Deans diary header
Issue 409 | 2 September 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

Last week, I had the great pleasure of being a delegate at the International Congress of Immunology in Melbourne. I mention this because it was so very exciting to see the extraordinary results that are now being achieved in cancer immunotherapy against some haematological malignancies.

A new treatment, called Car-T cell therapy more often than not simply “melts away” advanced B cell leukaemia in just a few weeks after a single injection of a few of the patients own genetically modified T cells - leaving the patient essentially tumour free.  

This exciting therapy has taken seemingly disparate discoveries together with some clever thinking to produce a therapy that is heralding a new era in the treatment of cancer. It reminds me of why we are all in research. Basic science discovery over many years can collectively produce extraordinary outcomes that were never foreseen when they were first made – a strong message for the continued funding of basic research.

What is more exciting is the future developments that are now in the pipeline that are designed to trick the immune system into killing cancer cells.

Unfortunately it is my sad duty to report that there has been another cowardly attack on one of our students walking in the Grafton area. In this Deans Diary, there is a piece on this issue, and a reminder to both staff and students to remain vigilant and to follow some simple rules.

Best wishes,

John Fraser, PhD, FRSNZ
Dean, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The University of Auckland


Obituary: Emeritus Professor Derek North

Image of Emeritus Professor Derek North
Emeritus Professor Derek North

It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Emeritus Professor Derek North, who had a distinguished medical career and was pivotal to pioneering medical training in Auckland.

Professor North was the founding academic for the establishment of the Medical School in Auckland when he was made the Inaugural Professor of Medicine in 1966 and was Dean of the Medical School from 1989 to 1992. 

In the early 1960s, he also led the development of a nephrology research unit at the new Auckland Hospital.

He died this month aged 89 years. Our sympathy is extended to Derek’s family and friends. 

An obituary for Emeritus Professor Derek North written by his close colleague and friend, Emeritus Professor Ian Simpson is here.



Student assault near the Grafton Campus

Last Friday evening, an FMHS student was robbed of a cell phone and laptop near the Grafton Campus. The University is supporting the student and is working with Auckland police to assist in the investigation of the incident.

Whilst there have been no similar incidents reported near our Grafton Campus in recent months, this is an opportune time to remind everyone to be vigilant when it comes to personal safety.

Specifically please be aware you can contact the University Security Service 24 hours a day should you feel unsafe while on campus 0800 373 7550 or 85000 through the internal university phone system.

UniSafe has produced a booklet Security on Campus which is a comprehensive summary of security initiatives and advice for Auckland University students and staff. In addition the University’s website has useful information on personal safety and emergency contacts.

It includes the following piece on Essential Safety Advice:

  • If you are walking home at night, go in a group and keep to well-lit streets or take a taxi instead.
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash.
  • If you must carry valuables, keep them hidden from view.
  • Protect your mobile phone. Register your phone with the operator and if it is stolen ask them to bar the SIM card immediately.
  • Take care when using ATM machines late at night. Do not walk away from the machine with your cash in full view.
  • Never keep your PIN number with your EFTPOS or ATM card.
  • Keep your home secure by locking all windows and doors. Leave some lights on while you are out.
  • Take out property insurance so that you can replace your property in case of theft.
  • Backup work on your computer regularly. Keep the backup disk in a separate place, so that you don't lose vital work if your computer is stolen.
  • Activate your devices 'finding' application so that if you lose your phone or I-pad or if it is stolen you or the police will be better placed to track it.
  • If your credit and cash cards are stolen, inform the card provider immediately. Do not wait until you get home because it might be too late.

The New Zealand Police also have a website with information and guidelines (including in Chinese, Hindi, Korean and Japanese) for visitors to New Zealand to help ensure your personal safety while in Auckland.

The University is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for students to learn and study in. If you have any concerns about safety on or near campus, please feel free to raise them with me, a member of staff or UniSafe so that we may work to address these and assure your continued wellbeing.


FMHS Courses and Careers Day


The Faculty’s hubs and presentations at the annual Courses and Careers day on Saturday were a fantastic success that engaged with more than 2000 people - prospective students and their families.

Many people came from around New Zealand and the three Faculty presentations at the Business School’s Fisher and Paykel auditorium (that seats more than 500) were all full and overflowing. 

This was the first year that the MAPAS team had their own presentation sessions for the Faculty and these were also very well attended by students and whānau.

Staff commented on the high level of buzz around the vocational and application hubs and the enthusiastic engagement from all the presentation audiences.

This day is critically important to the Faculty’s student recruitment and takes a great deal of effort behind the scenes for many months. It’s due to the commitment and enthusiasm of the many staff on the day, that it was a success.  

Thank you to our volunteer student ambassadors on the day and especially to all the Faculty’s Marketing team who made outstanding contributions to organise and run Courses and Careers Day 2016.

Check out our FMHS Facebook page for more highlights from the event.


Collaboration and harm reduction focus of drug and alcohol research

Image of Professor Janie Sheridan
Professor Janie Sheridan

New Professor of Pharmacy, Janie Sheridan, discussed the need for hearing first-hand the experiences and concerns of people with drug and alcohol problems, at her recent inaugural lecture.

Professor Sheridan, who is also the director of the University of Auckland’s Centre for Addiction Research, says, “In the future, we need to hear the voices of people with drug and alcohol problems and of their family and whānau, not just in interviewing and focus groups, but where drug users and families are fully engaged as partners in developing and evaluating services and in a kind of ‘co-design’ where it’s an equal partnership”.

For more about Professor Sheridan's lecture that focussed on collaboration and teamwork in drug and alcohol harm reduction, click here.


Catch up on missed inaugural lectures


Recently, our faculty welcomed three new professors to our community.

Promotion to professor at the University of Auckland is a mark of distinction, recognising professional and academic eminence at an international level.

Our series of inaugural lectures was of exceptionally high quality and very popular with audiences.

Professors Ian Bissett, Peter Gilling and Janie Sheridan gave us insights into their research and journey into academic life.

If you missed attending any of the inaugurals, use this link to view the videos for each lecture, or click on the topics to view individual videos.