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Medical Faculty Enters New Era Of Growth

May 30th, 2002

University Medical Faculty Enters New Era Of Growth

The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences today unveiled plans to develop new strengths in population and community health, nursing, and pharmacy and build further on its bio-medical research and teaching.

“This plan is a logical extension of everything the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences already does,” the Faculty’s Dean, Professor Peter Smith said. “It is a commitment to the future health needs of New Zealanders that encompasses the need for new treatments and cures, new approaches to managing health issues that are community-wide, and to train an expanding health workforce.

“My vision is that these developments will not only cement the Faculty’s reputation in New Zealand, but will make it a first port of call for international agencies seeking research and expertise across a wide range of health issues relevant to this region.

“I am also committed to the Faculty’s activities reaching more deeply into the Auckland and regional communities that the University serves by contributing practical new initiatives to meet pressing public health needs,” Professor Smith said.

Key to the implementation of these plans will be new relationships with District Health Boards, community healthcare providers, and other external partners, and the constitution of a new over-arching structure for the Faculty.

“The Faculty is a pace-setting, research-led institution with a strong research track record, accounting for half the external research revenue at The University of Auckland,” said Professor Smith.

“Our bio-medical scientific excellence has led, for example, to the creation of the Liggins Institute, the internationally-acclaimed Cancer Research Centre, and the involvement of the Faculty in one of the Centres of Research Excellence hosted by the University. The strengths in clinical, population, and community health, however, are hampered by fragmented activity.

“On top of this, international health research and teaching is increasingly concerned with population and community health issues, while the Government is requiring that District Health Boards have strategies in this area for the first time.”

Professor Smith outlined a major new plan for the Faculty, now being implemented, that will create seven specialist schools within the Faculty. These will be: three separate Clinical Schools on Auckland, South Auckland, and Waikato hospital campuses, a School of Medical Sciences, a new School of Population Health, and new Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing.

The new Faculty structure will be established immediately, with the School of Population Health scheduled to relocate to the University’s Tamaki campus at the beginning of the 2004 academic year.

“The School of Population Health is a core element in the Faculty’s plans going forward,” said Professor Smith. “It will boost substantially research and teaching aimed at improving the health and well-being of whole communities.”

The school will place particular emphasis on the health and well-being of Maori, Pacific Island, rural communities, and disadvantaged groups, and will be forging new partnerships with District Health Boards in Northland, Auckland, and the Waikato to achieve this.

“We all know that prevention is better than cure, but the challenge is constantly to give our efforts at prevention equal priority,” said Professor Smith. “New Zealand in general and Auckland in particular have a range of unique and pressing community health challenges requiring home-grown answers.

“The spread of illnesses such as diabetes and rheumatic fever ­ a disease not seen in developed countries for decades - our high rates of youth and male suicide, and the incidence of meningococcal disease are but a few examples of specific, major public health issues that we face.”

The School will also seek major new capability in the field of health informatics: the science of population health statistics, most probably with partners from other Faculties and the information technology sector.

“The recent Top 10 report on preventable causes of hospital admissions, illness and death provides a clear guide to the scale of the challenge,” Professor Smith said.

It identified the highest priority issues relating to the health and well-being of children and young people as: preventable causes of infant, Maori, and youth mortality, avoidable hospitalisations (including motor vehicle accidents), infectious disease rates, asthma admissions, lower respiratory tract admissions, births to teenage mothers, dental health, and hearing loss.

“These represent a check-list for the kinds of issues that the School of Population Health will be devoted to overcoming,” said Professor Smith. “Most are widespread problems, but some are particularly acute in Auckland. For that reason alone, it is appropriate that The University of Auckland is making this investment in its community.”

Professor Smith said the plans for the Faculty as a whole built on the way it was currently organised, but responded to the desire among staff for simplified management structures, greater budget transparency, and better-resourced curriculum development.

“The Faculty’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi are also more explicitly recognised, with a structure that integrates the teaching of medical sciences with recognition of distinct characteristics in delivering Maori healthcare.”


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