Associate Professor Rita Krishnamurthi was born in Fiji and came to New Zealand in 1991, armed with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Applied Science from Sydney's University of Technology.
Her New Zealand academic career started in 1991 when she accepted a position at the University of Auckland as a research assistant at the School of Medicine. While working, she completed a Doctor of Philosophy looking at specific molecules for neuro-protection in Parkinson’s disease.
In 2009, she made the move to AUT and has not looked back. Over the years, her career advanced quickly and she now balances her work as a public health researcher with her role as the deputy director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences (NISAN) at AUT.
“I love that I work with a great, knowledgeable team in a world-class research institute. This makes doing research in public health very rewarding and our work makes a real difference globally. I’m also proud of the fact that over the years I’ve developed leadership qualities I never knew I had. These have helped me to help other colleagues, as well as improve the quality of my own research.”
Throughout her career as an academic, Rita has developed her own specialty area of research: investigating cardiovascular diseases as a cause of dementia; a topic she initially became interested in because of personal reasons.
What motivates her is knowing that she could help prevent some people from having to go through the horrible experience of dementia themselves, or watching their loved ones go through it.
Her work has firmly established her as a global expert in the field, and she is involved in a number of research projects focused on stroke and dementia epidemiology, including both New Zealand based research studies and international collaborations.
One thing Rita is particularly passionate about is prevention.
Many cases of stroke and heart disease can be prevented, but people don’t know very much about how to do that. That’s why raising awareness in vulnerable communities is a key focus of her work.
Rita identifies with her Pacific origin as much as she does with her Indian heritage, and therefore has enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in research projects focused on South Auckland where there is a large population of Pacific and Indian people.
She believes both the Indian and Pacific communities have higher cardiovascular risks and a higher risk of developing dementia, which is why Pacific and Asian health and wellbeing is a research area she is particularly interested in.
“I love that I work with a great team in a world-class research institute. This makes doing research in public health very rewarding and our work makes a real difference globally.”