Dr Graham Howie

Graham Howie uses his research training to design and teach postgraduate courses for paramedics and community health workers.

Key facts:

Position: Senior Lecturer in Paramedicine and Emergency Management, Auckland University of Technology
Programme: PhD
Research topic: Feast or famine? - Altered maternal nutrition and disease risk in offspring
Primary Supervisor: Associate Professor Mark Vickers

Over 16 years in the ambulance service, Graham Howie enjoyed the wide variety of people and situations that were part of his daily life. But Graham decided he wanted to know more about what really made people tick.

He launched into part time university study – first a BA in psychology and then a master’s in neuroanatomy. Eventually, his quest to find out why people are what they are led him to doctoral study at the Liggins Institute, attracted by its international reputation for research on the long term consequences of early life development.

His research followed the effects of a mother’s nutrition during pregnancy on her offspring – in particular the effects of over-nutrition. Using the rat as an experimental model, he showed that the offspring’s long term health reflected their mother’s diet - irrespective of their own postnatal nutrition.

“Mothers on a high fat diet before and during pregnancy have offspring who are likely to become obese and develop cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes,” says Graham.

“It is tremendously exciting to do an experiment and then see the results come in – results that have real relevance to the society we live in.

“My background as a paramedic meant I was very familiar with diabetes and heart disease. I know the suffering these diseases cause and that gave my research impetus and real meaning,” he adds.

He says that what he most enjoyed about being a student at the Liggins was the intellectual stimulation and freedom to develop his own ideas in an intellectually secure environment.

He also appreciated opportunities to attend international scientific conferences where he could experience “being a scientist”, defend his research amongst his peers and meet and talk to acknowledged leaders in his field of research.

Although older than most of his fellow students, Graham felt relaxed and accepted as part of the student group. “They are hard working and mutually supportive, interesting and enjoyable company,” he says.

Dr Howie is now able to put his research training to good use. As a senior lecturer in Paramedicine and Emergency Management at the Auckland University of Technology, he is designing and teaching postgraduate courses for paramedics and community health workers that will enrich their professional practice with new knowledge based on the very latest biomedical and clinical research.

“The really exciting thing about my role is the opportunity to conduct research. Paramedical research is in its infancy in New Zealand (and in most of the world), so we have a tremendous opportunity to really grow something new and significant here that will make a real difference,” he says.

Explore the current list of masters and doctoral research projects on offer and their supervisors.