Deans diary header
Issue 419|17 March 2017 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

It has been an exceptionally busy time in the first few weeks of the semester, but things are now settling down into a normal academic routine. 

In the Deanery, work is beginning on a business case for a new Grafton campus building to accommodate staff from Tāmaki campus and the clinics. The location for the new building is across the road on Park Ave West.

The Distinguished Alumni Dinner last Friday night was a wonderful event, despite the continuous heavy rain. I was impressed by all the distinguished alumni but particularly struck by our Young Alumna Erna Takazawa who fresh from graduating in Optometry in 2012, is transforming eye care in Samoa and other South Pacific nations.

Everyone was struck by her humility, her innate social conscience and her single-minded vision (no pun intended) to employ her optometry skills, obtained here in Auckland, to improve eye care in a country that she says did not really know what an optometrist was when she first returned five years ago. Erna truly exemplifies the qualities that we seek in our graduates.

If you know of other alumni who are doing wonderful things here or around the world that deserve recognition through this prestigious award, we would love to hear from you.

The IRIS project is a major university-wide project that will run throughout 2017. There are many workstreams underway that will look at research support, administration and management, people, equipment and infrastructure and financial models. IRIS will impact our faculty more than any other. I will attempt to keep you informed as the project progresses.

Best wishes,

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


Marvellous occasion for our Sir Richard

Sir Richard Faull 9
Sir Richard Faull 2
Sir Richard Faull 28
Sir Richard Faull 37

The Faculty celebration of Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull’s recent knighthood was attended by more than 300 staff, students and supporters.

The gathering in the Atrium was addressed by myself, followed by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Dame Rosy Horton, and Sir Richard.

Richard’s knighthood in the New Year’s honour’s list is the crowning achievement in an impressive career dedicated to medical research and academia, and a life dedicated to service in the community and to the discipline of neuroscience and brain disorders.

It’s not often we have a freshly minted knight in our midst, but this one is richly deserved and came as no surprise to me. He is a wonderful ambassador for the University and does us proud.

On behalf of the Faulty, we pass on our sincere and warmest congratulations to Sir Richard and Lady Diana.

In reply, Sir Richard individually thanked the many groups of people (family, colleagues, collaborators, funders and supporters) who had shared his nearly 40 year journey, starting from his time in a small lab in the Department of Anatomy and his mentor, founding Professor of Anatomy, John Carman.

“This knighthood represents our brain research here and this is a celebration that I share with you all,” he says. “When I thought about accepting it, (as it was overwhelming and a bit uncomfortable), I thought I can only accept this award, if I can share it with all the people on this exciting journey in brain research. All the people who have been with me all the way and who have made it all happen.”

“The Faculty and the University have been critical to this success of course. At every stage of my career I’ve had incredible opportunities and support from the University – from early on and right through to the development of the CBR – it’s been marvellous.”

See our highlights from this wonderful event.



Breakthrough in rheumatic fever research

Image of Professor Diana Lennon
Professor Diana Lennon

Thanks to our researchers we now have the first robust evidence that supports community initiatives to prevent acute rheumatic fever.

Globally rheumatic fever is a disease related to poverty in developing countries and, left untreated, can lead to the disabling effects of rheumatic heart disease in children.

In New Zealand it affects mostly Māori and Pacific Island children in low-socioeconomic areas with high incidents in Northland and South Auckland. It affects mainly primary school age children and peaks with nine to 10 year olds.

Lead researcher and clinician, Professor Diana Lennon published a paper in the latest Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal which states that until now, treatment to prevent rheumatic fever in children was derived from studies in adults in the American armed forces.

This new breakthrough in research used data collected, from providing access to sore throat management to more than 25,000 children per year in 61 South Auckland primary schools between 2010 and 2016.

The programme itself is delivered by an alliance of health providers led by the National Hauora Coalition. The research was funded by a partnership grant arising from a joint venture between the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Ministry of Health, Te Puni Kōkiri, CureKids and the Heart Foundation.

Read about their new prevention model and the sore throat programme in schools.


Distinguished Almuni Award for healthcare leadership and innovation

Image of Dr Lance O'Sullivan
Dr Lance O'Sullivan

Congratulations to Dr Lance O'Sullivan who received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Auckland in recognition of his leadership and innovation.

Lance is known for his vigorous Māori health advocacy. He is driven by a passionate belief in equal access to healthcare and the need to overcome the impact on children living in poverty in New Zealand.

Lance graduated in 2002 with a medical degree from the University of Auckland and now specialises as a GP, focused on improving Māori health.

He has led the way in delivering MedTech solutions to help combat poor access to healthcare for often geographically isolated, low-income families and communities.

Lance and his wife Tracy established a healthcare company, Navilluso Medical, to set up the MOKO Foundation in 2013, and the MOKO programme.

The MOKO programme is a school-based service focused on preventing rheumatic fever in children. It began in Far North primary school health clinics to take throat swabs of children presenting with sore throats - an early indicator of rheumatic fever.

It is Lance’s vision to provide iMOKO services to 300,000 children across New Zealand in the next three years.

Read more about the MOKO programme and its vision.



Ross Craig Oncology Award recipient

Image of Newmarket Rotary’s Brian McMath (far left), with Ross Craig Oncology Award winner Dr Rosalie Stephens (right), Cris Print and Mike Findlay.
From left: Newmarket Rotary’s Brian McMath, with Ross Craig Oncology Award winner Dr Rosalie Stephens (right), Cris Print and Mike Findlay.

Congratulations to Dr Rosalie Stephens for receiving the Ross Craig Oncology Award from the Newmarket Rotary Charitable Foundation earlier this month.

The award is named after Auckland lawyer Ross Craig, who sadly passed away in 2014. Ross was a Newmarket Rotarian for 38 years, a founding trustee of the Newmarket Rotary Charitable Foundation and an enthusiastic supporter of our Faculty.

Auckland medical, surgical and pathology registrars who treat cancer patients are the primary recipients of the Ross Craig Oncology Award.

It provides an opportunity for mid-career doctors to step out of clinical life and undertake first-hand research into the genomic abnormalities that underlie cancer. The programme involves four to six weeks (or equivalent over a longer period) intensive research training and activity.

Rosalie is a medical oncologist and is the latest in a long line of clinicians to receive this award. Previous recipients include Deborah Wright, Jon Mathy and Nicole Kramer.

Rosalie's study is part of the National Science Challenge 3: Healthier Lives project, which aims to identify non-invasive disease biomarkers in metastatic melanoma patients to improve patient outcomes by detection of relapse, earlier than current tests.

The clinical element of the study involves the collection of blood and tumour tissues from consented patients with advanced melanoma, who are undergoing treatment in the Auckland region.

Typically, these patients are treated by surgery or drug therapy, but relapse from failed treatment is common.

Early detection of relapse could lead to improved patient outcomes by allowing a patient and their oncologist to reconsider treatment options more rapidly.

I am delighted to congratulate Dr Stephens and to extend our gratitude for Newmarket Rotary’s ongoing support of this award and of the Faculty.


Distinguished clinical teachers acknowledged

Image of Awardees for the 2017 Distinguished Clinical Awards
Awardees for the 2017 Distinguished Clinical Awards

Last month, our Facutly acknowledged 12 recipients from the School of Medicine Distinguished Clinical Teachers Award for 2016.

This award acknowledges the contribution to teaching made by honorary clinical academics.

It recognises individuals who have made substantial contributions to clinical teaching in the Faculty over many years and have carried heavier teaching workloads than many of their peers including assuming leadership positions in clinical teaching, delivery and participating in teaching development or new course establishment.

I’d like to extend my congratulations to this year’s awardees:

The recipients all generated particularly positive comments and feedback from students and colleagues to be recognised with this award.



Erna’s caring eye on the Pacific

Image of Erna Takazawa
Erna Takazawa

Congratulations to eye health specialist, Erna Takazawa who received the University of Auckland’s 2017 Young Alumna of the Year award.

Presented earlier this month at the Distinguished Alumni awards dinner in recognition of Erna's work, developing optometry in Samoa and helping to improve eye care in the Pacific region.

Erna graduated from the University of Auckland in 2012 with a Bachelor of Optometry and decided to return to Samoa as the only resident eye care professional.

She has also been appointed the National Eye Health Coordinator for Samoa’s National Health Services and is in demand to teach eye care health across the Pacific to nurses.

Erna is a practicing optometrist in Samoa with a team of eye care nurses looking after the Pacific’s eye health.  She has just returned from a stint in Fiji where she was providing clinical supervision to ensure nurses are well-equipped with proper eye health skills.

Erna is a great example of how well our graduates are doing and we look forward to following her bright career with interest.

Read about Erna’s life as the only optometrist in Samoa.



New President for Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology

Image of Professor Charles NJ McGhee
Professor Charles NJ McGhee

Congratulations to Professor Charles NJ McGhee, who was recently appointed as the 21st President of the Society at the 32nd Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Scientific Congress in Singapore in March.

Charles is Head of Department of Ophthalmology and Director of the New Zealand National Eye Centre at the University of Auckland.

Founded in 1960, the Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology is one of the oldest supra-regional ophthalmic societies and is home to more than half (over 180 million) of the world's visually impaired people in the world.

Thus, ophthalmologists in the Asia-Pacific region have an important role to play in the fight against preventable blindness.

The APAO mission is committed to promoting the science and art of ophthalmology among all people and nations of the region. They showcase prevention of blindness activities and restoration of sight through teaching, research, service and any other way deemed appropriate by the APAO Council.

We are very proud of Charles.


Top Achiever Award Scholarship

Image of From left: Nam Phuong Nguyen with International Manager Karen Dorrian
From left: Nam Phuong Nguyen with International Manager Karen Dorrian

Congratulations to Nam Phuong Nguyen for receiving the University of Auckland Foundation Pathway Top Achiever Award Scholarship at an event held at ACG International College on Thursday, 9 March.

This award is one of the new scholarships now available for international students coming into both undergraduate and postgraduate study at the University.

Phuong has just commenced her Bachelor of Nursing programme with FMHS and is one of ten new international students accepted into the nursing programme, joining 40 other international undergraduate students across the faculty.

We welcome Phuong and all our new international students to FMHS.

See our new scholarships that are currently available.



Round the Bays a big success

Image of From left: Joanna Beattie and Professor Andrew Shelling
From left: Joanna Beattie and Professor Andrew Shelling

On Sunday 5 March, our faculty hosted its annual Round the Bays event, with more than 198 staff, friends and whanau in attendance.

The nature of this event resonates with the core culture of our faculty of valuing their health and wellbeing.

Being part of our faculty Round the Bays team is a fantastic opportunity to bring whanau and to network with people who you may not usually get the chance to interact with.

On the day, staff braved the morning showers, which cleared up for the rest of the day.

Big congratulations to Professor Andrew Shelling, who was first among our faculty competitors. Andrew completed the event with a time of 33 minutes and 53 seconds with Johanna Beattie coming in at 44 minutes and 30 seconds.

Staff were then invited to relax under our corporate marquee and enjoy a cold beverage and BBQ to share stories of the race.

This event requires a significant amount of work and co-ordination takes place behind the scenes. I’d like to thank our faculty marketing team, and their happy team of volunteers who ensured the event was a success.

Visit our multimedia gallery to see some highlights from Round the Bays.



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