AUT academics receive Health Research Council honours

30 Aug, 2016
AUT academics receive Health Research Council honours
From left: HRC Chief Executive Professor Kath McPherson, Professor Valery Feigin, Dr Alice Theadom and Professor Max Abbott at the HRC-AUT Health Research Excellence Awards.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has honoured AUT health researchers Professor Valery Feigin and Dr Alice Theadom for their contributions to health research excellence.

Professor Feigin was last week presented with a research excellence award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to stroke and traumatic brain injury research.

The Professor of Neurology & Epidemiology and Director of AUT’s National Institute for Stroke & Applied Neurosciences (NISAN) has published prolifically, with his research papers featuring in leading medical journals such as The Lancet, The Lancet Neurology and Stroke.
Among his findings has been the identification of a trend towards declining stroke rates in New Zealand Europeans over the past 20 years, yet a near doubling of stroke rates in Māori and Pacific populations over the same period.

He has also made world-first, internationally significant discoveries, including the increased global burden of stroke, diverging trends in stroke burden for developed and developing countries, and the harmful impact of air pollution on stroke burden worldwide.

The HRC recognised his work as critically important for evidence-based health care planning and prevention of strokes and traumatic brain injuries.

Dr Theadom, a senior lecturer and deputy director of NISAN, received the HRC’s outstanding emerging researcher award for her investigation of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in New Zealand.

Her work has led to the discovery that mild TBIs, including concussions, occur much more frequently than previously thought and can cause symptoms for up to four years after the initial injury. Dr Theadom’s findings are now being used to inform better identification and management of TBIs internationally.

The awards were part of the HRC’s 25-year anniversary celebrations. Professor Max Abbott, Dean of AUT’s Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, says he was proud to see his colleagues’ research successes acknowledged. “I am delighted that the HRC has commended Valery and Alice’s achievements. They are very deserving recipients and have contributed a great deal to advancing health knowledge.”

A substantial part of Professor Feigin and Dr Theadom’s research has been HRC-funded. “These awards mark not only the tremendous accomplishments of Valery and Alice, but also underscore the valuable role the HRC plays in enabling research that has the power to improve lives,” says Professor Abbott.