University staff, students praised for Covid response

Staff and students at the University of Otago have been praised for their continuing work on the front lines of New Zealand’s Covid-19 response.

Prof Richard Blaikie
Prof Richard Blaikie
University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Prof Richard Blaikie has acknowledged the “huge effort” of the “many dozens” of unnamed colleagues, support staff and students who have assisted the Government in fighting Covid-19.

He said Otago experts had been following the emergence and evolution of the threat posed by Covid-19 since the earliest days of the pandemic, and with help from staff and students, they had been involved in advising the Government, genome sequencing, processing test results, Covid testing and vaccination clinics.

“Expertise and advice has been provided to the Government or directly to the public at every point where this has been needed.

“These experts, many of whom have also become trusted friends and advisors to the Aotearoa team of five million through television and the wider media, are supported by teams of colleagues, students and professional staff from across the university.

“We need to acknowledge the huge effort of the many dozens of these unnamed colleagues, support staff and students.”

Among the staff working on the response, Prof Blaikie also acknowledged the volunteers among the university’s final-year medical students and PhD students who, together with clinical staff, were coming forward to help work in diagnostic testing labs in Dunedin and Christchurch, as well as in Covid testing and vaccination clinics.

He said University of Otago staff known to be involved at a high level in the Government’s Covid-19 response included Dunedin School of Medicine Prof Patricia Priest (Ministry of Health (MoH) lead epidemiologist and Covid-19 Testing Technical Advisory Group (TTAG) member); School of Biomedical Sciences Dr Jemma Geoghegan (genomic testing and part-time ESR scientist); Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science (ChCh) Dr Pippa Scott (MoH epidemiologist and Covid-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (VTAG) member); School of Biomedical Sciences Ass Prof James Ussher (VTAG member and Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand lead); University of Otago (ChCh) dean Prof David Murdoch (VTAG deputy chairman, TTAG chairman, Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group (PHAG) and Expert Advisory Network member, VAANZ Research Oversight Committee chairman); Dunedin School of Medicine Prof David Skegg (PHAGroup chairman); Biostatistics Centre Dr Ella Iosua (PHAG member); Dunedin School of Medicine Prof Philip Hill (PHAG member and Covid-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group); University of Otago (Wellington) Dr Nigel Raymond (TTAG chairman); Department of Medicine (ChCh) Dr Michael Maze (Covid-19 Therapeutics Technical Advisory Group member); Dunedin School of Medicine Prof Peter McIntyre (VTAG and VAANZ committee member); Department of Paediatrics (ChCh) Dr Tony Walls (VTAG member); Dunedin School of Medicine Prof Sue Crengle (VTAG member); Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science (ChCh) Prof Stephen Chambers (Covid-19 Expert Advisory Network member); Department of Pathology and Biomedical Science (ChCh) Dr Anja Werno (Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group member and Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board member); Department of Medicine (Chch) Ass Prof Matt Doogue (Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board); Department of Medicine (Chch) Prof Lisa Stamp (Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board); Department of Publich Health (Wellington) Prof Michael Baker (Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group member); Department of Public Health (Wellington) Dr Tim Chambers (led trials of the CovidCard, a Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing device); School of Medicine Dr Tristram Ingham (invented NZ’s bubble concept, Disability Sector Leadership Group, Immunisation Implementation Advisory Group); Department of Public Health (Wellington) Dr Amanda Kvalsvig (Public Health Response Strategy Team, Government adviser on a range of issues including Alert Level design, mask use, surveillance, children and Covid-19, NZ’s elimination strategy); Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice (Wellington) Dr Maria Stubbe and Dr Tony Dowell (IMAC Covid-19 Immunisation Education Programme evaluation co-leaders); New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre Ass Prof Michael Tatley (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring director and Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board); Maori/Indigenous Health Institute (Chch) Prof Suzanne Pitama, Dr Cameron Lacey and others (lead organisation for vaccine rollout and delivery for Maori communities in Christchurch).

However, Prof Blaikie said the list was by no means exhaustive and there were other staff involved who had not been mentioned.

He said the list would grow larger as the Covid response intensified.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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