Harvard child health expert returns to roots at UC

06 March 2019

International child developmental expert and University of Canterbury alumna, Professor Lianne Woodward has returned home from Harvard Medical School to lead UC’s School of Health Sciences.

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    Professor Lianne Woodward’s work ranges across child developmental psychology, from pediatrics and child psychiatry to neurology and neuroradiology to discover and demonstrate the effects of such challenges as preterm birth, brain injury, prenatal drug exposures, parenting and psychosocial adversity.

International child developmental expert and University of Canterbury alumna, Professor Lianne Woodward has returned home from Harvard Medical School to lead UC’s School of Health Sciences.

She will share some of her research expertise and experience at the ‘We’re Talking Health’ event at UC tonight, in a presentation about the effects of premature birth on child brain development.

Professor Woodward describes her time at Harvard Medical School, as Professor of Psychology in Pediatrics and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as Director of Research in the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine, as “a mid-life adventure, and an incredible experience both intellectually and professionally”.

Valuable leadership experience, real life health service experience, skills in translating research knowledge into clinical action and lifelong friendships were the highlights Professor Woodward identified from her six years in the United States.

“I was responsible for several major clinical initiatives, including the development of a new Growth and Development Unit in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, designing and establishing the infrastructure for a new dual purpose – clinical and research – child development centre, and establishing a parent mental support strategy for families of critically ill hospitalised infants,” she says.

Academically: “I had amazing intellectual opportunities on the writing and research front, working with some of the best minds in the world. But it also helped me realise that who you are, and the work ethic and attitude you have, is more important to your success than where you are based.”

UC will benefit immensely from having Professor Woodward at the helm of Health Sciences. Since she graduated from UC with a Master’s First Class honours in Psychology in 1992, Professor Woodward has earned a PhD in Psychology from the University of London, published over 100 peer-reviewed publications, delivered numerous national and international presentations and received recognition including the Health Research Council of New Zealand Liley Medal and the Royal Society of New Zealand’s James Cook Fellowship in Social Sciences.

Back in Christchurch, Professor Woodward is looking forward to continuing her mission to “uncover the mechanisms that shape high-risk child development, and in turn identify more effective early identification and intervention strategies to optimize the life course opportunities of children at biological and social risk,” she says.

“Christchurch is my hometown and I am really excited about the opportunities offered by the new Health Precinct and how I can make a positive contribution to Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury. Christchurch and the University have given a lot to me over the years, and I am happy to have an opportunity to give back.”

Professor Woodward’s work ranges across child developmental psychology, from pediatrics and child psychiatry to neurology and neuroradiology to discover and demonstrate the effects of such challenges as preterm birth, brain injury, prenatal drug exposures, parenting and psychosocial adversity.

Her presentation at the Christchurch Health Precinct Te Papa Hauora ‘We’re Talking Health’ event – Born too early: does it matter? – focuses on the more than 4,000 New Zealand babies born prematurely every year and the health and developmental challenges that can impact their schooling and emotional wellbeing from infancy to adulthood.

  • We’re Talking Health’ showcases 10 health researchers from Canterbury and their work. Among the speakers will be Chief Science Adviser for the Ministry of Transport UC Professor Simon Kingham, a geographer who is focusing his research lens on health. He will discuss: How the physical environment affects our well-being. Wed 6 Mar, 6.30pm–8.30pm UC Engineering Core, 69 Creyke Rd, Christchurch

For further information please contact:

Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Phone: +64 3 369 3631 | Mobile: +64 275 030 168margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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