"Elated" by $250,000 scholarship. Photo supplied.
University of Otago medical graduate Dr Ayesha Verrall
has gained a $250,000 scholarship to undertake research to help
clarify why some people appear resistant to tuberculosis
despite being heavily exposed.
About 1.4 million people died of tuberculosis last year.
Dr Verrall, who is a former Otago University Students'
Association president, left New Zealand in 2010 and trained
in tropical medicine in Singapore for 16 months.
She later spent two months in Peru, supported by the
Federation of Graduate Women.
Dr Verrall has been living in New York for much of this year,
undertaking bioethics study through another scholarship, from
the Hastings Centre, an independent bioethics research
institute at Garrison, New York.
She was "elated" to gain the $250,000 funding, provided over
three years by the Health Research Council of New Zealand
through a clinical research training fellowship, to support
her planned PhD study.
Gaining the funds was exciting, because this research was
"really important" and it had been "a long shot" applying to
do research that would be conducted between New Zealand and
Prof Philip Hill, the co-director of Otago University's
Centre for International Health, will supervise her doctoral
Many people who were exposed to Tb became infected with a
latent form of the disease, but only about 10% of them
developed active Tb later in life.
Another group of people apparently did not acquire the latent
disease, despite being heavily exposed.
She hoped the research would begin to shed new light on
possible genetic pathways which led some people with "innate
immunity" to avoid acquiring even latent Tb.
Eradicating the overall disease would not be possible unless
the reservoir of latent Tb could be dealt with, she said.
Her Indonesian research would be conducted in Bandung, the
provincial capital of West Java, as part of an international
scholarly collaboration, also including the University of
Dr Bridget Stocker, of the Malaghan Institute of Medical
Research, Wellington; Dr Helen Fitzsimons, of Massey
University; and Dr Fiona McBryde, of Auckland University,
received Sir Charles Hercus Research Scholarships from the
HRC, each amounting to $500,000, over four years; Angela
Brenton-Rule, of AUT, also gained $250,000, and Clinical
Practitioner Research Fellowships went to Dr Martin Than, of
the Canterbury District Health Board, $713,273; and Dr
Stewart Dalziel, of the Auckland District Health Board,