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Issue 421|26 April 2017 | Previous Issues

A personal message from the Dean

This edition is delayed due to the Easter vacation last week. I do hope everyone had a pleasant Easter and enjoyed the fine weather of ANZAC day.

Over the previous week, I was in Washington DC attending the Global Vaccine meeting to present a case for the development of a vaccine for Group A Streptococcus, the bug that is responsible for Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.

It was impressive to hear of the advances with vaccines against many of the enteric and respiratory infections that continue to plague third world countries, but sadly there is less interest in Group A Strep.

However, this is changing with the World Health Organisation signalling that this is now on their neglected diseases priority list, and there is an increasing interest by at least one major pharmaceutical company prepared to make the necessary investment to bring a Group A Strep vaccine to clinical trial. 

New Zealand would be an obvious place for such a trial and CANVAS, the coallition established between Australia and New Zealand to seek a vaccine solution to Group A Strep, will be working hard to ensure both countries are involved in such a trial.

On Friday I accepted an invitation to visit the Hokianga Health Centre, a rural hospital located in the town of Rawene on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour. This outstanding health centre, directed by Dr John Wigglesworth, is where medical students within our Northland Pukawakawa programme experience rural health care at its very best.  

It is a remarkable centre, run as a community cooperative and highly dependent on inter-professional care with eight remote clinic sites located across the Hokianga region. 

With rural health in the headlines, it was a great experience to see how health care can be delivered across such a widely distributed and diverse rural population.

Best wishes,

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


LIMElight awards shines light on MAPAS

Grafton campus

Congratulations to our faculty's MAPAS team who received the award for Excellence in Indigenous Student Recruitment, Support and Graduation at the 2017 Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education (LIME) Conference held in Melbourne earlier this month.

This award recognises an outstanding and innovative programme in the area of student recruitment and support through to graduation in medical schools, including student outcomes, and new projects that show outstanding potential, supported by evidenced-based processes.

Dr Elana Curtis was a joint winner in the category of Excellence in Indigenous Health Education Research. Elana’s award is based on her MD thesis, a collection of published research on indigenous recruitment, admission, bridging/foundation education and support to graduation. 

The award recognises Elana’s innovative and outstanding piece of published research in the area of Indigenous health education.

The LIME Network is a dynamic network dedicated to ensuring the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in medical education of indigenous health, as well as best practice in the recruitment and graduation of Indigenous medical students.

We are very fortunate to have such fantastic work here at the faculty.


A milestone for our Auckland Regional Tissue Bank

Image of Tissue Bank Technicians
From left: Prem Sharma and Melanie Cosgrove

After nearly seven years of collecting and storing donated tissue samples, the Middlemore site of the Auckland Regional Tissue Bank (ARTB) has recently consented its 1,000th donor.

To date, 103 Maori, 651 NZ European, 33 Indian, 21 Chinese, 116 Pacific Islander and 76 other ethnicity donors have gifted tissue to the Middlemore repository, which is highly important as it reflects the unique and diverse ethnic patient population of New Zealand.

With this excellent resource, the ARTB aims to support researchers in their endeavours to improve understanding of specific disease, which is hoped will eventually translate into the development of new therapies and ultimately cures.

Through collaboration and communication, the ARTB team has built up a valuable resource for future research, and the Middlemore site currently safeguards more than 12,900 blood sample aliquots, 4,700 white blood cell aliquot pellets and 590 solid tumour fragment samples.

Congratulations to the ARTB team for having achieved this milestone by working closely with the surgical, clinical and nursing teams to identify eligible donors and samples.

A very special thanks to anyone who has participated in the donation of tissue to this invaluable research resource so far.

See our Tissue Bank page for more information about how you can be a part of this initiative. 


The CatWalk Trust NY Marathon Launch Event


The CatWalk Trust launched its new initiative, Team CatWalk at the Centre for Brain Research (CBR), last week. Professor Louise Nicholson and Dr Simon O'Carrol co-hosted the event and delivered insightful and compelling speeches about the work at the facility and what it means to our centre to have the Trust’s support.

Team CatWalk captain, David Pretorius, delivered a memorable testimony about his daughter Holly, who is currently in a wheelchair after a sporting accident severed her spinal cord. "I will run until she walks," he said.

Don Buckingham followed, sharing his personal experience with spinal cord injuries and emphasised how important it is to "keep up the good work" (in regards to research momentum).

Sir Richard Faull, Director of the CBR, was moved by the intimate experiences shared and delivered an impromptu speech highlighting the importance of this partnership and the significance that this campaign, and others like it, has in building awareness and financing vital research.

The new campaign Team CatWalk involves twenty five non-athletes (so far), training and fundraising to participate in this year's New York City Marathon in November. Every team member has already financed their trip, so every dollar raised will go directly towards finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Every year the CatWalk Trust launches several campaigns to fund vital research that will lead to a cure for spinal cord injuries in our lifetime. The world-class Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility (SCIRF) at the CBR, is funded by the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust and was established in 2011 by Professor Louise Nicholson, Dr Simon O’Carroll and Professor Colin Green.



Brain Day features Mood Disorders this year

Brain_Day_2017 v2

The Centre for Brain Research, at the University of Auckland, and the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand co-hosted a very special Brain Day, last month.

For the first time in Brain Day history, Mood Disorders were discussed in a sold-out panel discussion.

The panel featured some well-known mental health advocates such as broadcaster Jim Mora, Sir John Kirwan, Professor Rob Kydd and Professor Sally Merry who have a combined interest in childhood, adolescent and adult mood disorders.

The panel shared empowering messages that covered various innovative initiatives that researchers and clinicians are currently using to tackle mental health issues in New Zealand.

The other two panel discussions focused on Movement Disorders and Dementia. Among the panellists were Sir Richard Faull, Director of the Centre for Brain Research, Associate Professor Lynette Tippett and Professor Yanuz Lipski.

A number of groups with strong links to the Centre for Brain Research were given a platform to engage with the community and participate in this fantastic day of neuroscience.

The ever-popular KidZone was revamped with a smoothie bike, which made fruit juices by peddle power, and a walk-in inflatable brain.



Public lecture focus: Understanding how the brain works

Image of Visting Hood Fellow Professor Martyn Goulding
Visting Hood Fellow Professor Martyn Goulding

The public lecture by our Visiting Hood Fellow Professor Martyn Goulding was delivered to a full house in the AMRF lecture theatre plus eighty more in an overflow room, totalling 380 people, earlier this month.

Family, friends, colleagues and members of the general public were entertained for well over an hour, being gently lead through the importance of movement to survival of the individual and the precise and rigorous control of movement by not only the motor neurons but by families of other nerve cells that regulate those cells responsible for movement.

Illustrated by cutting edge technologies and novel findings that have led to a new understanding of precisely how movement is controlled by the spinal cord, the audience was left entranced.

One member of the public was heard to say “This is Nobel Prize material” while another said “I am a huge fan. What is the science equivalent of a Belieber?”

It was an honour and a pleasure to host Professor Goulding at the faculty and thanks to Louise Nicholson for making this visit possible.

Listen to Professor Martyn Goulding's lecture.


Have your say with the Staff Survey


The University wide 6th biennial Staff Survey 2017 will take place from 8 - 19 May 2017. This is an excellent opportunity for permanent and fixed-term employees to share their views and experiences about the environment in which they work and comment on life at the University. This feedback plays an important role in helping the University continuously improve as an employer.

It is your feedback from the 2015 survey that gave rise to many great initiatives University wide as well as local initiatives. For example, career development responses in 2015 gave impetus to the Academic Development and Performance Review (ADPR) – an initiative which supports meaningful conversations related to individual development. 

Another staff triggered initiative saw the introduction of Service Essentials in over 100 of our professional staff teams, aimed at improving team collaboration, communication and project tracking. Similarly 2015-2016 saw an increase in Leadership Development Programmes for Academic Heads and the Professional Staff Leadership teams.

In 2013, the faculty had a 49% response rate. In 2015, we focused on getting more of the faculty involved saw our response rate leap from 49% to 57%! This time we hope to reach the 70% mark! With your feedback, we have the opportunity to positively influence and celebrate our working environment – all feedback counts.

Participant anonymity and confidentiality is guaranteed by our partner Willis Towers Watson (WTW). We want all participants to be open and honest, this can only be achieved with a guarantee of complete privacy.

The survey is administered by WTW online and requires approximately 25 minutes to complete. Staff will have a unique login provided by WTW with the sole purpose of measuring participation rates.  

Reminders for survey completion will be sent to all eligible staff (fixed term and permanent staff who have been employed for a minimum of 6 weeks).

If you wish to know more about the staff survey we invite you visit the intranet site or contact our staff survey team

We really hope you participate - we welcome your experience and perspective!

‘You Speak ● We Listen ● Let’s Talk’


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