The Dunedin-based Neurological Foundation is a partnership
between the University of Otago and the Southern District
Health Board, which aims to build connections between
academic research and clinical expertise.
For University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne,
the establishment of a neurosurgery professorship, or
university chair, within the division of health sciences,
will enable the pursuit of a range of new research pathways
and opportunities involving an array of academic disciplines.
While the search for the neurosurgery chair was in its
infancy, the eventual appointment would bring a welcome
addition to the university's Brain Health Research Centre,
Prof Hayne said.
The centre has more than 35 research teams drawn from a wide
range of the university's departments, including the anatomy,
biochemistry, medicine, physiology and psychology
departments, to name a few, and the School of Physical
Education and School of Pharmacy.
The Otago health sciences division has a reach spreading
around New Zealand, encompassing three campuses, four iwi and
28 student placements in towns and cities across both
Whoever was appointed to the neurosurgery chair would bring
their own skills, interests and expertise to this research
community, Prof Hayne said.
An approach that combined practical clinical skills at the
hospital bedside with laboratory-based academic studies was
vital for whoever was appointed to the Neurological
Foundation Chair, Prof Hayne said.
"This is one of the lessons that we've learned in New Zealand
when it comes to health science of any kind.
"The most exciting research and the best treatment comes when
we integrate the package of a highly skilled clinician and a
master researcher, because that person understands the
practicality of what is required at the bedside but also has
the academic expertise to push the boundaries into new
As well as the $3 million the Neurological Foundation aims to
garner in a public campaign, to fund the appointment in
perpetuity, the university will provide funds to cover the
academic and research aspects of the clinical professor's
While Prof Hayne was confident the amount would prove enough
to fund the professorial chair, she acknowledged the
university's funding for research was "to a certain extent"
influenced by the performance of its investments portfolio
and reliant on international equity markets.
A shortlist of candidates to join the chair's first appointed
neurosurgeon, senior lecturer Reuben Johnson, was being drawn
up for consideration by a professorial selection panel, which
will be chaired by Prof Hayne and include health sciences
pro-vice-chancellor Prof Peter Crampton.
Drawing up a shortlist for the position of neurosurgery
professor had been a novel process, Prof Hayne said.
"For the first time, in my experience at least, we are asking
very specific questions about the clinical expertise of
Numbers of surgeries, the types of surgery and hours spent in
theatre were not usually matters discussed with prospective
professors, she said.
The Neurological Foundation has been outspoken about its
desire to appoint an internationally recognised clinician and
researcher in the field of neurosurgery.
Asked if attracting an internationally recognised
neurosurgeon to Dunedin was a challenge, Prof Hayne was
candid in her response.
"It could have been. But I'm cautiously optimistic about the
shortlist we are assembling and I think we have a really,
really good field," Prof Hayne said.
"The people on that list are outstandingly qualified ...
Fingers crossed it's a beautiful day in Dunedin when they
Academics who chose to work at the university and make the
city their home were an "interesting breed of people", who
combined their aspirations with lifestyle choices, she said.
"We attract people who are incredibly ambitious with their
careers, but also want a lovely place to live and a nice
place to raise their families. That is certainly what we