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New Dean of Otago School of Medical Sciences selected

8 August 2014

New Dean of Otago School of Medical Sciences selected

Professor Vernon Ward has been selected as the next Dean of the Otago School of Medical Sciences. He is a Professor of Virology and current Head of the University’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

The Otago School of Medical Sciences (OSMS) comprises five large, research-intensive departments: Anatomy, Pharmacology & Toxicology, Physiology, Biochemistry and Microbiology & Immunology. The School undertakes a broad range of world-class research, from medicine to agriculture, and teaches a large cohort of students each year.

Announcing the appointment, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said she is delighted that Professor Ward has been selected as the Dean of the OSMS.

“Vernon Ward is a widely respected biomedical scientist with a strong track record in attracting research funding and also a highly able administrator,” Professor Hayne says.

Professor Ward says he is excited to be taking up the Dean’s role on October 1.

“Many of New Zealand’s top researchers can be found among the School’s five departments with its staff winning a range of national and university awards for their research achievements. The broad diversity of research and its influence on teaching is one of the real strengths in the School. I intend to foster that interaction and work with the high-calibre staff throughout the OSMS to meet its diverse needs.”

Professor Ward says the OSMS has an outstanding record in attracting more than $20M contestable research funding from across the national funding environment annually, with research spanning fundamental science to translational and commercial research.

“I look forward to working with staff to promote and foster this vibrant and active research culture,” he says.

The School also teaches 2400 equivalent fulltime students across a broad base through undergraduate and postgraduate courses in science and health science such as the Bachelors of Science and Biomedical Science, and MSc and PhD programmes.

It has major roles in health science first-year courses, the genetics and neuroscience programmes and teaching in the professional health courses of the University such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy and medical laboratory science. Alongside his new role, Professor Ward will continue his programme of research. His interests involve the basic aspects of virus replication and how the properties of viruses might be used for beneficial purposes. He has more than 80 peer-reviewed research publications.

His research investigates developing the empty shells of viruses as vaccine carriers to target tumours by immunotherapy, and studying how noroviruses interact with and manipulate the infected host cell. He has maintained a long term interest in identifying and characterising viruses in insects.

Professor Ward was co-convenor of the University’s Virology Research Theme from 2000-2011 and his work has attracted major funding support from the Health Research Council and Marsden Fund of New Zealand. He has also established numerous national and international collaborations with researchers from Australia, UK and the USA.

Professor Ward gained his BSc (Hons) and PhD from the University of Otago, graduating with the latter in 1987. After postdoctoral positions at the Institute of Virology, Oxford, UK and the University of California, Davis, he joined the Otago Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 1993. He was promoted to Professor in 2011.

Division of Health Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Crampton warmly welcomed Professor Ward to his new role, saying that he very much looks forward to working with him to build further on the strong contributions the School makes to the University.

“I would also like to express my thanks and gratitude to Associate Professor Pat Cragg for her dedication and leadership in the role of Acting Dean,” Professor Crampton says.


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