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Issue 411 | 30 September 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

The Times Higher Education World University rankings released this morning places the University of Auckland 74th in the subject category of Clinical and Pre-clinical Health, the highest ranked subject for any New Zealand university.

The University of Otgo also ranked 90th in the same subject category placing the two New Zealand medical faculties in the top 100. Both Auckland and Otago scored highly for their international outlook (92.9 and 94.4 respectively) and citations (81.8 and 78.6 respectively) and Auckland also did well for its industry outcome (76.4).

This exceptional ranking is a great achievment and a superb tribute to the high quality of our staff and our teaching and research programmes. Congratulations to everyone!

Last Friday night was the public launch of the University’s “Can We ...” philanthropic campaign at an event at the Viaduct Harbour Events Centre attended by more than 500 people from across Auckland. The target of the fundaraising campaign is $300 million and the Vice Chancellor announced that more than $150 million has already been raised towards this ambitious target.

The Faculty of Medical Sciences is a major component of the campaign with ambitious plans for a $20 million Scholars Fund, a range of new academic chairs in strategic areas and major support for a cancer research initiative that aligns with the Auckland Academic Health Alliance.

At Spring Graduation on Wednesday evening, about 200 FMHS graduates shared the stage with graduates from the Faculties of Law and Engineering. A notable feature of the graduation ceremony was 58 doctoral degrees awarded across all three faculties. The faculty will be holding another graduation ceremony on 18 November for our 2016 completions in MBChB, BPharm and BNurs degrees. This will be a first for the University and will replace our traditional qualifying ceremonies.

Planning continues on the future Grafton development. A small group in the faculty are working closely with a team from Property Services with high level scoping of requirements to accomodate all Tamaki staff on the Grafton campus.

Best wishes,

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


2016 AAHA Collaboration Fund

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Dr Margaret Wilsher and I are pleased to announce details of the four projects that were awarded funding in the 2016 Auckland Academic Health Alliance Collaborative Research Grant round.

The University and Hospital jointly-led projects were awarded a total of $300,000 to foster research relationships that promise enhancements in prevention, diagnosis and therapies.

The Alliance was created to develop and foster these relationships and we have robust expectations that the following projects will not only advance science, but also demonstrate just how directly clinical science can produce very tangible patient benefits in our health system.

The A+ Trust and Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences jointly awards these funds and you can find about more about funds here.  

I'd like to congratulate the following researchers on their grants:

  • Dr Susann Beier and Associate Professor Mark Webster
for “Coronary Artery Atlas”, a study of coronary artery flow assessment in normal and pathological cases to improve stent strategy.

  • Dr Raida Al-Kassas and Dr Mark O'Carroll
for “New and effective method for the treatment of cystic fibrosis using nanotechnology”, an investigation into delivering sodium chloride therapy using inhaled nanoparticles.

  • Professor Merryn Gott and Dr Andrew Old
for “End of Life Care Provision by Auckland DHB”, an extensive survey on the end of life circumstances of terminal patients dying under the care of the Auckland District Health Board.

  • Professor Mike Dragunow and Dr Clinton Turner
for “Immune Cells in Meningioma”, a retrospective observational analysis of the prognostic significance of tumour infiltrating lymphocyte and macrophage subsets. The particular focus is on the seven-year recurrence-free survival of patients with meningioma in Auckland.

Congratulations to these researchers for their most impressive proposals and well-deserved grants.



Young Bioscientist of the Year

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Dr Francis Hunter

Congratulations to world-class oncology researcher, Dr Francis Hunter who received the “Young Bioscientist of the Year” award at the NZBIO Excellence Awards Dinner held this month.

The selection was by the bio-enterprise organisation for individual excellence and achievement in bio-based business and research.

Dr Hunter is a research fellow at our Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC) where he employs cutting-edge genetic technologies to understand molecular mechanisms of drug and radiation responses in cancer - allowing treatments to become more precise and personalised. He holds the John Gavin Fellowship from the Genesis Oncology Trust.

Dr Hunter has raised $600,000 to research cancer therapies as the principal scientist and contributes to research awarded $2.2 million in additional funding.

Dr Hunter has won a series of domestic and international awards for his work which includes academic and industry partnerships with collaborators in Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States.

Read more about Dr Francis Hunter’s achievements.


NEXT Woman of the year nomination

Image of Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Merryn Gott
Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Merryn Gott

Each year NEXT magazine selects top women in several categories to celebrate New Zealand's inspirational women who have demonstrated passion, commitment and success in their chosen field.

This year Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Merryn Gott from the School of Nursing was nominated as a finalist in the Health and Science category. The magazine cited her leadership in palliative care and her research that has led to reducing suffering at end of life.

Professor Gott has spent more than 20 years researching older people and developing models of palliative and end of life care to meet the needs of ageing populations. Her research programme has been supported by substantial grants from the Health Research Council NZ, the UK Department of Health, Research Councils and Health Charities.

Merryn has published more than 160 papers in peer-reviewed journals and a number of books, and has editorial roles for a number of journals relating to palliative care. In 2014 she was awarded the New Zealand Association of Scientists' Research Medal which recognises 'outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social sciences'.

Professor Gott also directs the Te Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group that conducts multi-disciplinary bi-cultural research which informs practice and policy in palliative and end of life care both nationally and internationally.

The overall winner of the NEXT Woman of the Year and category winners will be announced on 13 October.


Recognition for commitment to Pacific public health

Image of At the recent Pasifika Medical Association Awards, research fellow Dr Aumea Herman (centre) receives a PMA Service Award
At the recent Pasifika Medical Association Awards, research fellow Dr Aumea Herman (centre) receives a PMA Service Award

Congratulations to Pacific public health specialist, Dr Aumea Herman who received a Service Award from the Pasifika Medical Association for her contributions to Pacific Health.

The Service Award acknowledges members who have shown an exceptional and outstanding commitment to a health service organisation or community.

Dr Herman's work spans New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands. She now divides her time between working as a GP and post-doctoral research into injury and disability in the Pacific.

Aumea's further contributions include encouraging young Cook Island students to enter medicine, establishing South Seas Healthcare in Manukau; advising the Ministry of Health; and developing New Zealand's Pacific nursing workforce.

Read more about Dr Aumea Herman's journey.



Prestigious scholarship to Cambridge

Image of Palliative care researcher Tessa Morgan volunteers weekly at the Mercy Hospice in College Hill to help out and gain first-hand experience of end-of-life care
Palliative care researcher Tessa Morgan volunteers weekly at the Mercy Hospice in College Hill to help out and gain first-hand experience of end-of-life care

Congratulations to Tessa Morgan, a research assistant in the School of Nursing, who was recently awarded a prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship to the University of Cambridge in England.

Tessa completed a BA in Politics and History at the University of Auckland and is finishing an Honours year in History, but it was the offer of a Summer Student Scholarship project two years ago from the School of Nursing that changed her focus.

Tessa was the Auckland University Students Association Women’s Rights Officer when she was offered the chance to do a systemic review of gender and family caregiving in the context of old age.

This has led to her planning a PhD to focus on palliative care and end of life care that she will pursue at Cambridge supported by the four-year $300,000 Woolf Fisher Scholarship.  

She is one of only four students offered the Scholarship in New Zealand this year and the only student from Auckland. 

Tessa now works in the School of Nursing, supporting the work of the Te Arai Palliative and End of Life Care Group and as Project Manager of the MBIE-funded Social Isolation and Loneliness Study which is a two-year project.

She takes up her Woolf Fisher Scholarship in October 2017.

Read more



2016 Blues Awards

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Alexaner Stewart Carr
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Helen Murray 2

Congratulations to all our outstanding faculty students who were recognised for their achievements at the 2016 annual Blues Awards Ceremony, held last week.

Our Faculty had representation across the three categories, in Sports, Arts and Service and Leadership.

It’s always good to see our students excel and achieve in these extra-curricular areas.

Check out the full list of winners here



Visiting Seelye Fellow lectures on Traumatic Brain Injury

Image of Visiting Seeyle Fellow Dr Juan Carlos Arango-Lasprilla
Visiting Seeyle Fellow Dr Juan Carlos Arango-Lasprilla

An international expert in the psychological needs of individuals with traumatic brain injury will visit Auckland this October.

The Centre for Brain Research (CBR) and Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ) are co-hosting Visiting Seeyle Fellow Dr Juan Carlos Arango-Lasprilla.

Neuroscientist, Dr Arango-Lasprilla is the Ikerbasque Research Professor at Grupo de Psicología y Salud, BioCruces Health Research Institute Cruces University Hospital at the Basque Foundation for Science in Bilbao Spain.

His research spans studies across many countries, focused on understanding and addressing the psychological, emotional, and family needs of individuals with brain injury.

Dr Arango-Lasprilla’s visit was arranged and led by BRNZ Māori Strategic Leader, Dr Hinemoa Elder.

He comes to New Zealand to learn how our country has taken a leadership role in cultural affairs, and to share his experience in culturally-sensitive assessment and recovery from brain injury and neurodegeneration.

When in Auckland, Dr Arango- Lasprilla will present a week-long seminar series, concluding with a public lecture on the ‘Short and long-term functional, cognitive and neurobehavioural outcomes in individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury.'

This lecture is the first focusing exclusively on Traumatic Brain Injury to be hosted by our Faculty.

I encourage you all to attend this seminar. Find out more information about the lecture series here.



Spring Graduation


A big congratulation to all our newest graduates for this year.

Despite the rain over the past few days, the sun was out in full force on Tuesday 27 September- making it a lovely Spring Graduation after all.

The graduands had their traditional street procession from the University to the Aotea Centre to commence their big day.

The faculty hosted an afternoon tea at the Fale Pasifika, where many of our students joined staff, family and friends to celebrate.

A special thanks to all staff that attended and assisted in making graduation a big success this year.