University staff across the faculties of Science, Medical Science and Education and Social Work were recognised for their exceptional achievements in the Queen's Birthday Honours, announced yesterday.

Top dermatologist honoured

Adjunct Associate Professor Amanda Margaret Meredith Oakley (School of Medicine) is a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to dermatology. She is the founder of the DermNet NZ, which has become a world-renowned resource of skin disease information. She launched the site in 1995 and it now receives two million visitors a month; she continues as editor in chief.

Amanda has practised as a dermatologist in the Waikato region since 1986 and was clinical director of Waikato District Health Board’s dermatology department for 12 years. A former president of the New Zealand Dermatological Society, she was a Bristol graduate and first worked at Waikato Hospital as a house surgeon and medical registrar. She is passionate about the internet and its use for diagnostic teledermatology and medical and consumer health education.

Associate Professor Michael O'Brien

Child poverty champion

Associate Professor Michael Anthony O'Brien, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, has been named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to social policy and education. Mike joined the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work in 2011. He worked in social work in the equivalent of Child, Youth and Family and North Canterbury Hospital Board before joining academic work following his Masters degree in 1980.

He contributed to the development of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at Massey University and was an initial staff member at its Albany campus. He chaired the University’s ethics committee and was initial Head of the School of Social and Cultural Studies and programme director for the social work programme. He has maintained an active link with social work and the social services, delivering the Merv Hancock lecture at the Association’s Congress in 2010. He was the Astrid Lindgren Fellow in Children’s Studies at Växjö University, Sweden in 2009. His recent publications traverse a range of child poverty, welfare reform and social service questions.

Associate Professor Bronwen Connor

Pioneer in neurological therapies

Associate Professor Bronwen Connor has become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the treatment of neurological disorders. A pharmacologist in the School of Medical Sciences, and head of the Neural Reprogramming and Repair lab, her specific interest is in new strategies to treat neurological disease. Her particular focus is on the potential use of stem cell therapy and gene transfer techniques. Bronwen has worked on the development of stem cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease as well as new ways to treat depression.

She is also interested in the re-direct use of pharmacological agents, such as anti-depressant or anti-psychotic agents, for the potential treatment of other neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis. At Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research, she and her team have developed a highly successful programme called ‘Being Brainy’, a science inquiry topic on the brain for primary and intermediate ages, which is now accessible to all schools online.

Anti-family violence researcher and advocate

Associate Professor Janet Lynn Fanslow has also been named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to the research and prevention of family violence. Based at the University’s School of Population Health, she has been researching family violence for more than 20 years and her work has been instrumental in proving its high prevalence rate, and in gaining recognition that family violence is a treatable health issue.

She was principal investigator of the Health Research Council-funded New Zealand Violence Against Women Survey (NZVAWS) in 2003; the largest study of violence against women undertaken in the country in which 2,855 women were consulted in face-to-face interviews. Alongside Associate Professor Robyn Dixon (School of Nursing),Janet is co-director of the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse (NZFVC), the national centre for collating and disseminating research on domestic and family violence.

In spite of being in such a gruelling area, she says she maintains “a profound sense of hope”, and has seen phenomenal strides made in gaining recognition of the scale and impact of the problem. “When I first started in the field, it was a subject that was swept under the carpet. Now, if we choose, New Zealand has the potential to lead the world in preventing family violence.”

Emeritus Professor Charmian O'Connor became a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Find out more about her award.