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Former Otago VC to Head Royal Society of New Zealand

Monday 12 March 2012

The next President of the Royal Society of New Zealand will be the University of Otago’s previous Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Skegg, the Society announced today.

Sir David is a distinguished cancer researcher who led the University from 2004 – 2011 and who continues to undertake research at Otago. He will assume his new role with the Royal Society from 1 July 2012.

The Royal Society of New Zealand is an independent national academy of science, technology and the humanities, and a federation of scientific and technological societies and individual members. It is an educational and research charity which operates under a Parliamentary Act for the advancement and promotion of Science, Technology and the Humanities in New Zealand.

The Society represents nearly 20,000 scientists, scholars, technologists and technicians enabling it to encompass a broad range of disciplines across the sciences, social sciences, humanities and technology.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne warmly welcomed the announcement of Professor Skegg as the Society’s new President.

“Sir David is an excellent choice to lead the Royal Society of New Zealand. He brings a wealth of talent and experience to the role. Our university flourished under his leadership style and I fully expect that his outstanding scholarship and collegial style will have a similar influence on the Society’s future growth and direction,” Professor Hayne says.

An Otago graduate, Sir David gained a BMedSc, MB, and ChB degrees with Distinction, and was awarded both the Travelling Scholarship in Medicine and a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. After graduating with a DPhil, he continued at the University of Oxford as a Lecturer in Epidemiology from 1976 to 1979. In 1980, he returned to Otago to take up the Chair of Preventive and Social Medicine and role of Head of that Department.

Sir David’s research interests include breast and cervical cancer, contraceptive and drug safety, and reproductive health. He has over 150 publications in academic journals.

A strong advocate of improved public health, he served as Chair of the former Public Health Commission and is also a former Chair of the Health Research Council of New Zealand. He has also long been a consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and is currently chairing a WHO advisory committee on improving reproductive health in developing countries.

Sir David is a former Chair of the Research Committee of Universities New Zealand and is Chair of the BSE Expert Science Panel as well as the Government’s recently-established Science Board. He is also the Secretary for the Rhodes Trust in New Zealand. He was awarded an OBE (1990) for services to medicine, a Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand (1992), and the Sir Charles Hercus Medal (Royal Society of New Zealand, 1999). In 2003, Professor Skegg also received the University of Otago’s top honour, the Distinguished Research Medal. In 2009, he was knighted for his services to medicine.

Professor Skegg said he was “surprised as well as honoured” to be invited to take on this responsibility. “The Royal Society is an excellent organisation. This will be a fascinating role, and I am pleased to be able to contribute from my base in Dunedin.”



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