Head of School Update, June 2014

16 June 2014

A considerable amount is happening in the School as we lead into the FAR confirmation period.


  • Firstly, our condolences to Alistair Woodward and his family for the loss of Alistair’s mother who passed away recently.  Our best wishes for him and his family.
  • Congratulations to Laura Wilkinson-Myers in Health Systems who has been awarded the FMHS Butland Award for Early Career Excellence in Teaching. Congratulations also to Elana Curtis in Te Kupenga Hauora Māori who has been awarded the FMHS Butland Award for Innovation in Teaching. This is well-deserved recognition for their contributions to our teaching. Laura and Elana will receive their awards at a ceremony at 4pm on Wednesday 18 June in the Atrium of 85 Park Road, Grafton.
  • Congratulations to three recipients of HRC grants: Boyd Swinburn for project grant – “Food environments in New Zealand: Policies and impacts in health and equity” (up to $1.2 million for 3 years). Helen Petousis Harris for feasibility study –“Feasibility study of HPV infection awareness and vaccine acceptability in men” (up to $150,000 for 1 year) and Ruth Teh for a feasibility study – “Transforming ways of living and ageing” (up to $150,000 for 1 year).
  • Congratulations to Elsie Ho in Social and Community Health who has been awarded funding from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for a project on migration, filial piety and transnational aged care. US$48,000, 2 years.
  • Congratulations to Fiona Moir and Tony Fernando for their grant for the Learning Technology Unit to update their CALM website.
  • Congratulations to Karen Falloon in General Practice for completion of her PhD on the topic: “Sleep Restriction as a Treatment for Primary Insomnia in the Primary Care Setting.”

Goings and Comings

  • Welcome back to Sue Hawken who has joined General Practice to replace Lois Paton in teaching within the undergraduate medical programme. Sue has been a major contributor to the programme in the past, particularly in the teaching of personal and professional development and interpersonal communication skills. It will be great to see her back on board.
  • A fond farewell to Sarah-Jayne Dipert, our HR Advisor, who leaves us on 16 July for greener pastures in the Faculty of Law and Shared Services (Property Services, ITS, Finance & Org Performance). She has provided attentive and helpful HR support throughout the School over the last 18 months.

Faculty Administration Review (FAR)

  • Peggy McQuinn has been busy on the Faculty FAR Review Committee reading over and deliberating on FAR submissions. This committee is likely to recommend a number of changes. The next milestones in the FAR process include: 20 June, the Vice-Chancellor makes decision on Faculty recommendations; 3 July, the reassessment of impacts are completed; 14 July, the Confirmation Document is released.
  • With final decisions yet to be made, it remains difficult to plan out any of the processes involved with confirmation and possible redeployment. Over the next three weeks we will be seeking as much information as possible on how changes to individual positions will be handled and to communicate what we can in the lead up to confirmation.
  • For those wishing to talk over the effects of FAR, four staff are available for appointments or informal discussions: Peter Huggard (84500),Shanthi Ameratunga (86354), David Newcombe (86557) and Bridget Kool (83871). The University also offers staff access to EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), which is a 24-hour confidential service providing advice and support for personal or work problems (0800 327 669).  

Development Issues

  • PhD subject areas: Following discussion and feedback, I have made the recommendation to the Graduate Centre that the two previous subject areas Community Health; and Behavioural Science are collapsed into one subject area, Population HealthRob McNeill, as Director of Postgraduate Research, will be managing the process for implementing this change. 
  • SoPH Planning Day: The SoPH Planning Day will take place later than usual this year, on 30 July, after Ngaire Kerse returns as Head of School so she can lead the planning. We are still looking at focusing on three main areas: 1. Where SoPH fits in the research world; 2. Retaining our integrity/keeping the Kaupapa; 3. Best way forward to advance Pacific health interests.
  • Faculty Draft Strategic Plan: The Dean has sought our feedback on the Faculty’s Strategic Plan (2014-16). Alistair Woodward and Peter Adams compiled a document with extensive commentary on the values and objectives in the plan. Other senior staff also provided input. We were particularly keen to see the school’s interests in teaching, international research collaborations, equity and community engagement were represented. Copies of the Dean’s draft plan and our submission are available from Evie Kinane (e.kinane@auckland.ac.nz).
  • External Reference Group: We held our second meeting on 27 May. Those attending provided considerable helpful input into the current curriculum review of the BHSc. They further endorsed our interest in reorienting and connecting the programme up more with the health sector. Thanks to Shanthi Ameratunga and Yvonne Chan for organising the meeting.
  • HRC Grant Development Scheme: The HRC annual funding round is fast approaching. The SoPH Board of Research is offering assistance by providing feedback on a brief summary (2-3 pages) of grant proposals. For further information, please contact our Research Development Manager, Denise Greenwood (d.greenwood@auckland.ac.nz).

Going Feral

  • This is my last update before I disappear down a rabbit hole on 4 July when Ngaire Kerse returns. I was initially reluctant to take on another fill-in role, but found, to my surprise, that I enjoyed what the role involved, despite the major challenge of FAR which has dominated the last nine months. What made it reasonably straight-forward was the high level of support provided by colleagues around me, particularly our wonderful heads of sections and research units. I want specially to thank Evie Kinane for creating some order within my chaos, Kim Dirks for keeping teaching systems operating, Toni Ashton for backing me up when needed, Sarah-Jayne Dipert for sound advice on staffing andDenise Greenwood for keeping research activity ticking away. But, above all, I want to acknowledge Peggy McQuinn for what she has done over the last year. Previously, I had little idea of the huge task she has taken on in keeping our ship afloat. Moreover, the additional burden of FAR, I know, has been enormously challenging over the last year. She has worked hard in advocating for our position within the Faculty.
  • Special thanks to the two Sams, Sam Fitch and Sam White, and Robin Shepherd for their assistance with my teaching. I could not have managed the role without their contributions to course coordination and marking.
  • I am also concluding a two-and-a-half year stint as Academic Director (and Co-Director for the last six months) for the Bachelor of Health Sciences. During this time we have taken the BHSc through its first formal review and have progressed an implementation plan that is focused on rebuilding the curriculum and reorienting it more to health sector engagement. I am very grateful for the on-going support I have received in this role from James Clark, Carolyn Huang, Chris ZhuMark Barrow and, more recently, Debbie Holmes and Lynne Petersen. I also want to acknowledge Peter Carswell for his willingness to lead the programme forward in the future.

Upcoming Events

  • Tōmaiora seminar:  “Infant feeding practices of grandparents”, Rachel Tapera and “Building Healthy Public Policy: Taxing Sugar Sweetened Beverages in the Cook Islands”, Rochelle Newport, Tuesday 17 June, 12.30pm, Function Room 730-220
  • Head of School seminar: “Some research directions: where is my research going, where is the School’s research going?” Professor Boyd Swinburn, Tuesday 24 June, 12.30pm, Function Room 730-220