is based within Ngāti Whātua ō Orākei (central Auckland) and is already attracting international attention in the field of indigenous health.

She says being the recipient of a Rose Hellaby Scholarship is a “huge honour” and she is proud to be using it for research that values traditional Māori knowledge, aligns with the aspirations of Māori and contributes to Māori health and wellbeing.

Erena says, “cost is one of the biggest barriers to postgraduate study for Māori. The Rose Hellaby Scholarship is a major help financially and enables me to concentrate fully on my studies. I am very grateful for the support.”

Our congratulations to Erena for her wonderful success in this major award.



Final Inaugural lectures for 2016

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Janie Sheridan20
Uni Peter Gilling 14
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Congratulations to Professor Peter Gilling (School of Medicine) and Professor Janie Sheridan (School of Pharmacy), who both recently gave excellent inaugural lectures at our Grafton Campus.

Professor Gilling was born and raised in Christchurch and graduated from the University of Otago in 1982. He started working in Tauranga in 1992 and now works as an Urologist leading the Bay of Plenty Clinical School. He is also a member of the Executive Management team for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

Over the years, Peter has held many prestigious positions and has made significant advances in the practice of surgery. Peter established New Zealand’s first Surgical Robotics Programme in Tauranga in 2007.

His inaugural lecture, entitled ‘Only men, dogs and chimpanzees...’ discussed how this new surgical procedure has now become the ‘gold standard’ for surgically managing ‘benign prostatic hyperplasia worldwide. He is acknowledged as a world authority on this procedure.

Professor Janie Sheridan’s inaugural had a great turnout with a “Janie-personalised” music playlist during nibbles. The playlist featured music that had subversive themes on drugs and alcohol, referencing her area of research in drug and alcohol harm reduction.

Janie talked about the power of collaboration and teamwork in drug and alcohol reduction. She emphasised the importance of giving substance-users a voice in understanding substance-related harm.

Janie is a keen artist and musician and we enjoyed her wonderful humour and enthusiasm.

Congratulations to all our faculty’s new professors for their significant and well-deserved recognition.

Click the images to view our gallery of highlights.


Pharmacy 2006 Reunion

Image of Pharmacy Reunion- Class of 2006
Pharmacy Reunion- Class of 2006

Last Saturday, the third graduating class, Class of 2006, from the School of Pharmacy celebrated a decade since their graduation.

More than 40 people attended the reunion, accompanied by their partners and in many cases their children -  as Professor John Shaw said in his address, they were introducing the next generation of pharmacists to the University and the Faculty.

The class had a tour of the new facilities that the Faculty offers the Pharmacy students now.

They were also introduced to the new curriculum that is being implemented to ensure that the School continues to produce graduates that match the needs of the profession and the health needs of patients.

Attendees came from as far away as Hong Kong for the reunion which was followed by a dinner at a city restaurant.


Honarary award for busy critical care leader

Image of Dr Colin McArthur
Dr Colin McArthur

Dr Colin McArthur, a senior intensivist in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Auckland City Hospital was recently made an Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Anaesthesiology in the School of Medicine.

Dr McArthur is a graduate of this Faculty and a dual qualified medical specialist (anaesthesia and intensive care) and it was his excellent research record for a busy clinician that prompted the department to nominate him.

He has 85 publications in peer reviewed journals, including 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine and several in other prestigious journals including JAMA, BMJ, and Lancet.

Although these publications are often of collaborative multi-centre trials with large teams of investigators, Dr McArthur is often on the writing committee, and this represents an extremely impressive record of collaborative research.

Dr McArthur was a key collaborator in re-establishing medical student attachments to the Department of Critical Care Medicine when he was the Clinical Director several years ago.

He helped to incorporate a day in intensive care for the fourth year medical students in the Auckland cohort completing their run in anaesthesiology. Before this, these students had no clinical exposure to intensive care whatsoever.

Dr McArthur is involved in teaching both students and intensive care trainees when they are present in the department during his clinical days. He has also provided extensive and valuable service in support of academic activity in the wider clinical community.

He was involved in the application process for more than $10 million in funds to support large multi-centre clinical trials, and was Vice Chair (2009 – 2012) and then Chair (2012 – 2015) of the Australia and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group.

This group has been very effective in securing funding for and conducting extremely influential clinical trials in intensive care medicine. He is a long term member of the Auckland District Health Board Research Review Committee, and is current Chairman of that committee.

Dr McArthur is a practicing intensivist in a busy intensive care unit - a very demanding clinical job. Among his clinical leadership roles, he was (until recently) the Clinical Director of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Auckland City Hospital.