Belgian specialist takes up dual roles

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2012

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A leading Belgian neurosurgeon has accepted the offer of the University of Otago's chair in neurosurgery, as its first Neurological Foundation professor of neurosurgery, just five months into the $3million Southern region campaign to establish the chair.

Professor Dirk De Ridder, 46, has been on the neurosurgical staff at Antwerp University Hospital in Belgium since 2000 and is a professor of neuromodulation and neurosurgery at Antwerp University. He is also a founder and director of both a brain research centre and a tinnitus research initiative in Antwerp.

He will take up joint university and Southern District Health Board roles in February, becoming the third permanent neurosurgeon appointed in Dunedin.

Health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Peter Crampton said the appointment was an innovation for New Zealand, with Prof De Ridder spending half his time as a neurosurgeon at Dunedin Hospital, and half on research and teaching.

Health board chief executive Carole Heatly said she was delighted with the appointment, which enabled a direct link between research and healthcare delivery, and would also showcase how health boards could work collectively to provide improved services to their populations.

Prof Crampton said Prof De Ridder was ideally equipped to lead the development of an academic neurosurgical centre of excellence in Dunedin. It was unusual to appoint a chair so early in a campaign, but the three shortlisted candidates had been exceptionally strong, he said.

"Prof De Ridder was the strongest of a strong pool candidates. He ticks all the boxes. He is a research leader, an very accomplished neurosurgeon ... and he wants to live here with his family. He wants the space, the beaches, the mountains."

Prof De Ridder said he was looking forward to moving to Dunedin with his family.

"New Zealand is a beautiful country with friendly people and no-nonsense mentality. As well as being a good place to raise my two boys, Dunedin is home to world-renowned neuroscientists."

He planned to continue hi-tech neuromodulation research in the south and was looking forward to collaborating with neurosurgeons in Christchurch to develop a unified South Island service, he said.

Campaign manager Irene Mosley said the appointment was testament to the generosity of Otago and Southland people, but just under $700,000 was still needed.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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