Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Cranwell Medal winners named

Dr Natalie Netzler, a senior lecturer, and virologist at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and doctoral candidate Chris Puli’uvea have been awarded the Cranwell Medal for 2023.

The award, presented on behalf of New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) recognises Dr Netzler’s stance to safeguard the wellbeing of Māori and Pacific populations, through clear and empathetic communication about the Covid-19 virus and vaccinations.

The medal is shared with collaborator and doctoral candidate Chris Puli’uvea. Mr Puli’uvea, who is in the final stages of his PhD, is a lecturer at Auckland University of Technology.

The medal honours the pair’s exceptional commitment to demystifying science for the public, particularly Māori and Pacific communities.

“To receive this recognition is such a nice surprise – both Chris and I are truly humbled,” says Dr Netzler.

The work was rigorous, encompassing continuous consultations and the orchestration of over 60 online fono or events. The pair’s approach, blending scientific acumen with cultural awareness, broke down complex information into relatable narratives, fostering trust and understanding in communities who are traditionally marginalised by the health system.

“To see the engagement and everyone’s willingness to learn was encouraging for us to keep going. Many times we had to extend Q and A time just to ensure we’d cover everything and give our Māori and Pacific whānau confidence in their decisions. It was a privileged position to be in.”

Dr Natalie Netzler.

With the support of her family and especially her husband and young daughter, Dr Netzler says her commitment remains unchanged as she continues her research into antivirals, including an exciting new study into traditional Sāmoan medicines.

“I study viruses, I grow them, and then I find drugs to kill them,” she says.

“I screen different drugs to try and find potential antivirals and the idea is to have one drug for lots of bugs.

“At the moment, I’ve got a really exciting collaboration starting, an all Pacific female-led study, looking at traditional Sāmoan medicines. The aim is to screen them for antiviral activities which so far is looking very promising.”

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