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Issue 13 | October 2017

From the Flight Deck


profile pic of Rob GriffithsWhat a great year this has been! I have just returned from a fantastic Professional Visits Programme in Dubai, with extremely enthusiastic and engaged students, graduates and prospective students. The programme was full but relaxing, the charity auction was the usual collection of oddities, and the dhow trip was a great time to unwind and connect. Many thanks to Emirates Airlines, Screen4 and our very generous hosts.  We raised over US$2000 for the Emirates Foundation to help children in need.

It’s been a great time for staff. Kelli was awarded the 2017 CALT award for Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Technology for her great idea of a student induction programme, Embark Otago. Julie was awarded the prize for best presentation at the Aeromedical Society of Australasia and Flight Nurse Association conference. Staff have had a number of publications in scientific journals, books etc.

We have a few people leaving us this year. Howard Roby who has done so much for the AeroRT programme is retiring. Kelli is returning to the US to be closer to her family. Alana who was a locum Programme Manager, is moving to Christchurch to start her Master of Nursing study.

Thankfully we are being joined by some great people too. Andi, our new part-time Programme Manager, who will be based in the Wellington office. We also welcome Nicola Emslie to the AvMed teaching team, and a new AeroRT team is being set up to teach and also draft new papers for the new Master of Aeromedical Retrieval & Transport.

We have done much to improve the course materials, and the way we teach. We aim to empower rather than teach students, and the Moodle Forum has made it possible for our students, who have a vast range of expertise and experience to teach each other. Along the way, we build learning communities that cross time zones, religion and culture; this was abundantly evident in the groups at the PVP who like, respect and support each other in their endeavours. It is a privilege to be a part of something so special.

Our student and staff numbers continue to grow, and we are expanding our teaching in America. I am an affiliate professor at the University of Washington and Foundations Program Director for the American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, which has enabled me to promote Otago University as a world leader in distance education. In future, we will also be striking out alone as the University of Otago OAM into the US market which does not have a strong engagement with distance education in medicine. We continue to probe into distance education in mainland China, which is the only place in the world where we don’t currently teach – watch this space! All such initiatives take time, and we have been lucky enough to have received great support from Education New Zealand over the years.

Per ardua ad astra!

Study in 2018

Are you interested in studying Occupational Medicine, Aviation Medicine or Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport?

The papers on offer for semester one are:
  • AVME711 Aviation Physiology
  • AVME719 Operational Aspects of  Aeromedical Retrieval for Nurses and Paramedics
  • AVME721 Clinical Care in the Air
  • AVME723 Managing Occupational Medicine
  • AVME801 Occupational Medicine Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • AVME785 Research Methods
In semester two we’ll be offering the following:
  • AVME714 Clinical Aviation Medicine
  • AVME720 Clinical Aspects of Aeromedical Retrieval for Nurses and Paramedics
  • AVME722 Organisation of Aeromedical Systems
  • AVME724 Health and Industry
  • AVME802 Vocational Rehabilitation
Apply now! To enroll, select your qualification from this page. Once on your qualification page, click the yellow 'Apply Now' button on the right hand side of the page. We will not be offering a number of these papers again until 2020.
If you would like further information about any of our programmes, or have any questions about enrollment, please feel free to get in touch at  

Key Dates

  • 10 December 2017 - Enrolment closes (late applications will be considered wherever possible)
  • 26th February 2018 Trimester One begins
  • 9th July 2018 Trimester Two begins
View our Programmes and Papers

Student Profile


I am originally from Cape Town and completed my undergraduate medical training and first postgraduate aerospace medicine qualification in South Africa. After working in the UK for a few years I moved to the UAE where I have been for the past 7 years, initially as air ambulance flight physician and currently as aviation medical examiner for an airline aeromedical centre.
My decision to choose Otago University for a Master's degree was an easy one, since one of my colleagues was an alumnus. Combining postgraduate studies with full time work can be challenging, but the integrative, accommodating distance learning approach from the aviation and occupational medicine unit makes it manageable. Multiple assessment opportunities exist, which vary from online classroom presentations to forums and research assignments. The interaction with other students and learning from others' experience are extremely valuable. Support exists from administrators and lecturers.
I can recommend, without hesitation, the aviation and occupational medicine unit for postgraduate studies. In fact, it has become a part of my everyday life and I will find it odd not to have articles to read or papers write after my normal day at work.
Andi Buchanan has joined the team as the new Programme Manager for the OAMU. Andi's previous role was as Graduation Manager at Victoria University and also has previous experience working with international students, and as the administrator for a post-experience programme in Applied Finance.

Professional Visits Programme in Dubai

These photos are from our recent Professional Visits Programme in Dubai, including our visits to Etihad Airways and Emirates, where we had a fascinating and informative time. At Eithad Airways we spent time
learning about all aspects of their Airline Medical Department. We also learned about their cabin crew safety training and observing all the procedures for crew training - it included an extremely realistic flight on a 777 simulator where we experienced what it may be like to experience a number of safety related issues including a sudden decompression incident during flight and a hard landing where we had to adopt the brace position!

Emirates also very generously hosted us for a couple of days. We experienced many aspects of their cabin crew training, and observed other key operational sections including medical oversight of flight and cabin crew, and flight catering.

We're looking forward to announcing details of our next Professional Visits Programme, to be held in Asia in 2018.
At the end of the Professional Visits Programme we awarded the Nomy Ahmed prize (kindly donated by a former student Dr Nomy Ahmed) - it is presented on a yearly basis to a student who has performed at an extremely high level during their studies, often in the face of additional challenges. This year the prize was award to Dr David Peat - congratulations Dave!

Master of Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport

The Master of Aeromedical Retrieval & Transport will be offered from 2019!

Graduates and current students on the Diploma in AeroRT in 2018 will be eligible to enrol for the (just) two additional papers AVME 803 and AVME 804 in 2019 required for the new Masters. This new qualification degree forms part of our internationally accredited programme that enables part-time registered medical practitioners  to develop competencies for professional aeromedical retrieval & transport practice at a registered or board certified specialist level in any country in the world.

The Masters’ degree extends the existing Postgraduate Diploma in Aeromedical Retrieval & Transport, and students will normally have completed the Diploma prior to being accepted into the Masters’ papers. The programme builds on the fundamental principles and clinical practice leading to management and research evaluation of aeromedical retrieval & transport, and safe clinical care in the air.

The MAeroRT will allow speciality registered or board certified medical practitioners on graduation to provide consultant-level advice as a medical director of air ambulance services or as an ICU/Anaesthetics/ED/ Neonatal ICU consultant responsible for urgent care involving air transport.

From the Research Desk

The main news from the Aviation Medicine division is that Occupational and Aviation Medicine (OAM) has been tasked by the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) with developing an evidence-based guideline on the fitness for travel of passengers with cardiovascular disease. This project is being led by Calum Young who is a cardiologist with a special interest in aviation, supported by Rob and the Aviation Medicine team.

From the AeroRT desk, Julie has now completed data collection for the “Fatigue in aeromedical clinicians” simulation study. The research utilised a new high fidelity air ambulance simulator (fixed-wing cabin) based at the Simulation and Skills Centre, Wellington Regional Hospital, and examined the non-technical performance of highly fatigued critical care transport clinicians. A manuscript based on this work has appeared as an early online publication, and some early results were presented at the Aerospace Medical Association Conference (Denver, USA) in May of this year. A poster explaining the methodology was presented by Julie at the Aeromedical Society of Australasia Conference (Sydney, Australia) Aug 31 – Sept 1, winning the prize for best research poster.

In the Occupational Medicine programme Mark N-S and Rob G continue to make progress in developing the Virtual Reality (VR) site-visit platform. The VR platform will be incorporated into the teaching programme, and its impact on various aspects of learning (such as clinical decision making and communication) will be formally evaluated. There are also some likely looking Occupational Medicine PhD projects in the early planning stages (fatigue-risk management in milk tanker drivers, and opioid use in the elderly), but as always their progression is dependent on many factors including funding.

On a sad note, it is a big loss to the unit with Kelli Fleming (Teaching and Learning Fellow) moving on from her role.  Not only was Kelli held in high regard within OAM, but also by the wider University community, as evidenced by her recent University of Otago Award for Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Technology (specifically for her work in developing our online orientation programme “Embark Otago”). The specific focus for this award is to “specifically recognise the pedagogically-sound use of technology at Otago and sustain existing efforts in advancing teaching and learning with technology”. We are so sad to lose you Kelli, but wish you all the very best as you settle back into life in the USA.


  • Myers, J; Powell, D; Aldington, S; Sim, D; Psirides, A; Hathaway, K; Haney, M. The impact of fatigue on the non-technical skills performance of critical care air ambulance clinicians. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 2017. In press DOI 10.1111/aas.12994
  • Vuorio A, Asmayawati S, Budowle B, Griffiths R, Strandberg T, Kuoppala J, Sajantila A. General aviation pilots over 70 years old. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(2):142–145.
  • Roby, Howard. The history of private international aeromedical retrieval in Australasia. Suppl (AME) Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Sept 2017.

Conference presentations

  • Osborne, E., Fleming, K., Tietjens, D., Gladman, T., & McKinlay, E. (2017, June) Tailored and timely: Transforming our campus’s approach to student support. Poster presented at the annual conference of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, Sydney, Australia.
  • Myers J, Powell D, Psirides A, Hathaway K, Aldington S, Haney M. Examining aeromedical fatigue using clinical simulation: can we learn and adapt? ASA + FNA 2017 Conference, Sydney 30 Aug – 1 September (poster)
  • Myers J, Powell D, Psirides A, Hathaway K, Aldington S, Haney M. “The impact of fatigue on non-technical performance in aeromedical clinicians”. 88th Scientific meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), Denver, April 29 - May 5, 2017 (poster)
  • Goyal S, Griffiths R. “Opioid use after injury in New Zealand - research findings from the Accident Compensation Corporation”. 77th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Seoul. Korea, September 2017 (poster)
  • Powell D. “Airline Medical Departments: Adapt or Perish”. 88th Scientific meeting of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA), Denver, April 29 - May 5, 2017 (Panel presentation).
  • Powell D. "Aerotoxic Syndrome". Innovations in Health Psychology Conference, Wanaka NZ, April 6, 2017
  • Griffiths, R. “Occupational Health & Safety in Agriculture”. Australia & New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine, New Plymouth, 23rd September 2017
  • Goyal S, Griffiths R. Opioid Use after Injury.  NZ Pain Society conference, Nelson, 2nd March 2017
  • Newson-Smith, M. “Assessment and management of benzene exposure in petrol pump attendants”. GlobalHSE 4th International Conference at Manama in Bahrain- 18th April.
  • Newson-Smith, M. “Management of Health Risks from Occupational Exposure to Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material”. ENOC Occupational Health Seminar 17th August

Book chapters

  • Griffiths RF.  Chapter 33 Doctors and the Transport Sector, in Coles Medical Practice in New Zealand, Medical Council of New Zealand, Wellington, 2017
  • Ng, W-T., Newson-Smith, M.  Hematological Disorders. In Koh, D., Aw T.C. (Eds) Textbook of Occupational Medicine Practice. World Press. In press.
  • Fleming, K. (2016). The Professional Visits Program of the Occupational and Aviation Medicine Program In K. Pratt (Ed.), Our World in Your Place: 30 years of distance learning and teaching at the University of Otago (pp. 87-90). Dunedin: Distance Learning Office - University of Otago
  • Griffiths RF.  30 Years of Occupational & Aviation Medicine - Our World in Your Place: 30 years of distance learning and teaching at the University of Otago. Distance Learning Office - University of Otago, 2016.

Graduate Profile


Ken with an ambulanceMy name is Ken McNoe, and after being fortunate enough to be featured in the 2012 Avgas I have again been asked to submit due to my recent graduation from the Masters in Health Science, endorsed in Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport.

A little about me; I live in Auckland and currently work FIFO (fly in fly out) for International SOS as an Intensive Care Paramedic in Papua New Guinea. The majority of my post graduate certificate, diploma and subsequent masters were completed whilst working in Papua New Guinea, and other developing countries. In November I will be commencing a short term secondment as the Offshore Clinical Educator for IHMS, a subsidiary company of International SOS. In this new role I’ll be responsible for developing and delivering clinical education for all offshore IHMS paramedics, doctors, nurses and allied health staff.   It’s a role I’m immensely looking forward to. Over my years with International SOS I have primarily performed remote site paramedic roles, acute helicopter retrievals (in non rescue / medical specific helicopters!!) as well as fixed wing and commercial repatriations; after my education secondment I will be looking for a permanent (FIFO) fixed wing flight paramedic role within the International SOS group. .

In July I graduated after completing a paper based masters, as opposed to a thesis based.  I felt that this option allowed me to fully benefit from the learnings associated with the specific aeromedical papers that I would have missed out on had I opted to do a thesis. 

For the research project paper of my masters I looked at: ‘a qualitative study: what factors do paramedics believe have the greatest effect on paramedic retention’. 

The purpose of my research project was to explore the factors that foster retention of paramedics in the New Zealand pre-hospital setting using a qualitative descriptive approach.

Paramedic retention worldwide is of significant concern.  Various studies have shown paramedics to be among the highest risk professionals for stress, mental trauma, and burnout. I really wanted to look to identify some of the factors that have kept successful, outwardly happy long term paramedics “thriving” in their roles. There is little research that targets paramedics as a singular group, rather than as a collective emergency group incorporating fire and police personnel. Due to the time constraints of the paper I purposefully selected the participants utilizing my contacts within the industry; specifically, Intensive Care

Paramedics who had a positive influence on my career choice (the people we aspire to be) and who I personally knew to be outwardly happy, well-adjusted and appearing to enjoy their roles. I used an interview schedule which looked to draw out descriptions of why they remained happy and content within their roles.  Thematic Analysis of the interviews highlighted three clear themes for which the participants attributed to being factors in their long service within the field of paramedicine: (1) Humanity - Being able to influence people’s lives for the better; (2) A sense of Community (feeling valued and part of a team); (3) Character Strengths (building rapport and communication)

The study did highlight the importance of both continuing research into this topic to highlight factors which encourage paramedic retention, but also into the practical application and fostering of these factors within the industry to ensure New Zealand does not suffer a similar critical shortage of qualified paramedics that other countries have experienced.

I had had very little exposure to qualitative research prior to embarking on the project, so I was incredibly fortunate to have the guidance, and input from my supervisors Julie Myers (Otago University) and Dr Johanne Egan (Auckland University).

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Otago, and I would encourage anyone considering aeromedical study to look to Otago, I found the Aeromedical faculty to be incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and engaging.  I really couldn’t have done it without their leadership,  thanks everyone!   
In a recent issue of Casebook, the journal of Medical Protection, Dr Rob Griffiths of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (and Director, Occupational & Aviation Medicine) examines doctors’ competing responsibilities of maintaining patient confidentiality and protecting public safety, discussing a doctor's obligation to report possible safety concerns and how to make a disclosure. You can read the full article on page 8 of the August 2017 issue of Casebook, at
In this video, OAMU lecturer Dr Geoff Tothill talks about changes he's seen in the aeromedical industry.
Copyright © 2017 OAMU, All rights reserved.

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