Prestigious research honour goes to AUT stroke expert

13 Nov, 2015
Prestigious research honour goes to AUT stroke expert
Professor Juliet Gerrard presents AUT’s Professor Valery Feigin with the MacDiarmid Medal for outstanding scientific research (image courtesy of the Royal Society of New Zealand).

The Royal Society of New Zealand has awarded Professor Valery Feigin the MacDiarmid Medal for outstanding scientific research.

The Auckland University of Technology professor was announced the 2015 MacDiarmid Medal recipient at the Royal Society Research Honours Dinner held on Tuesday, recognising his work in the field of international stroke epidemiology.

His research has revealed that, although stroke incidence and mortality rates have declined over the last twenty years, the absolute number of strokes is rising – and with it the death and serious disability incurred by stroke.

“Stroke rates offer false hope,” says Professor Feigin. “Rates are just rates, but absolute figures represent the real people who are dying from and disabled by this disease – that’s what really matters.”

To address the devastating impact of stroke, he says widespread prevention measures are needed. 80 percent of all strokes occur in people who are technically categorised as low to moderate risk, yet simple lifestyle changes can make a dramatic difference to most people’s chances of avoiding stroke.

This inspired Professor Feigin to create a widely accessible prevention tool, drawing on findings from his Health Research Council programme and culminating in development of the Stroke RiskometerTM. The free app allows users to assess their own stroke risk on a smartphone or tablet, and is soon to be translated into 18 languages.

Professor Feigin was surprised but elated by the Royal Society honour, which commends both his research contribution and its potential to significantly benefit society.

“I’m delighted to receive the MacDiarmid Medal, as it recognises the new approach we’re taking to understanding and mitigating stroke risk and our goal of changing people’s mind-sets. New, ambitious projects aren’t easy, so this is valuable encouragement and recognition,” he says.

The Professor of Epidemiology and Neurology has experienced the tragedy of stroke himself, losing his father to a stroke early in his career. Also a practicing stroke physician, he is constantly reminded of the life-changing consequences of stroke.

“Non-communicable diseases like stroke account for 66 percent of deaths worldwide and cause serious disability for millions of people,” he says. “There’s a huge need for ongoing clinical stroke research, more effective prediction and prevention, and more public awareness of stroke risk factors.”

For more on Professor Feigin’s work, watch this video from the Royal Society:
2015 MacDiarmid Medal - Valery Feigin