Organising Committee


Associate Professor Debra Waters – Convenor

Associate Professor Waters is the Director of Gerontology Research at the University of Otago in Dunedin New Zealand. This is a joint appointment between the Department of Medicine and School of Physiotherapy. She is also the Director of the University of Otago Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE) research theme; Deputy-Director of the Ageing Well National Science Challenge and Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Gerontology.

She began research on sarcopenia and sarcopenic-obesity in the 1990 as the co-director of the New Mexico Ageing Process study in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She immigrated to New Zealand in 2005 and since then has been involved with testing safe and effective life-style interventions for frail obese elders, effective community-based interventions for pre-frail older adults, and peer-led models of community falls prevention.



Associate Professor Phil Sheard

Associate Professor Philip Sheard is in the Department of Physiology at the University of Otago. Dr Sheard’s lab uses animal models to investigate and describe age-related changes in upper and lower motoneurons, the neuromuscular junction, and skeletal muscle fibres and connective tissues. The primary objectives of the work are to understand how and why skeletal muscles become weaker in old age, and to understand how regular physical activity protects cells in the neuromuscular system from age-related deterioration.


Dr Kim Meredith-Jones

Currently, Dr Kim Meredith-Jones is the Director of the Bone and Body Composition Research Unit which undertakes innovative prospective studies evaluating bone density and quantifying body composition and regional body fat distribution in children and adults using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).

She is also involved with three major research projects in collaboration with other members of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre: MInT, PLAY and Healthy Homework in several capacities, including providing physical activity recommendations for children and families and analysis and management of accelerometry for physical activity and sleep assessment.


Associate Professor Simon Stebbings

Associate Professor Simon Stebbings' research has focused on ankylosing spondylitis and spondyloarthritis. Through national collaboration he established the multicentre Spondyloarthritis Genetics and the Environment Study (SAGE), which included a longitudinal study of outcomes in spondyloarthritis in New Zealand.

Through his membership of the International Genetics of Ankylosing Spondylitis study group he has contributed to the study of the genetic background to this common inflammatory arthritis. 

Associate Professor Stebbings is a member of the Assessment in Spondyloarthritis International Society (ASAS) and has contributed to the development of an ASAS Health Index. He is a member of the working group on management guidelines for axial spondyloarthritis for the Asia Pacific League Against Rheumatism. 

Associate professor Stebbings has strong research links with the Department of Psychology and the School of Physiotherapy. Through collaborations with colleagues his research has investigated the importance of fatigue in rheumatic diseases, and the effectiveness of complementary therapies. He has been involved in research into the effects of smoking on arthritis and ways to encourage smoking cessation.


Dr Jon Cornwall

Dr Jon Cornwall is currently Education Advisor to the Centre for Early Learning in Medicine, at Otago Medical School.  A physiotherapist by training, he has for many years studied skeletal muscle function, and has an interest in how age-related changes manifest in skeletal muscle with a particular interest in how such changes affect the spinal muscles.  His other research interests relate to bioethical considerations of posthumous human assets, such as body and organ donation.


Dr Lynnette Jones

Dr Lynnette Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health at the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences and has held an academic position since 2002.  She graduated from the University of Otago with a first class honours degree in Physical Education (Exercise Physiology/Metabolism) in 1997 and completed her BSc in Biochemistry in 1999.  Lynnette joined the staff at the School of Physical Education as a Teaching Fellow in Exercise Prescription in 2000, and completed her PhD in Biomedical Science in 2003.


Lara Vlietstra

After successfully graduating as a physiotherapist in 2014, Lara Vlietstra decided to pursue two postgraduate degrees - in Clinical Health Sciences and in Geriatric Physiotherapy - at the Utrecht University/University Medical Centre Utrecht and Avans+, the Netherlands. Soon, Lara was struck by the phenomenon of sarcopenia, and after working toward her Clinical Health Sciences master thesis during an internship at the University of Otago with Debra Waters and Kim Meredith-Jones, she decided to submit a PhD proposal within the sarcopenia research area, which successfully got accepted. By the 1st of February 2018 she will hence start her PhD within the Department of Medicine and School of Physiotherapy at the University of Otago, again working with Debra Waters and Kim Meredith-Jones.