Growing Up in New Zealand Associate Director becomes Head of Paediatrics

Associate Professor Cameron Grant

Clinical practice, research, and mentoring all contribute to the professional role of the new head of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland, Associate Professor Cameron Grant who co-leads the Growing Up in New Zealand study.

Clinical practice, research, and mentoring all contribute to the professional role of the new head of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland, Associate Professor Cameron Grant who co-leads the Growing Up in New Zealand study.

Each role is important to him, whether it’s working as a paediatrician on the wards at Starship Children’s Hospital, or on a paediatric research project from his University of Auckland offices, or mentoring paediatricians of the future.

“Clinical research gives you the chance to step back and reflect on lessons learnt from caring for children and their families and looking for longer-term solutions to illnesses and clinical situations which are not currently preventable or treatable,” says Dr Grant. “Working with paediatricians in training in the clinical setting establishes professional relationships which naturally lead onto interactions that are centred on research”.

The change in leadership of the University’s Department of Paediatrics occurred at the start of April when Dr Grant took over from Professor Innes Asher who has led the department for more than 13 years.

“Innes has done a wonderful job leading the department and is a strong advocate for child health both in New Zealand and internationally particularly so in the reduction of disparities between population groups,” says Dr Grant.  “I and many others in the paediatric department will continue to work on this theme.”

Professor Asher will remain a key figure in the University continuing with her clinical, teaching, research and advocacy roles in the Paediatric Department and the School of Medicine.

“The University of Auckland has an important role to fill in health professional development and in the creation of opportunities for professional careers and roles that have a positive influence on child health in New Zealand,” he says. “This is best done in partnership with the District Health Boards where clinical healthcare delivery occurs.”

Dr Grant is a general paediatrician at Starship Children’s Hospital. While most of the children seen at Starship live in the Auckland region, Starship is a national referral centre, so children from other New Zealand regions also receive care there.

“Providing high-quality care to children with complex problems frequently requires simultaneous care from multiple specialities,” says Dr Grant. “Providing a whole child and whole family perspective to this care delivery is a role to which general paediatricians are well suited.”

“Starship is a great place to work with a strong culture of mutual respect and complements my University role very nicely,” he says.

Dr Grant has worked for the University and at Starship Children’s Hospital for more than 20 years. Prior to this he completed his medical degree at the University of Otago, training in Paediatrics in Auckland and then at Duke University Medical Center and the Johns Hopkins Hospital followed by an initial consultant appointment in Auckland at Middlemore Hospital.

His teaching responsibilities have spanned most areas of undergraduate and postgraduate education and his skills as a teacher in both of these areas were recognised with Faculty teaching awards, (Butland Foundation Distinguished Teaching Awards) and with a University of Auckland Teaching Excellence award.

His teaching now focusses on helping paediatricians-in-training to complete the written specialist examinations in Paediatrics set by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. This teaching programme, which was originally developed for paediatricians in training in Auckland, is now delivered throughout New Zealand and Australia.

“It is rewarding to help people to prepare for these difficult examinations. Teaching these very capable students is challenging at times and is an excellent form of continuing medical education for me, he says.

Dr Grant began his research training during his General Academic Pediatric Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University in the 1990s.  He completed a PhD at the University of Auckland on the epidemiology of pertussis (whooping cough) in 2004 and returned to Johns Hopkins University as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in 2008.

His research interests have remained focused on the prevention of childhood disease and improvement of child health through immunisation or improved nutrition.

Since 2004 Dr Grant has worked alongside Associate Professor Susan Morton developing the Growing Up in New Zealand study. He has remained the Associate Director of Growing Up in New Zealand since then.

Growing Up in New Zealand is an amazing project. Its robust design and its breadth and scope really do allow for the determinants of child and future adult health to be considered within the full context of life,” he says.

“It’s a privilege to make a contribution to this sentinel piece of work and I am extremely grateful to Susan for all that she has done to make this project what it is today and to allow me to remain so centrally involved despite my other commitments,” he says.

Using ideas generated from this cohort study Dr Grant develops clinical trials that evaluate potential new strategies to improve child health. These clinical trials translate the findings from epidemiological research into improvements in clinical practice.

A recent example of this is the randomised controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy. This trial showed that daily vitamin D supplementation prevents early childhood primary care visits for acute respiratory infections and reduces the risk that children will develop atopy.

“I have had a fantastic education, which continues. It is important to use the knowledge gained over many years of providing healthcare to children to seek to improve their health and, as importantly, to enable and interest others to do this.”