Queen's Birthday Honour for Amanda Oakley

July 2018

Amanda Oakley (a foundation member of the NZ Telehealth Leadership Group) has been recognized in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her contribution to skin disease education. She has been made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to dermatology.

Oakley founded DermNet NZ in 1995 as an online education resource to make authoritative information about the skin available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Oakley has also proposed a skin disease image recognition tool, which saw her the winner of the Active Project category of the 2017 Clinicians’ Challenge.

“I want to ensure that primary care is equipped to diagnose skin cancer at the earliest possible time, particularly melanoma, because the skin cancer epidemic is huge and getting bigger every day,” says Oakley.

DermNet has several hundred thousand labelled images of skin problems and Oakley’s vision is to apply machine-learning technology to create a clinically validated tool that can help with screening. DermNet now vies with the American Academy of Dermatology site as the most popular online skin resource in the world.

A resource such as DermNet, and skin image recognition tools, are more important now than ever, says Oakley. The Health Promotion Agency expects a quarter of a million surgeries in New Zealand this year for skin cancer.

"Baby boomers got an awful lot of sun in the sixties and seventies. With the prosperity that came with the baby boomers, they started travelling more, they had more leisure time. The sexual revolution meant they'd take their clothes off, bikinis were invented. That group is now moving into their 70s ... so more prone to cancer. It's not going away."

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand. New skin cancers total about 67,000 per year, compared to a total of 16,000 for all other types of cancer. Our skin cancer rates are the highest in the world. In fact, the incidence of melanoma in New Zealand and Australia is around four times higher than in Canada, the US and the UK. The good news is that melanoma can be beaten – if it’s found early enough, and prevention often relies on education.

To visit the DermNet website click the following link