Otago professor studying access to medicine

ProfF Pauline Norris, who was recently appointed as a professor of social pharmacy at the University of Otago, is leading a $900,000 research project which is investigating whether some people are "missing out" on prescription medicines.

The new professorship was created to lead research and teaching in the developing field of social pharmacy.

Through this discipline, social science methods and approaches are applied to research on society's access to and use of medicines.

In another appointment, the university announced yesterday that Dr Ian Morison, an Otago University researcher who had successfully combined careers in diagnostic pathology and research, had been appointed as a professor of pathology at the university's Dunedin School of Medicine.

Dr Morison will take up the professorship and become head of the pathology department on December 1, university officials said.

Prof Norris, who has a PhD in sociology from Victoria University of Wellington, joined the staff of the Otago School of Pharmacy in 2001, and was a senior lecturer before her recent promotion.

Backed by a $900,000 Health Research Council grant, Prof Norris and a team of researchers are analysing a year's worth of prescribing data for the Gisborne/East Cape area - involving records of 654,000 prescriptions - for their study on equity in prescription medicines use.

Researchers knew about GP services and good research was being carried out on unequal access to surgical services, but little was known about prescription medicines, including how they were distributed in terms of gender, age, socio-economic status and ethnicity, she said.

"Medicines are really important for people's health," she said.

Dr Morison has, in recent years, been a Senior Research Fellow in biochemistry at Otago University and a practising pathologist for Southern Community Laboratories.

A research haematologist, he has combined a career in diagnostic haematology - undertaking clinical diagnosis of blood disorders - with a career involving research on such disorders.

Dr Morison was highly regarded internationally for his research, and for his practice as a clinical pathologist, university officials said.

Born in Invercargill, he completed his MBChB at Otago in 1984, having also gained a BMedSci degree in pathology.

A later residency in clinical pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle had proved formative in his career, demonstrating the importance of combining high quality research and teaching within clinical diagnostic laboratories, he said.

He had returned to New Zealand in 1989, working at Dunedin Hospital and gaining a Fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Pathologists.

`My aim is to get students excited about pathology and encourage them to participate in research discoveries that will lead to the treatments of the future," he said.


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