Deans diary header
Issue 417 |17 February 2017 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

Welcome to the first Dean’s Diary for 2017. Already well into February, a great deal has happened over the last three months, and I present some of the main highlights in this first edition.

We all warmly congratulate Distinguished Professor Richard Faull for his richly deserved knighthood announced in the New Year’s list. This national recognition is just deserved for Richard, who has achieved so much as the preeminent leader in brain research in New Zealand.  

Congratulations to all our new professors. This was a record number this year, and I am delighted that so many were successful in last year’s round. Promotion to professor is a mark of academic distinction.

Earlier this week we heard the sad news that one of our celebrated ex-professor's, James (Jim) Watson passed away after a long battle with Cancer. Jim was appointed in 1985 as Professor and head of a new department - Immunobiology, which later became Molecular Medicine and Pathology. Jim left the University in 1992 to form New Zealand’s first biotech company Genesis R&D rising to become arguably the country’s most influential scientist and biotech entrepreneur. There are many staff in the faculty today, including myself who will warmly reflect on the enormous influence Jim had on their careers. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held at 2pm on Monday 20 February at the Tasman Room, Alexandra Park Raceway, Green Lane West.

Best wishes,

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


Launch of the Eisdell Moore centre for hearing research

Low-Res (60 of 87)
Low-Res (79 of 87)
Low-Res (78 of 87)
Low-Res (73 of 87)

The new Eisdell Moore Centre was launched in Auckland this month. It is a multidisciplinary collaborative centre dedicated to research into hearing and balance disorders.

Many New Zealanders are affected by hearing, and balance disorders and the numbers are expected to increase substantially as the population ages.

The Eisdell Moore Centre will bring together researchers and clinicians at the University of Auckland with similar groups at the Universities of Otago and Canterbury, to develop prevention, treatment and interventions for hearing-related conditions and their consequences. It will link researchers with clinicians in private practice, DHBs and community groups to form a research and community education initiative, charged with improving the health of people with hearing loss and balance disorders in New Zealand and the Pacific.

The Centre is named after the late Sir Patrick Eisdell Moore, an eminent New Zealand Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon and founder of the Deafness Research Foundation.

At the launch, new Centre Director, Professor Peter Thorne welcomed the Moore family, including Lady Beth Moore, her four sons and extended family.

By working with community groups such as the National Foundation for the Deaf and the New Zealand Dizziness, Balance and Vertigo Society, the Centre will also support community education on hearing and balance disorders to aid prevention and treatment of these conditions.

The Eisdell Moore Centre will be based in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland and will receive core funding of $1.75M over five years from the Hearing Research Foundation.

Read more


Brain Bee challenge recognises commitment

Image of Professor Louise Nicholson
Professor Louise Nicholson

Congratulations to Professor Louise Nicholson who was awarded a commemorative medallion in recognition of her nine years of service organising the annual Brain Bee Challenge in New Zealand.

Professor Nicholson from our Centre for Brain Research established the Brain Bee Challenge here in New Zealand in 2007. She was the National Co-ordinator of the competition from 2007 to 2016.

Professor Nicholson led the national organisation for each Brain Bee Challenge ensuring that secondary schools throughout New Zealand had the opportunity to take part in either the North or South Island annual challenge.

At the Australasian Neuroscience Society annual meeting in Hobart, Professor Nicholson was thanked for her service to the Brain Bee Challenge and presented with an Australasian Neuroscience Society medallion and a book on Australian pioneer investigator of the brain, AW “Snowy” Campbell.

Associate Professor Maurice Curtis will now take over from Louise as our National coordinator.

Professor Nicholson also led the North Island regional final at the faculty each July, and has now handed the baton for this to her neuroscience colleague, Associate Professor Debbie Young.

The New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge provides information on the latest advances in neuroscience research and its value to the community, and promotes careers in science and technology.



Recognition for contributions to Psychology

Image of Professor Keith Petrie
Professor Keith Petrie

Congratulations to Professor Keith Petrie, who was recently made a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and also elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Behavioural Medicine Research.

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) recognises Keith for making sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the field of clinical science.

APS is an organisation dedicated to the advancement of scientific psychology and its representation at national and international levels.

The Academy of Behavioural Medicine Research (ABMR) recognises Keith for his high level of productivity, excellence and broad recognition of accomplishments.

It is an organisation for scientists working at the interface of behaviour and medicine.

Congratulations to Keith for his achievements this year!


Orthopaedic surgeon receives John N. Insall award

Image of Dr Simon Young
Dr Simon Young

Congratulations to Dr Simon Young who received The Knee Society's John N. Insall, MD Award for his paper titled ' Higher Tissue Concentrations of Vancomycin with Intraosseous Regional Prophylaxis in Revision TKA'.
Simon will be travelling to America to present his paper in March at The Knee Society 2017 Annual Meeting in San Diego.

The Society identifies three award papers worldwide each year for research into knee surgery. Simon will be awarded a certificate and a stipend at this meeting.
Simon is a Senior Lecturer in Orthopaedics here at the University of Auckland and has a consultant public appointment at North Shore Hospital. His specialty interest is surgery of the knee, and he is completing his doctoral thesis on prevention of infection in knee replacement.

This is the second Knee Society award he has received for research arising from his thesis, previously receiving the Mark Coventry award in Chicago in 2013. 

Congratulations Simon!



New appointment for Cure Kids Chair

Image of Professor Melissa Wake
Professor Melissa Wake

Warm welcome to Professor Melissa Wake, who commenced her appointment as the new Cure Kids Chair in Child Health Research this month.

Melissa’s appointment is in the Department of Paediatrics: Child & Youth Health and the Liggins Institute.

Professor Melissa Wake comes to this role from Melbourne where she held appointments with the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The University of Melbourne.

In 2013-17, she is leading the national Child Health CheckPoint, a physical and biomarkers module for the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.

Her research focus is on population paediatrics investigating the universal and secondary care systems needed to make a difference to children’s health and development.

She has received the 2009 Australian Health Minister's Prize for Excellence in Health and Medical Research and consecutive NHMRC Excellence Awards (2009-12, 2013-16) as top-ranked Fellow in Australia.

Melissa succeeds Professor Ed Mitchell to the Chair, who will also continue to work for the university.


2017 BIRU Image winners

Image of Image by Himanshu Wadhwa
Image by Himanshu Wadhwa

Congratulations to Himanshu Wadhwa from Ophthalmology, who won the annual BIRU (Biomedical Imaging Research Unit) Image Trophy and the Confocal Microscopy category along with his colleagues Professor Trevor Sherwin, Salmi Ismail and Jane McGhee.

BIRU runs an annual competition and has four categories:

  • Light Microscopy
  • Confocal Microscopy
  • Electron Microscopy (Transmission and Scanning)
  • Visualisation & Analysis

There were 117 entries this year, and the quality of images produced was highly commendable.

Other category winners were:

  • Kathryn Jones from the Centre for Brain Research (Light Microscopy)
  • Ye Li from Ophthalmology (Visualisation and analysis)
  • Linda Graham from LabPlus (Transmission Electron Microscopy)
  • Josh Workman from Chemical and Materials Engineering (Scanning Electron Microscopy).

See the winning BIRU images for 2017



Introducing our new professors for 2017

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

I'm delighted to introduce our faculty's newest professors to the community.


Image of From left: Professor Cameron Grant, Professor Jennifer Weller and Professor Lai-Ming Ching
From left: Professor Cameron Grant, Professor Jennifer Weller and Professor Lai-Ming Ching

Professor Cameron Grant is Head of the Paediatrics Department here at our faculty. He is a general paediatrician at Starship Children’s Hospital and has worked at the University and the hospital for more than 20 years.

Cameron’s research interests are focussed on the prevention of childhood disease and improvement of child health through immunisation and improved nutrition.

Cameron is an excellent teacher and this is recognised with faculty teaching awards (Butland Foundation Distinguished Teaching Awards) and with a University of Auckland Teaching Excellence Awards.


Professor Jennifer Weller is the Director of our Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education, and a specialist anaesthetist at Auckland City Hospital.

Her research focuses on teamwork and patient safety, simulation-based education and workplace-based assessment.

Jennifer led a Health Workforce New Zealand contract to train entire operating room teams using simulation-based approaches, an initiative which is now funded by an ACC contract for delivery across all of New Zealand. This national team training program provides an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate gains in patient safety at a national level from a quality improvement intervention.


Professor Lai-Ming Ching is a lead researcher at our Auckland Cancer Research Centre, investigating new drugs that help the body's immune system fight cancer.

She is passionate about understanding the interactions between the immune system and cancer, as she believes it will lead to the development of immunotherapies capable of providing patients with a long-term protection against the disease.

Lai-Ming has supervised many students and continues to mentor and support her former students after they have graduated.


Image of From left: Professor Michelle Glass, Professor Simon Mitchell and Professor Trevor Sherwin
From left: Professor Michelle Glass, Professor Simon Mitchell and Professor Trevor Sherwin

Professor Michelle Glass lectures in Pharmacology and is the Academic Director of the School of Medical Sciences here at our Faculty.

Her research is particularly focussed on receptor signalling, with a specific interest in the function and therapeutic potential of cannabinoid receptors.

Professor Simon Mitchell is a specialist anaesthetist working clinically for Auckland City Hospital and is the Head of the Department of Anaesthesiology in the School of Medicine.

He also provides on-call cover for the National Diving Emergency Service based at North Shore Hospital. Simon is known world-wide as a leading expert in diving medicine.

He's been recognised for his scientific contributions to the field with an Albert R. Behnke Award, from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society in the USA, and the Rolex Diver of the Year Award.

In 2002, he conducted what was then the deepest dive ever conducted to a shipwreck. He has been the first to dive and identify three wartime shipwrecks of significant historical importance in New Zealand and Australian waters.


Professor Trevor Sherwin is our faculty's Postgraduate Associate Dean.

Trevor started at our Department of Ophthalmology in 1998, where he now specialises in cornea research with interests varying from cell reprogramming, ocular stem cells and corneal engineering, to the pathogenesis of corneal dystrophies.

Trevor has published in excess of 80 papers in top ranking journals including the premier journals Nature, Science and Cell and has presented his work at many international venues including a prestigious open lecture at the Natural History Museum, London.

Trevor’s research has attracted more than five million dollars in funding, he has received over 3,500 citations in the scientific literature and has an h-index of 30.

Trevor's research students have gained high honours including three Wallath prizes for summer scholars, top student in BMedSci(hons), Vice Chancellor’s Prize for best Doctoral Thesis and Best PhD thesis from the medical faculty.


Image of From left: Professor Warwick Bagg, Professor Margaret Wisher and Professor Jon Skinner
From left: Professor Warwick Bagg, Professor Margaret Wisher and Professor Jon Skinner

Professor Warwick Bagg was appointed to the University in 1999 and is currently the Head of our Medical Programme in the faculty.

Professor Bagg was recognised in 2015 with a University of Auckland Excellence Award for Leadership in Teaching.

He has led many educational developments, including the successful Pūkawakawa regional-rural programme in Northland.

From 2010, Warwick led a series of significant changes resulting in a reinvigorated MBChB curriculum. One of his most radical developments was the move to Progress Testing, which was a major pedagogical and structural change.


Professor Margaret Wilsher is the Chief Medical Officer at Auckland District Health Board and a Respiratory Physician working in both the public and private sectors.

She is an active clinical teacher and researcher and previous roles as Council Member, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and President of the Auckland Medico-Legal Society.

Her current roles include Member of the National Health Board and its Capital Investment Committee, a member of the Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group overseeing the Canterbury District Health Board major capital works, and Crown Monitor for Capital and Coast DHB.


Professor Jon Skinner is a Paediatric Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at Starship Children’s Hospital with the Auckland District Health Board and a Professor here at our Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

He runs the national arrhythmia service for children and adults with congenital heart disease and chairs the Cardiac Inherited Diseases Group.

His dedication and collaborative research has seen notable advancements in improving outcomes in areas such as sudden cardiac death.



New regional rural medical training programme launch

The University's new regional rural medical training programme was launched earlier this year in Whakatane, Bay of Plenty.

At least a third of medical graduates from the University of Auckland are expected to work outside urban centres in the regions and rural areas once they qualify.

This year, 18 selected fifth-year medical students from Auckland will be based at Tauranga Hospital and will spend nearly three months in placement training at Whakatane Hospital.

Our goal is for half of all Auckland medical graduates to choose a career in General Practice and at least 30 percent to work outside urban centres.

To achieve this, we need to partner with regional health boards, hospitals and general practices to provide high-quality clinical training, so that students also experience the benefits and joys of practising medicine outside of big city hospitals.

The powhiri to launch the new programme was held at Whakatane Hospital and attended by executives and staff from the Bay of Plenty Health Board, the hospital, and the University.

Read more

Dean and Jane Tolley
whakatane powhiri
Powihiri students
Dean at powhiri

Remember – this is PBRF Year


The PBRF Evidence Portfolio (EP) tool will be available in the Research Outputs system on 1 March 2017. I would like to remind all academic staff that the first complete draft of your Evidence Portfolio (EP) is due 8 November and staff will be able to edit their EPs until 9 March 2018 before final sign-off on 29 March 2018.

We have in place an excellent PBRF support team to make the process as stress-free as possible and assist with every step of the EP completion process. 

Technical training, covering how to use the EP tool in Research Outputs, is available in either workshop format with 18 sessions covering both Grafton and Tamaki campus. 

Alternatively Jane Bradley, our PBRF Coordinator, can go through the tool with you on a one to one basis. In addition, every school has appointed one or more academic staff to assist with selecting content and crafting a high-quality EP. See the FMHS/Liggins Inst PBRF page for a list of the FMHS EP crafting support staff.

Professor Andrew Shelling is the Assistant Dean PBRF and is available for any questions or concerns you may have about the EP completion process, and our HR team can assist with questions about contracts and eligibility.

You can book an EP systems workshop through your Career Tools web page.