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Council members

Council members are appointed by the Minister of Health and are appointed initially for a term of three years.

Half of the 10 members are or have been engaged in health research, while the balance bring skills and experience in areas such as community affairs, health administration, law, management, and knowledge of health issues from a consumer perspective. 

The Council's governance responsibilities include:

  • Communicating with the Minister of Health and Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, and other stakeholders to ensure their views are reflected in the HRC's planning.
  • Delegating responsibility for achievement of specific objectives to the chief executive.
  • Monitoring organisational performance towards achieving objectives.
  • Accountability to the Ministers for plans and progress.
  • Maintaining effective systems of control.

The Council maintains an interests register and ensures Council members are aware of their obligations to declare interests. The Council is committed to ensuring that all of its activities are conducted in a manner which meets the highest ethical standards.

The criteria for membership of the Council is outlined in Sections 8 to 11 of the Health Research Council Act 1990 and as amended by the Health Research Council Amendment Act 1991. Sections 6, 31 and 34 of the Act sets out the statutory responsibilities of the HRC, which relate to the functions of the Council, consideration of applications, and liaisons with other organisations.

Professor Lester Levy, CNZM - Chair

Lester Levy

Professor Lester Levy, CNZM, MBBCH, MBA, FNZIM, has chaired the HRC since 2015. He is also the independent chairman of Tonkin + Taylor, strategic advisor on the future of healthcare to the Southern Cross Health Society and Professor of Digital Health Leadership at Auckland University of Technology’s Faculty of Health. Lester is also the Ministerial appointed Crown Monitor to the Canterbury District Health Board.

Lester is a graduate of Medicine, holds an MBA, and has extensive management and governance experience in both the public and private sectors. He was previously chairman of the Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau District Health Boards as well as Auckland Transport and chief executive of the New Zealand Blood Service and the Mercy Ascot group of hospitals (of which he was a founder). Lester is best known for leading a number of organisational performance transformations as a chief executive, entrepreneur and chairman, in both the public and private sectors.

Previously seconded to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as an advisor, Lester has been awarded the prestigious King's Fund International Fellowship from the King's Fund in London as well as being made a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Management. He was also appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in the 2013 New Year's Honours List for services to health and education.

Professor Vicky Cameron

Vicky Cameron is a research professor and deputy dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch. She heads the Molecular Biology and Genetics Lab within the Christchurch Heart Institute, and is also a member of the Science Leadership Team for the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.

Professor Jeroen Douwes

Jeroen Douwes

Jeroen Douwes is a professor of Public Health and director of Massey University’s Centre for Public Health Research in Wellington. He obtained both his MSc and PhD in environmental epidemiology from Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He leads a comprehensive programme of public health research with a focus on respiratory disease and environmental and occupational health. He is also the principal investigator of the Infectious Disease Research Centre at Massey University. Before joining Massey University in 2002, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Otago University, Wellington, and Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Jeroen is associate editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Dr Alison Dewes

Alison Dewes

Alison is a veterinarian and ecologist. Her background spans veterinary practice, banking, business and environmental assessments, and policy advisory. She was elected to the Board of the New Zealand Veterinary Association until 2018. Presently, she is head of environment for Landcorp Farming (Pamu) and is on the Freshwater Leaders Group.

Professor Lesley McCowan, CNZM

Lesley McCowan

Professor Lesley McCowan, CNZM, MBChB, FRANZCOG, MD, CMFM, is head of the Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland. She is a sub-specialist in maternal-foetal medicine at National Women’s Health, and her main clinical interests are in management of high-risk pregnancies, especially those with foetal growth restriction and preeclampsia. She has chaired the perinatal mortality review process at National Women’s for many years and was a founding member of the national Perinatal & Maternal Mortality Review Committee (PMMRC) which reviews deaths of babies and mothers nationally.

Lesley is actively involved in medical research which aims to improve the health outcomes for mothers and babies. Her research focus has recently expanded to include maternal obesity and the risk of complications for mother and child.

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama (Ngāti Kahungunu)

Suzanne Pitama

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama is a registered psychologist who has been involved in Māori health research for more than 18 years. She is a keen advocate for kaupapa Māori-based methodologies and has interests in Māori health equity and indigenous health curriculum. She is the associate dean for Māori and associate professor as well as director of the Māori Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) at the University of Otago, Christchurch. Suzanne chairs the statutory Māori Health Committee of the HRC.

Professor Parry Guilford

Parry Guilford

Professor Parry Guilford is director of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory and the Centre for Translational Cancer Research at the University of Otago. He is a co-founder of the publicly-listed biotechnology company, Pacific Edge Ltd, and a deputy director of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge. 

Professor Guilford's current research interests include the genetics of inherited and sporadic cancers, in particular stomach cancer. Other active research areas are the development of genomic-based diagnostic tools for early cancer detection and personalised medicine.

Dr Will Barker

Will Barker

Dr Will Baker is an entrepreneur with a background in commercialising complex IP. Following completion of a PhD in synthetic chemistry from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, Will arrived in New Zealand on a HRC postdoctoral research grant. Subsequently, he has held a number of roles at leading biotech companies and organisations, including vice president of External Affairs at LanzaTech, investment manager at Powerhouse Ventures and CEO of New Zealand’s peak biotech industry association, NZBIO. Will is now managing director of his own biotech start-up, Mint Innovation.

Dr Monique Faleafa, MNZM

Monique Faleafa

Monique Falaefa, MNZM, DClinPsy, is the founding chief executive of Le Va, a national NGO focused on Pacific people’s wellbeing. Monique is a registered clinical psychologist and has served Pacific communities in academia, the not-for-profit sector, district health boards, and social services for almost 20 years. Monique is an alumni of The University of Auckland where she achieved distinction and in 2004 was awarded a Bright Futures Top Achiever Doctoral Scholar by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. She actively contributes to research and currently serves on A Better Start - MBIE Science Challenge Board. Monique also serves at governance levels, currently serving on the Health Promotion Agency, the Westpac External Stakeholder panel, and has been the deputy chair of the New Zealand Psychologists' Board since 2009.

In 2016 Monique was named a Member of the NZ Order of Merit and a finalist in the Westpac Women of Influence Awards. Internationally, she serves on the Pacific Advisory Group for Australia’s National Rugby League, is an alumni of the Commonwealth Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue, and one of two Pacific associate members of Global Women.

Anthony (Tony) Norman, MNZM

Tony brings to the HRC strong financial and governance skills, and an excellent understanding of the health sector. He has extensive management and governance experience, having worked in both national and international organisations over the course of his career, including time as chief executive officer, Financial Restructuring, for Ferrier Hodgson in both Thailand and Singapore.

He served on the boards of Northland District Health Board (as chair from 2010 to 2016), Waitemata DHB (as deputy chair from 2013 to 2016), and Health Alliance NZ Ltd, which is involved in IT and shared services for northern region DHBs (2011 to 2016). Tony has also held a number of community roles such as member of the Northern Community Board of the Far North District Council, and chair of the Board of Trustees of Oruaiti School. He was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 for services to the community.