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Published 10 November 2015

2015 Te Rangi Hiroa Medal:Health and it's social and political context

Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald has been awarded the Te Rangi Hiroa Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand for her work as a medical anthropologist that has placed many health issues such as genetic testing, reproductive decisions and oral health in a New Zealand social and political context.

Her research covers the anthropology of health and medicine in New Zealand with a particular focus on biotechnologies such as genetic testing. She uses qualitative research methods to study cultures around health care.

She has written on health policy, health practitioners and the experiences of people with illness and disabilities and has made a valuable contribution to these communities and New Zealand public health policy, the medal selection panel said.

She has researched topics such as:

  • should heritable deafness be reversed through genetic means when many deaf people do not see deafness as a disability?
  • how is Down syndrome portrayed in the media?
  • what is the experience of women living with increased breast cancer risk through a mutated gene?
  • how does moral reasoning influence the decision to terminate pregnancies in both men and women?
  • what is the emotional experience of IVF scientists?
  • how do lower-income people approach looking after their teeth?
  • how do people respond to food contamination scares?                                                                     
Ruth Fitzgerald receives Te Rangi Hiroa Medal from Philippa Black 560x373

Ruth Fitzgerald receives Te Rangi Hiroa Medal from Philippa Black

Associate Professor Fitzgerald has recently finished working on a three-year Marsden funded project “Troubling Choice,” which explored the everyday ethical thinking of people who live at the intersections of reproductive, genetic and moral choices.

“I am truly delighted to receive this medal,” Associate Professor Fitzgerald said.

“I would like to thank my research colleagues, both in New Zealand and abroad, and all of my postgraduate students, for the manner in which they have contributed to the collaborative and collegial research environment in which I have been so fortunate to work.

“Most of all, I wish to thank the participants in all of my studies who have graciously allowed an outsider into their lives at various and often quite private and troubling moments.”

Associate Professor Fitzgerald, who worked as a Radiation Therapist, is based in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Otago, where she has received many teaching and supervisor award including the University of Otago Best Supervisor of the Year Award in 2014.

Te Rangi Hiroa Medal: 
Social science award for excellence in medical anthropology.

Citation: 
To Ruth Patricia Fitzgerald for her significant contribution to medical anthropology in areas of social and political importance in New Zealand.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi