Child health expert to be new Dunedin dean

By Vaughan Elder

University of Otago's Prof Barry Taylor, a distinguished child health researcher, has been appointed dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine. Photo / Craig Baxter
University of Otago's Prof Barry Taylor, a distinguished child health researcher, has been appointed dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine. Photo / Craig Baxter

The man chosen as dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine says he will be leaving the job he loves so he can help others fulfil their potential.

The University of Otago's Prof Barry Taylor, a distinguished child health researcher, was announced as the school's new dean yesterday. At present head of paediatrics and child health, Prof Taylor will take over from the retiring dean, Dr John Adams, in January.

Until late last year, Prof Taylor was head of the department of women's and children's health and he is widely known for research into children's health, notably in the area of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids), childhood obesity and childhood disease.

Prof Taylor said he loved his present job, but felt the time was right to begin focusing on helping others at the school.

"My job as an academic pediatrician looking after children, doing research focused on children, has been my love and still will be my love," he said.

He would have been "very happy" to continue in the role and only applied for the job as dean because some of his colleagues he would have liked to see in the position did not apply.

He believed he would be up to the task.

"I am pleased that there is some confidence that I can do it. It is quite a daunting task, especially in today's environment when the practice and delivery of high-quality healthcare is under so much pressure," he said.

Two of the main areas he would be focusing on were research and the school's relationship with the Southern District Health Board.

"We have certainly seen in the past how awful it can get when it is not working well," he said.

He declined to be specific, but said the relationship had been good under DHB chief executive Carole Heatly.

Having quality research would also be good for both the school and the DHB.

"Good research brings best practice into both the hospital and community for prevention and treatment of poor health."

Taking on the role of dean did not mean he was going to stop raising topical issues.

"We do have some problems ... We do actually have a track record of things getting worse in terms of the gap between the rich and poor," he said.

He would also still spend a day each week on research.

"I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't have a day a week of research. That is what keeps me motivated day by day."

Division of health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Peter Crampton said Prof Taylor would be able to build the school's "fine reputation" further.

"We are very fortunate to have someone of his calibre taking up the role of dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine," he said.

- Otago Daily Times

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