The Neurological Foundation Council has appointed Professor Cathy Stinear as its new Chair. The Council, which provides governance to the Foundation, has been led for the past four years by Dr Barry Snow, neurologist and Director of Adult Medicine at Auckland Hospital.
As the Neurological Foundation enters its 50th year in 2021, the appointment of Professor Cathy Stinear marks the appointment of the first woman to chair the Neurological Foundation Council. This signifies another aspect of the period of significant change the Neurological Foundation has experienced over the last four years, first with the change of Council Chair to Dr Snow, the appointment of a new CEO, Rich Easton, and further a restructure and appointment of a new operational leadership team. Celebrating 50 years in 2021, the Neurological Foundation is well placed for success for a further 50 years or more.
Cathy is a leading neuroscientist, who took an unconventional pathway to her academic success. Having left school at 17, swearing off university, she initially was an usher for a visiting international circus. Over the next couple of years Cathy gained her commercial pilot’s licence and worked as a flying instructor, which included teaching aerobatics. “Knowing what I know now about brain maturation, that is totally irresponsible!” she told the audience at her inaugural professorial lecture in July 2019. By the age of 23 Cathy had changed her mind on further education and started studying at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic. But it was the neuroscience aspect that fascinated her so she enrolled in her masters at the University of Auckland, then a PhD.
Now she is deputy head of the Department of Medicine, a professor of clinical neuroscience at the University of Auckland and her team is embedded in the Stroke Unit at Auckland City Hospital translating her research into clinical practice every day.
As a senior member of the New Zealand science community she joined the Neurological Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee in 2008 and chaired this committee from 2015 – 2019. In this role she initiated the reform of the committee’s processes to bring them in line with contemporary standards, ensuring fair and transparent assessment of funding applications.
In 2014 Cathy joined the Neurological Foundation Council, with the aim of supporting Council members’ understanding of the health research environment and new developments in neurological and neuroscience research. As a Council member she led a review and revision of the Foundation’s research funding strategy so that it reflects the Foundation’s values and better meets the needs of the research community. As part of this work she led the establishment of a new Clinical Fellowship for allied health professionals, the first of its kind in New Zealand. She also led the formation of separate Scientific Advisory and Personal Awards Committees with a new co-chair model and a pool of expert committee members. These improvements diversify the committees and reduce the burden of committee membership on the review volunteers.
Cathy’s sustained contributions and governance experience have helped the Foundation to continually improve so that it functions at the highest standards of rigour and accountability in its role providing essential funding support to the neurological research community.
“It is an honour to lead the Neurological Foundation Council in its 50th year and beyond, and I’m excited about the Foundation’s future,” says Cathy.
“The Foundation will continue to build support for world-class research and education to improve the lives of people living with neurological disorders, by working with our supporters and stakeholders in an environment of transparency and mutual respect.”
The Neurological Foundation wishes to acknowledge and thank Dr Barry Snow for his four years as Council Chair, his leadership having brought in a number of changes to the Foundation’s governance, to ensure the Neurological Foundation meets and exceeds best practise.
Dr Snow congratulates Professor Stinear, “Cathy you will not find a more dedicated team of individuals than those at the Neurological Foundation. Since my time on the Scientific Advisory Committee to my time as Chairman of the Council, they have an unwavering dedication to the future of neurological research. Congratulations on being the first female Chair of the council, I know with your guidance the Foundation and Council will reach new heights and achieve many great things.”