Prof  Robert Beaglehole


Professor Robert Beaglehole trained in medicine, epidemiology and public health in New Zealand, England and the USA before becoming a public health physician.

He is now an independent global public health practitioner with a focus on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. He chairs ASH NZ, the Lancet NCD Action Group and the Scientific and Technical Expert Group (STEG) in the Public Health Division of the Pacific Community (SPC).

He is Professor Emeritus of the University of Auckland having held the position of Professor of Community Health from 1988-1999. In 2000, he joined the staff of the World Health Organisation where he was director of the Department of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion between 2004-2007.


Aiono Prof Alec Ekeroma


Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma is a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and champion of Pacific health. He is the Head of the Pacific Women’s Health Research & Development Unit (PWHRDU, founder) and Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland. In September 2018, Aiono Prof. Ekeroma will become Head of Department of O&G at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Wellington. He has also been appointed as the founding Professor of Medicine at the National University of Samoa. Aiono Prof. Ekeroma is the Editor-in-Chief of the Pacific Journal of Reproductive Health (founder) and Pacific Health Dialog.

Aiono Prof. Ekeroma grew up in Samoa and studied medicine in Papua New Guinea. He worked in Samoa for 2 years before leaving for NZ to specialise in O&G. In 2017, he received his PhD from the University of Auckland. His areas of expertise include: Stillbirth, Research Capacity Building, Pacific Womens’ Health, Vitamin D, Medical Curriculum, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and Global Health. His research portfolio includes a collaborative project with the University of Otago to pilot a point of care HPV test for cervical screening in Samoa, mapping the O&G workforce in the Pacific Islands and the Pacific Islands Cervical Cancer Survey.

Aiono Prof. Ekeroma is a leader of initiatives to grow and support the Pacific health workforce and improve health outcomes for Pacific peoples. He established the first CPD programme for O&G specialists working in the Pacific Islands and was a founding member of the Pasifika Medical Association (PMA). He has received numerous awards including the RANZCOG Distinguished Service Medal in 2015 and an award from the Pacific Medical Association in 2006 for Excellent Service to Pacific Health.


Dr Rebecca Levine


Dr Rebecca Levine is the Senior Research Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She joined the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) at CDC in the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology in 2014. She spent the majority of her two years in EIS supporting CDC’s Ebola emergency response in West Africa where she was deployed five times to Sierra Leone. During and since EIS, Dr. Levine also deployed to over a dozen different countries for CDC’s Zika emergency response.

She is currently an epidemiologist/entomologist on the integrated vector management team, where she supports projects to strengthen mosquito surveillance and control with Ministries of Health in over 50 countries throughout the Americas, Caribbean, West Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Dr Levine received her BA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 2001, her MPH in International Health and Infectious Diseases from Emory University in 2005, her professional teaching certificate in science and math from the state of Georgia in 2007, and her PhD in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution from Emory University in 2014.


Dr Pearl McElfish

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Dr. Pearl McElfish serves as the Vice Chancellor for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Northwest Regional Campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began her tenure as Associate Vice Chancellor on October 1, 2016 and was promoted to Vice Chancellor September 4, 2018. She is the second person to serve as leader of the regional campus.

In addition to her role as Vice Chancellor, Dr. McElfish oversees the Office of Community Health and Research, serves as Director of the Center for Pacific Islander Health, and holds faculty positions in the UAMS Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. She is the founder of the Office of Community Health and Research at UAMS Northwest Regional Campus and of the Center for Pacific Islander Health at UAMS. Since late 2014, she has been awarded more than $10 million in federal and private foundation grants for investment in community health in Northwest Arkansas.

Dr. McElfish holds a PhD in public policy, a master’s degree in business administration, and a master’s degree in community and economic development. She is a certified Project Management Professional and a Certified Community Developer and has more than 15 years of experience working in health care administration and community health.

Dr. McElfish’s research focuses on reducing health disparities with Pacific Islander and Hispanic Communities. She also conducts food systems research and methodological research related to the best methods for conducting community-based participatory research and for disseminating research results to participants and communities. She has a history of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other private foundations.


Dr Rose Richards-Hessell

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Dr Rose Richards-Hessell is Associate Dean (Pacific) for the Dunedin School of Medicine and the Director of the new Centre for Pacific Health, in the Division of Health Sciences.

Rose’s academic background is in behavioural psychology and public health and she contributes to research in a variety of areas including sleep, obesity, mental health, dental health, big data and tobacco control.

In 2017 she was successful in obtaining a three year HRC Pacific Project Grant to explore the potential role of sleep in supporting good health among Pacific families.


Prof Diana Sarfati


Professor Diana Sarfati (MBChB, MPH, PhD, FNZCPHM) is a public health physician, cancer epidemiologist and health services researcher. She is Head of the Department of Public Health and the Director of the Cancer and Chronic Conditions (C3) research group at University of Otago, Wellington.

Diana has led a large body of research relating to ethnic disparities in cancer outcomes, particularly those affecting Indigenous peoples. This work has resulted in the identification of key patient and health system factors that influence cancer survival. It has been used extensively by health policy makers, clinicians and other researchers to develop policies and practices that aim to reduce inequities in cancer outcomes.

Her broader research on health services relates to cancer, maternity systems, and services for people with long-term conditions and complex healthcare needs. Her work in screening has included both research and policy elements. She is a former member of the National Screening Advisory Group and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Advisory Committee. She also has research interests in interventions to improve outcomes for those with cancer, type II diabetes and multimorbidity. For more information see C3 research.

Diana is currently a member of the National Cancer Leadership Board (NZ), the Advisory Committee to International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) Pacific cancer hub, IARC’s international expert group on social inequalities in cancer, the Academic Advisory Committee on the International Cancer Benchmarking Project, and she is currently leading a Lancet Oncology series on cancer in small island developing states. Diana’s primary teaching focus is on post-graduate courses in epidemiology.

Diana is a past member of the National Ethics Advisory Committee, the Bowel Cancer Screening Taskforce, the National Bowel Cancer Working Group, the Board of the Cancer Society (Wellington Division), the Cancer Society Medical and Scientific Assessment Committee (Wellington) and the National Cancer Society

Health Promotion Committee.


Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu


Dr Sika-Paotonu is a Senior Lecturer in Pathology & Molecular Medicine and the Associate Dean (Pacific) at the University of Otago Wellington. She is also the Scientific Lead for the Rheumatic Fever related Penicillin research work based in New Zealand.She completed her PhD in Biomedical Science specialising in Immunology at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research where she was a member of the Cancer Vaccines team. Her work showed that specific modifications to these Cancer Vaccines could generate stronger immune responses against cancer. Her areas of research interest and focus include Immunology, Rheumatic Fever, Rheumatic Heart Disease, Cancer, Pharmacology and Immunogenetics. 

More recently, Dr Sika-Paotonu worked at the Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) in Perth Western Australia as the Scientific Lead for the Penicillin Research work within the Group A Streptococcal Disease team based at the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Diseases. Dianne is remains an Honorary Research Associate with the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines & Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute and Victoria University of Wellington and is also an Affiliate Member of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery at the University of Auckland. She is also a member of the New Zealand based research team investigating the Immunogenetics of Rheumatic Fever connected with the Genome Wide-Association Study International Consortium.

Her main research focus in New Zealand and the Pacific Region includes work that seeks to contribute to global efforts to generate a more appropriate form of Penicillin for Rheumatic Fever, and the development of an early detection method for Cancer using circulating tumour DNA technology.  

Dr Sika-Paotunu is of Tongan descent and is currently based in the Wellington Region. 


Dr Colin Tukuitonga


Dr Colin Tukuitonga has served as Pacific Community Director-General since January 2014. He was formerly the Director of SPC’s Public Health Division. He was a member of an Independent External Review of SPC in 2012.

His previous roles include: Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs; Associate Professor of Public Health and Head of Pacific and International Health at the University of Auckland; Director of Public Health, New Zealand Ministry of Health; and Head of Surveillance and Prevention of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization, Switzerland.

Dr Tukuitonga has also served in various leadership and management roles, including at the Fiji School of Medicine, the Auckland District Health Board, Northern Regional Health Authority (Auckland), University of Auckland and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

He is a former Board member of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation. Additionally, Dr Tukuitonga was a commissioner for the World Health Organization (WHO) global Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity from 2014 until its work concluded in early 2016.