16 Jun 2012

Belgian to head Otago neurological studies

4:47 pm on 16 June 2012

Belgian neurosurgeon Dirk De Ridder has been appointed as the inaugural chair of neurological studies at the University of Otago.

He has been a professor of neuromodulation and neurosurgery at Antwerp University, and will take his new role in Dunedin next February.

Two years ago, the Ministry of Health decided to keep a neurosurgery centre in Dunedin, after earlier proposing that South Island neurosurgery services be centralised in Christchurch.

Otago University Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences Peter Crampton says Professor De Ridder will spend 50% of his time as a neurosurgeon at Dunedin hospital and the rest on research and teaching, as the inaugural chair in neurosurgery, which is named for the Neurological Foundation.

He is employed jointly by the Southern District Health Board, and the University of Otago.

Professor Crampton says the new chair was secured with the help of Otago and Southland communities who raised more than $2 million.

Professor De Ridder has carried out successful clinical research seeking novel ways to treat patients with distressing disorders such as tinnitus and phantom pain, and is also at the forefront of non-clinical brain research, including exploring the neural basis of religion and morality, he says.

Neurological Foundation supporters have campaigned to ensure that the professorial position can be funded in perpetuity.