Heart Health Forum 2024

The fifth annual Heart Health Emerging Researchers Forum 2024 was held on 13-14th June in Ōtatauhi | Christchurch at Tūranga Library. The 1-day hui was attended by 80 emerging researchers (students, postdoctoral fellows, research fellows and senior research fellows) from a broad range of heart health disciplines. We also made a concerted effort this year to include our Allied Health colleagues and to align with Te Whare Tukutuku.

Traditionally, the Forum was part of CSANZ as a meeting hosted by the Heart Foundation for current and past Heart Foundation scholars. Due to COVID, and the cancelling of CSANZ in 2022, the forum was held as a separate, ad hoc event. Through co-funding and co-convening with Pūtahi Manawa | Healthy Hearts Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence, we were able to broaden the scope of the Forum. The additional funding has allowed us to double the number of attendees and host a combined event that was inclusive of all emerging researchers working in heart health and promote the shared aims and aspirations of the Heart Foundation and Pūtahi Manawa. 

The theme for 2024 was Kotahitanga: Unity through a shared vision, which builds upon the previous two themes of Manaakitanga: Respect, Kindness and Support (2023) and Whakawhanaungatanga: Connections and Connectedness (2022). After two years of being a standalone meeting, this year the organising committee felt it was time to coincide again with CSANZ. This also aligned with the desire to connect more with our Allied Health and other clinical colleagues. 

The first event held on the evening of June 13th was an informal network session between Forum attendees as well as Te Whare Tukutuku and Allied Health attendees. Dr Martin Stiles, Stacey Neilson, and Lisa Wong spoke about the importance of Allied Health and transdiscplinarity in research. Stacey Neilson (chair of the Allied Health working group at CSANZ) and Lisa Wong (Pūtahi Manawa Research Engagement Manager) have been partnering to understand what the barriers are to Allied Health to engage in research and where there are opportunities. 

Dr Martin Stiles, Stacey Neilson, and Lisa Wong spoke about the importance of Allied Health and transdiscplinarity in research.



The 14th was the day of formal activities. This included an opening by Joseph Tyro (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ati Haunui-A-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Rangi; Principal Advisor, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora Waitaha) and remarks by Dr Karen Brewer (Pūtahi Manawa Co Director) and Dr Gerry Devlin (Medical Director, Heart Foundation). Our morning panel discussion “Enacting Kotahitanga in the community” was chaired by Dr Sandra Hanchard (Pūtahi Manawa and Heart Foundation Research Fellow) included: 

  • Dr Allamanda Fa’atoese (Samoan; Christchurch Heart Institute, University of Otago, Christchurch) 
  • Dr Bridget Dicker (St John’s, Auckland University of Technology) 
  • Dr Wil Harrison (Ngāti Porou, Rongowhakaata; Counties Manukau Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora)
  • Mr Joseph Tyro (Ngāi Tahu, Te Ati Haunui-A-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Rangi; Principal Advisor, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora)

Discussion included how to include community into one’s research, acknowledging the challenges of the current research ecosystem and the importance of privileging the relationships of the groups and individuals you are working with.

The second part of the program was a talk by Joanne Looyen, Director of  Science System Investment and Performance from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on Narrative CVs. 

A poster treasure hunt, organised by James Hewett was held to engage the audience with the poster presentations and spot prizes were given to those who completed a questionnaire and for the poster presenters. 

The afternoon sessions started with our second key note speaker, Nicole Skews-Poole from The Disinformation Project. This presentation highlighted the rise of dis and mis information and how we can all protect ourselves, our projects and our colleagues. While the rise of disinformation is a worrying trend, the talk was an important reminder that research and communicating our research as a credible source of information is hugely important. 

Our final session was our second panel, from Bench to Bedside, chaired by Pūtahi Manawa Research Fellow Dr Debbie Zhao. 

•Dr  Martin Stiles (CardiologyHealth New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora Waikato, University of Auckland, Chair of CSANZ) 

• Dr Ellen Woodcock (Research Fellow at the Māori Indigenous Health Institute,  University of Otago, Christchurch) 

• Dr Anna Pilbrow (Christchurch Heart Institute, University of Otago, Christchurch)

This discussion explored the how one bridges concepts from the lab into the clinic to impact patient care. Our diverse panellists shared their challenges, and joys, of their research journeys and how working in transdisciplinary teams has helped to bring ideas to life. The importance of networks, relationships and understanding ones’ strengths were highlighted. The 2024 Heart Health Forum Organising Rōpū was chaired by Heart Foundation Grant recipient, Dr Andree Pearson (University of Otago, Christchurch) who is strongly supported by Pūtahi Manawa ECR Rōpū members (Lisa Wong, Research Engagement Manager, University of Auckland, Dr Michelle Munro, University of Otago and Dr Sandra Hanchard, University of Auckland) along with other emerging researchers in heart health (Erina Korohina, Centre for Heart Health; Dr Toan Pham, University of Auckland; Dr Brendon Roxburgh, University of Otago; Dr Abdallah Hasaballa, University of Auckland, Dr Debbie Zhao, University of Auckland, Dr Amelia Power, University of Auckland, Dr James Hewett, University of Canterbury and Carlos Meza Alvarado, University of Massey). The majority of the Organising Committee are keen to remain on the Committee for 2025. 

Andree Pearson welcomed everyone on behalf of the organising committee

Selected comments from attendees include:

Poster treasure hunt, as it got us mixing and learning about each others research in a fun way.  It was great this had it's own dedicated slot in the programme.  Could have even been 15 minutes longer.”

“The Discussion Panels - it was really insightful to hear from the panelists on how we can connect with the community and I think we could all really learn from them.”

“The experience was great, the several breaks and social welcoming on Wednesday were very helpful to connect with people.”

“The bench to bedside panel discussion. Debbie was really engaging and the panelists were great, too! Loved that we had a 'pure scientist', clinician, and half-clinical half-researcher.”

From Pūtahi Manawa Research Engagement Manager Lisa Wong: “Pūtahi Manawa is committed to delivering equity in heart health through training our next generation of heart researchers across the country. Coming together with the Heart Foundation to maximise the reach and support for this community is absolutely in line with our shared aspirations and we look forward to continuing this partnership and collaboration”.

Our sincere thanks to the Heart Foundation and Pūtahi Manawa for their ongoing joint support. The Forum is enabling the development of a vibrant network of emerging researchers that is facilitating collaboration and helping to grow heart health research in Aotearoa.

If you’d like more information about the forum, please get in touch with the working group via email: heartforum@otago.ac.nz