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Issue 412 | 14 October 2016 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

I am writing this message from Wollongong, New South Wales where the annual Australia and New Zealand Medical Deans meeting is in session.

There are now 18 accredited medical programmes in Australia producing more than 4000 medical graduates a year compared to New Zealand’s two programmes producing about 400 graduates a year.   

There is much discussion and debate here about how many medical graduates are needed to sustain our medical workforces over the next 30 years.

One of the big issues facing Australia is how to supply sufficient doctors to work in the many rural and remote regions of that vast country.  

A similar issue around distribution faces New Zealand and it is good to share knowledge, experience and practice with our Australian colleagues.

Last week, the faculty budget for 2017 was announced. While revenue in 2017 will increase by $7 million (four percent of our TEC and PBRF revenue in 2016), much of this will be absorbed by increased costs and contributions.

This will leave the faculty with only a small increase in revenue to be invested in the establishment of medical cohorts at Tauranga and Whakatane hospitals. These are modelled on our successful Pukawakawa programme in Whangarei.   

Best wishes,

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


Major donation boosts New Zealand medtech and neuroscience research

Image of From left: Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter (Director of ABI) and Distinguished Professor Richard Faull (Director of CBR)
From left: Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter (Director of ABI) and Distinguished Professor Richard Faull (Director of CBR)

A well-known philanthropist, Julian Robertson from the New York-based Aotearoa Foundation, has pledged $6.8 million to the University of Auckland's recently launched fundraising campaign.

This significant donation is set to create new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for healthcare and new opportunities in the rapidly growing New Zealand medical technology sector, supporting leading researchers at the University’s Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) and Centre for Brain Research (CBR).

Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter (Director of ABI) and Distinguished Professor Richard Faull (Director of CBR) agree that this support will enable us to attract world-class researchers and collaborate on areas of medical research.

The Aotearoa Foundation is a private foundation established in 2004 by Julian Robertson and his wife, Josie. The organisation seeks to make high-impact grants in New Zealand in three principal areas: education, conservation and environmental stewardship, and medical research.

As opportunities emerge, the Foundation will look to provide grants in other spheres, and an ongoing objective of our work is to help develop a stronger culture of philanthropy in New Zealand.

It is a wonderful recognition and testament to the quality of our staff that such a distinguished New York philanthropist continues to pledge his support to this Faculty, for which we are extremely grateful.

Read more on the University of Auckland's fundraising campaigns.



Prestigious Dr Paratene Ngata Te Ngākau Ora Award

Image of From left: Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid and Dr Rawiri Jansen – recent Chair of Te ORA at the awards ceremony
From left: Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid and Dr Rawiri Jansen (recent Chair of Te ORA) at the awards ceremony

Congratulations to Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid who received the prestigious Dr Paratene Ngata Te Ngākau Ora Award at the Te ORA (Māori Medical Practitioners Association) hui held at the Papakura Marae recently.

The Award honours service, mentoring and support to Māori doctors and medical students "Tautoko, Aroha, Awhi". It recognises Māori doctors continuing the work of late Dr Paratene Ngata who passed away in 2009.

Dr David Jansen’s speech highlighted Papaarangi’s achievements and contribution to the growth and development of the Māori health workforce; and the waiata tautoko, Rerenga Wairua, was sung by all doctors and medical students there, leaving her just a wee bit teary eyed.

Papaarangi is Tumuaki, Deputy Dean and Head of Te Kupenga Hauora Māori - Department for Māori Health at the faculty and specialises in Public Health Medicine.

She has tribal affiliations to Te Rarawa in the Far North of Aotearoa and her research interests include analysing disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous citizens as a means of monitoring government commitment to indigenous rights.



Wonderful journey to spring graduation

Faull Family
Tim Faull Leanne

Spring graduation was doubly special for Master of Nursing graduate, Tim Faull last month.

Not only was he graduating with a Master of Nursing with first class honours, but his fiancé Leanne Stewart was graduating at the same ceremony with a Diploma in Advanced Nursing with Distinction.

He says, it was fantastic graduating together with Leanne and to have his Dad on stage as well was very special. He was referring to renowned and widely-respected neuroscientist, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull, the Director of the University’s Centre for Brain Research.

Both Tim and Leanne have gained some top awards in their nursing training. Leanne graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor of Nursing and a Wolters Kluwer Health/Ovid Award for the most distinguished performance in both clinical practice and academic work in her year.

She was also awarded the Senior Scholar Award in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences in 2013 and earned a place on the Bachelor of Nursing honours board as the top student of her year.

Tim completed his Bachelor of Nursing in 2006 and was awarded the Senior Prize in Nursing. He was also awarded a University of Auckland academic Maori and Pacific Graduate Scholarship to complete his Master in Nursing.

He says the School of Nursing has an excellent post-graduate programme that caters for individual learning needs and includes a good relationship with Auckland City Hospital.

For the full story of Tim's journey that takes him from Auckland to the Australian outback and a Universitas 21 Health Sciences Global Learning Partnership programme in Kathmandu with Leanne, click here.


New operating room training to improve teamwork

Image of From left to right: Professor Alan Merry, Professor Ian Civil, Dr Jane Torrie, Associate Professor Jennifer Weller, Dr Craig Webster, Kaylene Henderson, Dr David Cumin
From left: Professor Alan Merry, Professor Ian Civil, Dr Jane Torrie, Associate Professor Jennifer Weller and Dr Craig Webster, Kaylene Henderson, Dr David Cumin

A training programme for operating room staff, designed to test and improve teamwork skills, has been awarded a substantial contract with ACC to be rolled out around New Zealand.

The teamwork training pilot, developed by researchers is the first such model for improving operating room teamwork.

Earlier this year, ACC agreed to fund the training project into all district health boards over the next five years with $4.8 million for the first 10 DHBs and a further $4.8 million in 2018.

The pilot intervention known as MORSim (Multi-disciplinary Operating Room Simulation) was funded by Health Workforce NZ and has found a number of positive improvements result from the new communication training.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Jennifer Weller, (director of the University’s Centre for Medical and Health Science Education), says that unintended patient harm is a major contributor to poor outcomes for surgical patients and often reflects failures in teamwork.

In a paper published today in the NZ Medical Journal, she says the MORSim intervention was developed to improve teamwork in the operating room after piloting it with 20 operating room teams from two of New Zealand’s 20 district health boards.

It’s being rolled out to the first five district health boards already with a second round planned to begin soon.

Read more


NEXT Health and Science Woman of the Year

Image of Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Merryn Gott at the award ceremony
Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Merryn Gott at the award ceremony

Congratulations to Professor Merryn Gott who was named this year's Health and Science category winner at the NEXT Woman of the Year award ceremony yesterday.
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.
Professor Gott’s award recognises her leadership in palliative care and her research that has led to reducing suffering at the end of life.
Merryn 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.
She has published more than 160 papers in peer-reviewed journals and many books and has editorial roles for a number of journals relating to palliative care.
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.



Medtech at SILO 6- from smart splints to sonification

Image of Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter
Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter

New Zealand’s first ever medical technology showcase opens to the public at SILO 6 in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter later this month.

School children and the public will see how medical technology is changing lives and healthcare, in the former waterfront cement silos at Wynyard Quarter.

Several academics from this faculty are involved in the interactive SILO 6 Medtech exhibition, led by the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute (ABI). Each of the six silos will house a different aspect of the exhibition, including at least one hands-on activity that engages both children and adults.

Director of ABI, Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter, says they aim to engage kids in science in a playful way, by offering hands-on exhibits in collaboration with the TestPod on the different Medtech research themes.

The exhibition is also about bringing everyone involved in medical technology together and giving them an opportunity to network.

The themes will include Diagnostics and Therapeutics, Interventional Technologies, Assistive Technologies, Telehealth and health informatics, Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine, and Sonification (controlling music using data from the heart, lungs and muscles).

The SILO 6 Medtech exhibition will include interactive talks and panel discussions with insights from the medtech industry, clinicians, and researchers. The exhibition launch is on 27 October, and it runs from 29 October to 6 November.

See here for more details.



FMHS postgraduate students success at Exposure

Image of From left: Himanshu Wadhwa (first place winner) and Samuel Blanchett (third place winner)
From left: Himanshu Wadhwa (first place winner) and Samuel Blanchett (third place winner)

Congratulations to our postgraduate students Himanshu Wadhwa and Samuel Blanchett who won the first and third place for the Oral Competition category at the recent Exposure Postgraduate Research Exposition.

The School of Graduate Studies and the Postgraduate Students' Association (PGSA) organise this annual Exposure at the University of Auckland.

Himanshu is currently undertaking laboratory-based research with a clinical focus for his BMedSc (Hons) project with the Department of Ophthalmology this year.

His project investigates the use of corneal stem cell-enriched spheres in keratoconic tissue repair supervised by Associate Dean, Associate Professor Trevor Sherwin.

Himanshu began the project with a summer studentship with the Department in 2014, which inspired him to return to full-time research this year. He intends to complete his final year of medical school in 2017 with the undertaking of a PhD potentially on the horizon.

Samuel Blanchett is currently in his second year of his PhD under the supervision of Associate Professor Thomas Proft, in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology.

His research focuses on working on “PilVax”, a novel peptide delivery system for the development of vaccines against tuberculosis and colorectal cancer.  This new technology recently patented by the Proft lab is a safe, inexpensive and effective mucosal vaccine.

We look forward to hearing more about how are students are achieving the amazing.

See highlights from Exposure


Evolutionary biology and the redoxing of blood

Image of Dr William Peters
Dr William Peters

An honorary senior lecturer in the Department of Surgery, Dr William Peters, has developed an open access online course called ‘Evolutionary Biology for the Enquiring Mind’.

The four-part, one-hour lecture series has already had more than 600 people register to participate in the course that traces the evolution from fish to man, through the physics of the one-way circulation of redoxing blood.

Dr Peters says the course provides an insight into a biophysical model that maps both vertebrate embryology and evolution and is designed to prompt further observation and discovery.

In the course, animated and physical models are used to demonstrate key mechanisms in the translation of form.

Dr Peters has a Doctorate of Medicine from Monash University and more than 25 years of clinical experience and preclinical research, covering surgical correction of congenital and acquired heart disease, heart and lung transplantation and mechanical cardiac assist device surgery.

He published his first book, 'Per sanguinem nostrum', on the circulation of blood, earlier this year and his research interests include the physics of the redoxing blood circuit and its relationship to vertebrate evolution.



BREAKING NEWS: Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award

Image of Associate Professor Andrew Wearn
Associate Professor Andrew Wearn

Congratulations to Clinical Skills Centre director, Associate Professor Andrew Wearn who has been recognised for his Sustained Excellence in Teaching with a University of Auckland Teaching Excellence Award 2016.

The awards were announced by Professor John Morrow (Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic) today.

Read more