Health researchers and academics across diverse fields took out seven of the 24 medals and awards presented at the 2018 Research Honours Aotearoa ceremony at Te Papa this week.
The annual event was hosted by the Royal Society Te Apārangi to celebrate Kiwi researchers, scholars and innovators.
The Health Research Council also made three awards on the night including presenting the inaugural Te Tohu Rapuora award to the University of Waikato’s Te Kotahi Research Institute for its leadership and commitment in advancing Māori health research and wellbeing by working closely with iwi, hapu and other Māori health stakeholders. The institute has carried out research into homelessness, suicide prevention, sexual violence, historical trauma and the impact of colonisation on whānau.
Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, a senior advisor to the Institute, also received the inaugural Te Puāwaitanga Award from the Royal Society Te Apārangi in recognition of her major contribution to Te Ao Māori, and to Māori and indigenous knowledge.
The Research Council awarded the Liley Medal to Professor Cynthia Farquhar, of the University of Auckland for her breakthrough research showing the benefit of intrauterine insemination (IUI) for couples with unexplained infertility. The postgraduate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology and consultant clinician at Fertility Plus and Auckland DHB’s National Women’s Hospital carried out a clinical trial that showed that IUI, combined with ovarian stimulation, was three times more effective than trying to conceive naturally for couples with unexplained infertility. IUI is less invasive and less expensive than IVF but evidence of its effectiveness had been limited prior to the trial.
The Council’s Beaven Medal went to Auckland City Hospital intensive care specialist Dr Colin McArthur whose clinical research trials that have helped change guidelines and practices in intensive care units around the world. He was recognised for his work of more than two decades as the director of research for critical care medicine at Auckland DHB, leading large-scale multi-centre trials where he and his colleagues have questioned and tested treatments available to critically-ill ICU patients, including resuscitation fluids and kidney injury medication, to reveal the safest, most effective methods.
Pathologist Professor Brett Delahunt was awarded the Hercus Medal by the Royal Society for his research work that has been central to the development of an internationally accepted classification system of important markers for prostate and renal cancers. The University of Otago, Wellington researcher has held a number of international leadership positions including chairing and co-chairing international groups making recommendations on diagnosing and reporting on kidney and prostate cancers. His advocacy for prostate cancer testing led to him being appointed national patron of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand in 2015.
The Society’s Metge Medal went to Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama for her influence on indigenous health education including designing and developing two new Māori health models for clinical practice: the Hui Process and Meihana Model. When the registered psychologist started her career in 2001 at the University of Otago only one hour was devoted to Māori health teaching now there are more than 60 hours. Also the health models developed by Pitama – who is the Associate Dean Māori and a founding director of Otago’s Māori Indigenous Health Institute – have now been integrated into the Māori health curriculum across Otago’s three clinical schools, medical schools at other tertiary institutions, government departments and a broader range of health providers.
Mechanical engineering Professor Geoff Chase’s work in developing computer model ‘virtual patients’ to test and predict treatment outcomes won him the Society’s MacDiarmid Medal. Working closely with clinicians, in particular intensive care specialist Dr Geoff Shaw, the University of Canterbury researcher has developed highly accurate, clinically relevant metabolic system models which, when used with clinical data, create ‘virtual patient’ clones. These virtual patients enable the rapid, safe optimisation and personalisation of drug treatment and have been used to treat intensive care patients here and overseas and is now being extended to treat type 2 diabetes patients.
Dr Mohi Rua (Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Whakaue) from University of Waikato, also received the inaugural Te Kōpūnui Māori Research Award for his innovative research on poverty, homelessness and Māori men’s health which is challenging the relevance of mainstream Anglo-American psychology for Maōri and other indigenous peoples. His award citation says his research on Māori men shows that they see themselves as being carers, nurturers and positive contributors to their communities.