History of the foundation

The Waikato Medical Research Foundation was established in 1986. The Waikato is a unique community in New Zealand. As John Gillies has described it: 'we had [the] important issue of a very exclusive community which was not going to be dealt with by the university centres: that is, we have a very large Maori population ... with specific health issues'.
This population, it was proposed, would benefit from increased research around its particular health needs. The founding of the Waikato group signalled new research directions, as well as a consolidation of research already conducted in the region, for biomedical and other health researchers.

Prior to the signing of the Trust Deed in 1986, the Trustees of the Foundation met and appointed the members of its executive. Jim Grace was appointed as 'interim' Chairman, and John Gillies was appointed as Secretary. The appointment of Treasurer was deferred, but Jim Grace was also to act as solicitor to the Foundation and an auditor was also appointed. An early Medical Advisory Committee (precursor to the Grants Committee) was agreed to, and ethical review of proposed research was also viewed as important.

In July of 1985,  preliminary discussions about fundraising were held. 'It was generally felt', by these first participants, 'that a consolidated fund of approximately $1 million would be necessary for a financial base'.

With this aim, and with so much of the Foundation's proposed activities relating to finances, a Treasurer was to become important. At the subsequent meeting of the Board of Trustees, Brian Smith, a Chartered Accountant of Hamilton Accountancy Firm, Ernst & Whinney, was suggested as a possible Treasurer and Board member.

Links with the Waikato Postgraduate Medical Society continued to be important, particularly for John Gillies, who had seen the potential for a medical research body as a key member of the Postgraduate Society in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, the Postgraduate Society strengthened its relationship with the Foundation when it assisted by offering the Foundation both office space and secretarial support.

A Publicity document was made available for discussion in November of 1985. The document embodied the several aims of the Board of the Foundation in 1985, and in future years: to draw attention to local medical concerns and the 'medical population 'of the Waikato, and to the fact that no research body existed, which prompted the 'drift away' of medical practitioners and certainly did not entice future researchers; to assert that medicine was in fact worth supporting, as it had already achieved such successes as the eradication of disease in the Western world; to show that medical research, which could improve health standards in general terms 'for everybody', was costly and needed proper funding to be conducted effectively, and especially, ethically; and finally, but most importantly, to show that it was the Foundation that could make much of this possible, through sensible and wise investment policies.

This publicity would have the effect of attracting financial and local support, and new researchers in the years ahead.

From Catharine Coleborne, A History of the Waikato Medical Research Foundation (Inc) 1986-1999, Waikato Medical Research Foundation, Print House, Hamilton, 2000.