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Source: University of Otago

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu presenting.
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, the Associate Dean (Pacific) at the University of Otago, Wellington, has won the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) Cranwell Medal for science communication for 2020.
Dr Sika-Paotonu, who is of Tongan heritage, is the first Pacific biomedical scientist to receive the award.
NZAS President Professor Troy Baisden says Dr Sika-Paotonu has maintained a strong record of public engagement with community groups and with students at all levels since completing her PhD at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in 2015.
“She regularly presents science to non-scientific audiences and has received local and international recognition for her research and science communication efforts.”
Professor Baisden says Dr Sika-Paotonu holds numerous service and leadership responsibilities within the Pacific community and has been actively involved in mentoring young Pacific people in the Wellington region.
“She is a very worthy winner of the Cranwell Medal.”
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu.
Dr Sika-Paotonu is the Scientific Lead for New Zealand’s Rheumatic Fever and Penicillin Research Programme and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine.
She is delighted to have been named the recipient of the award.
“I’m encouraged by the increased awareness and recognition of the need for scientists and researchers to share and communicate science effectively and appropriately for various audiences that also includes Māori and Pacific communities, the various classroom settings and the general public audience groups.”
She is particularly heartened by the growing understanding of the need for scientists and researchers to become more closely connected and engage appropriately and respectfully with Māori and Pacific communities and other groups to support effective and appropriate dialogue and outreach efforts, and scientific knowledge sharing and translation activities.
Dr Sika-Paotonu says it has been a privilege to have been able to mentor, teach and support students, researchers and young people from different backgrounds, many of whom have been of Pacific heritage, over the years.
“I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to lead and support students and young people across many different contexts and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow, develop and succeed.
“I’m also grateful for the opportunities to help draw attention to some of the important health issues of relevance to our Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific region. I would like to see the next generation of students, health professionals and researchers trained, equipped and empowered to each become leaders within their areas of expertise, contributing to society and affecting positive change for Aotearoa New Zealand and in the Pacific region – and beyond.”
Dr Sika-Paotonu is an HRC Pacific Emerging Research Fellow, as well as a recent recipient of the Health Research Council of New Zealand’s Sir Thomas Davis Te Patu Kite Rangi Ariki Health Research Fellowship.
Her awards include the MacDiarmid Young Scientist of the Year (Advancing Human Health & Wellbeing category), Colmar Brunton New Zealand Research Excellence Award, and the Australasian Society of Immunology BD Science Communication award.
She has also received a 2020 Fulbright New Zealand Scholarship, which will allow her to travel to the United States to continue her research into Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease at Harvard University and the University of Oklahoma.
The Cranwell Medal is awarded annually to a practising scientist for excellence in communicating science to the general public in any area of science or technology and is named in honour of one of New Zealand’s earliest science communicators, the botanist Dr Lucy Cranwell.