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Source: University of Otago

Charlotte Gilkison, Julia Scott, Shevaun Paine, Sarah Jefferies, Virginia Hope, Patricia Priest, Nigel French, Andrea McNeill, Liang Yang. Not shown: Giles Graham, Namrata Prasad, Jonathan Marshall, Petra Muellner, Jillian Sherwood and Caroline McElnay.
A multi-agency team led by Dr Sarah Jefferies has been awarded the prestigious Liley Medal for a landmark paper analysing the impact of New Zealand’s initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The award, part of the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Research Honours, highlights the national and global significance of the highly cited epidemiological study which was published in the Lancet Public Health in October 2020.

“There has been a myriad of contributors who have all played vital roles in combating COVID-19 in New Zealand, not least the extraordinary efforts of frontline workers, the laboratory staff around the country, and the enormous effort of our public health colleagues. They continue to detect, trace and manage the intensive response to COVID-19, and collect the surveillance data which is vital to informing New Zealand’s ongoing response.”

Dr Jefferies, who specialises in communicable disease surveillance and responses to outbreaks at ESR, says she and the team are deeply honoured to receive the Medal.
“The study considered the impact of the initial interventions during the first wave on critical outcomes like health equity and highlighted vital considerations for the management of future pandemic responses.
The team included Professor Patricia Priest, of the University of Otago, and two Otago graduates.
Professor Priest, a senior author on the paper, said: “The medal is recognition of the skill and dedication of Dr Jefferies and her ESR colleagues, and of the importance of collaboration at a time of crisis.
“I was delighted to be involved in the study and to have the opportunity to work alongside colleagues from ESR and Massey. The work would not have been possible without the high quality surveillance carried out by ESR, the work of the many other laboratory and health care workers, and of course the outcome of elimination in 2020 was a credit to the team of 5 million New Zealanders”
Team members Charlotte Gilkison and Namrata Prasad both graduated MPH from Otago, primary-supervised from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.
Dr Jefferies acknowledged the many health sector colleagues involved in gathering the information that supported the work. “A study like this doesn’t happen without a great deal of collaboration. Not only from the study authors but from many more individuals and organisations across New Zealand.
“There has been a myriad of contributors who have all played vital roles in combating COVID-19 in New Zealand, not least the extraordinary efforts of frontline workers, the laboratory staff around the country, and the enormous effort of our public health colleagues. They continue to detect, trace and manage the intensive response to COVID-19, and collect the surveillance data which is vital to informing New Zealand’s ongoing response.”
Dr Jefferies personally acknowledges her ESR colleagues: Charlotte Gilkison; Giles Graham; Dr Virginia Hope; Andrea McNeil; Shevaun Pain; Dr Namrata Prasad; Dr Julia Scott; and Dr Jill Sherwood. ‘They have all played key roles in supporting New Zealand’s surveillance system to help inform the response to COVID-19, as well their important inputs to the study. And it has been an honour to collaborate with Distinguished Professor Nigel French and Adjunct Professor Jonathan Marshall of Massey University, Professor Patricia Priest of Otago University, Drs Petra Muellner and Liang Jang of Epi-Interactive, and Dr Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health for the Ministry of Health.’
Co-author Distinguished Professor Nigel French said “The medal is recognition of the skill and dedication of Dr Jefferies and her ESR colleagues, and of the importance of collaboration at a time of crisis. We were delighted to be involved in the study and to have the opportunity to work alongside colleagues from ESR and Otago. The work would not have been possible without the high quality surveillance carried out by ESR, and of course the outcome of elimination in 2020 was a credit to the team of five million New Zealanders”

MIL OSI