Monday, May 16, 2016

David Murdoch announced as new Dean of University of Otago, Christchurch

A shining beacon of colour in Professor David Murdoch's clean, white-washed office, is the Nepali wall-hanging positioned by the door.
At the same time vibrant, chequered and embellished in gold, it is also faded and frayed; a much-loved gift from former colleagues. 
It is flanked by a poignant photograph of an elderly Nepalese woman grinning a toothless grin, holding a cup of tea, shot by his talented photographer wife - also a doctor - and a time lapse of a glistening Himalayan peak, taken from his former workplace.
But it is the links you can't see that are most important to David Murdoch, the University of Otago, Christchurch's new Dean.
His research across the two continents did lead to the introduction of a global vaccine for pneumonia, after all.
Murdoch takes up the reins from incumbent Dean Peter Joyce in September, upon his retirement. 
Murdoch's impressive career in infectious diseases began at the University of Otago, spawned by an "inspirational lecturer" and a three-month elective period spent in Nepal.
His wife, who was in his class, accompanied him.
"Working over there with that burden as such a large part of what you do certainly cemented the interest. I came back and just started learning."
Upon graduation, the pair returned to Nepal and worked at a high-altitude aid post in the Everest region. They returned again in 1991 to take up a post running Khunde Hospital, or "Hillary Hospital", built by Sir Ed Hillary in the 1960s.
As a result, his wife, population health specialist at Pegasus Health Lynley Cook, is now the chair of the Himalayan Trust.
They return to their "second home" at least once a year.
When the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, Murdoch was at a hotel in the capital, Kathmandu. Through the trust, the couple remain involved in the rebuild.
Through his connections with Nepal, and his ongoing projects based in seven countries in Africa and Asia, Murdoch was involved in the development of the pneumococcal vaccine. The vaccine to combat pneumonia deaths in children was introduced to New Zealand in 2008.
He describes it as a "career highlight".
He is also the laboratory director of the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health (PERCH) project, a global $41 million project funded by the Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation. 
"Bill Gates won't know much about New Zealand, but he knows who Canterbury Health Laboratories are," Murdoch said.
For the last 14 years, he has been head of the pathology department for the university. He is also a senior associate in the Department of International Health at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and a clinical microbiologist at Canterbury Health Laboratories. He plans to continue as a microbiologist part-time.
Murdoch has many hopes for the direction of the campus. He wants the students to begin thinking outside of Christchurch, and how global situations, projects and medical events could affect them too. 
"Obviously for me I have more of a global outlook, and I want to expose our children to things that don't just happen in Christchurch."
A collaborative project with a hospital in Kathmandu would allow medical students there to discuss real cases over video conference with students in Christchurch, and vice versa. An emergency medicine physician from the Kathmandu hospital had been visiting for the past week. 
He also wants to look at ways around how research can be better served by funding mechanisms, due to the campus's reputation as a "research-intensive school".
He is a co-leader of One Health Aotearoa, an alliance between researchers working on the relationship between human, animal and environmental health.
He also aims to improve the relationship with the Canterbury District Health Board, not because it is strained, because it could "always use improving".
You may also like:

No comments :

Post a Comment