Dr Vanessa Selak



Vanessa is a Senior Lecturer in the Section of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. She is medically trained, has a PhD in Epidemiology and is a fellow of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine and the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. Vanessa's research is focused on using epidemiological tools to balance the benefits and harms of strategies with the potential to significantly reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease. She is the Course Director of Quality in Health Care, one of the compulsory papers for the University of Auckland's Master of Health Leadership. Vanessa also works at Waitemata District Health Board's Institute of Improvement and Innovation (i3).

Research | Current

Vanessa had a lead role in the in the planning, conduct and analysis of the IMProving Adherence using Combination Therapy (IMPACT) polypill trial, a pragmatic randomised controlled trial of over 500 patients in primary care. This trial formed the basis of her PhD and Vanessa was the lead author of the British Medical Journal-published results paper.

Vanessa is a key contributor to the multinational SPACE (Single Pill to Avert Cardiovascular Events) collaboration, which undertakes individual participant data meta-analyses of pragmatic polypill trials (including IMPACT).

Vanessa was commissioned by the World Health Organization to prepare a report on the status of the evidence for polypill-based therapy for cardiovascular disease.

A key finding of Vanessa's thesis was the need for individualised bleeding risk assessment to support decision-making on the use of aspirin for primary prevention. Vanessa is the principle investigator of an HRC-funded grant that is developing a bleeding risk equation to support such assessment, using a cohort of approximately half a million people and their linked health data from national and regional repositories. This equation will be able to be integrated into primary care through an electronic decision support programme, so that individualised bleeding and cardiovascular risk are assessed at the same time, helping clinicians to identify people likely to have net-benefit from aspirin.

Vanessa's bleeding risk equation is being developed with the University of Auckland's Vascular Informatics Using Epidemiology and the Web (VIEW) team, and Vanessa has become an increasing contributor to the important work being done by this team.

Teaching | Current

Course Director

POPLHLTH 724 - Quality in Health Care

Contributing Lecturer

MBChB - year 5

MBChB - year 6


Vanessa is acutely aware of the gaps in our ability to use health data to support improvements in health care quality through her DHB, research and teaching roles. She is currently working across all of these roles to develop, with Dr Katrina Poppe, a curriculum for New Zealand health data analytics. This curriculum will be informed by their expertise, the expertise of the VIEW team within Epidemiology & Biostatics, Vanessa's linkages with DHB clinicians, analysts and managers, and Katrina's linkages with statistics and computing science, along with international experts in data analytics and predictive modelling. Vanessa and Katrina will be delivering a new course (Navigating the New Zealand health data landscape) in Semester 2 2018 and will be planning additional courses along with specific career pathways that are aligned with the needs of academia and health services.


2015     Nominated for Vice-Chancellor's Prize for the Best Doctoral Thesis

2010     National Heart Foundation Research Fellow

2004     John McLeod Prize in Public Health

Areas of expertise

Cardiovascular epidemiology

Health data analytics

Quality in health care

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

TAMAKI BUILDING 730 - Bldg 730
Level 3, Room 361
New Zealand

Web links