Senior Management

The Senior Management team is responsible for the strategic direction of the Growing Up in New Zealand study. 

Professor Susan Morton

Principal Investigator

Susan is a Public Health Physician. She has led and developed Growing Up in New Zealand since its inception.

Her research interests include intergenerational and early life influences on growth and development; explaining socio-economic and ethnic inequities in health; and exploring new statistical methodologies in longitudinal data.

She also has a first class honours degree in pure mathematics. She undertook postgraduate medical training in paediatrics, was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a PhD in Epidemiology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and completed training in Public Health in New Zealand. She was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Honours 2019.

Susan contributes to the University of Auckland’s medical programme by championing a population health perspective throughout the curriculum.

Annette Gohns

General Manager

Annette has a strong background in business, operations and project management.  She has tertiary qualifications in business management, specialising in health management and has extensive experience in both primary and secondary healthcare.  Annette is responsible for key stakeholder and funder relations, oversight of study operations, and the financial performance for Growing Up in New Zealand

Dr Carin Napier

Senior Research Fellow

Carin is a specialist in food and nutrition, and was formerly an Associate Professor and Director of Research at the Durban University of Technology (South Africa). She retains the role of Adjunct Professor at that University.

A published academic with 24 articles in accredited journals, she presented her research at several International conferences. She has supervised and co-supervised many PhD and Masters’ students.

Her role at Growing Up in New Zealand is in research management and coordination, and she aims to further her research interests in food security and dietary diversity in New Zealand children.

Operations

The operations team work with the research team to implement the strategy and plans for Growing Up in New Zealand

Avinesh Pillai

Data Analytics Manager

Avinesh is the Data Analytics Manager at Growing Up and a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland. He is a biostatistician by training and has worked on numerous medical studies ranging from health surveys and epidemiological studies to multinational clinical trials in the fields of cardiovascular disease, renal and metabolic diseases. His current research focus is longitudinal data methods and statistical computing.

Harrison Kim

Data Analyst

Harrison is an experienced biostatistician at Growing Up in New Zealand and a Data Analyst in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland. He has extensive experience working on data analysis and completed data creation and anonymization for Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study. Harrison has also contributed and worked on several Growing Up in New Zealand reports, as well as anthropometry, and numerous other projects.

Joey Lee

Data access co-ordinator

Joey has a background in international public health and medical statistics. She facilitates and coordinates access to Growing Up in New Zealand data sets for researchers.

Rina Prasad

Lead Data Manager

Rina has extensive experience in data management, observational studies and in international randomised trials. A past executive member of the Australasian Health and Research Data Manager’s Association, she has special expertise in trial and questionnaire design, quality management systems and standards and, data management and governance. Rina leads the data management for Growing Up in New Zealand. 

Cherie Lovell

Field Operations Manager

Cherie oversees the study's Field Operations Team for Growing Up in New Zealand.  She ensures appropriate training and systems are in place and manages interviewers ‘in the field’ during data collection activity.

Michelle Wheadon

Auckland Field Operations Coordinator

Michelle has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition (with Distinction) and a Master’s paper in Advanced Quantitative Methods, combined with over 20 years of research experience both locally and internationally. Her experience includes research in the public health sector, food industry and market research agencies. Michelle’s role at Growing Up in New Zealand is to coordinate the fieldwork operations for the Auckland region.
 

Aysha Peters

Māori Participant Engagement Coordinator

Aysha has a science background and in her master’s degree looked at the resilience of benthic ecosystems in the ocean.  Now her passion and interests have shifted to the resilience of vulnerable communities in Aotearoa. She has worked in the charitable and Māori health sector and her interests include Māori holistic wellbeing, community development and indigenous equity. She is planning to undertake a PhD in Māori health in the near future and is keen to see Māori participants and stakeholders engaged within the Growing Up in New Zealand study. 

Aspasia Tatuila

Pacific Participant Engagement Co-ordinator

Aspasia Tatuila comes from a long line of artists and advocates for the community and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of Pacific people.  She is also actively involved in Pukepuke ‘O Tonga (a traditional performing arts programme).  She wants to further her commitment to the Pacific community through her work at Growing Up in New Zealand and is keen to ensure our Pacific families feel active and engaged in the study. 

Krista Hodder

Waikato Field Operations Co-ordinator

Krista is a mother to four adult children, three foster children and a grandmother to three grandchildren.  Her home life is busy and full of fun.  She's been involved in the Growing Up in New Zealand since the cohort children were three-years-old. Her passion for the study stems from an interest in the diversity of New Zealand families and a joy in seeing the study children change and grow from one visit to the next.
 

Saraid Black

Communications Manager

Saraid is a communication practitioner with more than 20 years’ experience across a broad range of industries, with a particular focus in the health sector in the past decade. She has a keen interest in science and research and how it translates to real world outcomes. Saraid shares the role of Communications Manager for Growing Up in New Zealand with Kirsty Jones.

Kirsty Jones

Communications Manager

Kirsty is an experienced journalist and communications professional with extensive experience in both New Zealand and the UK.  She has worked as both a newspaper and radio journalist and has provided communications services to a range of organisations in both the public sector and the charitable sector.  Kirsty is passionate about science communication and translating science and research to enhance wider public knowledge and discussion. Kirsty works part-time and shares the Growing Up in New Zealand Communications Manager role with Saraid Black.

Mandy Heathcote

Administration

Mandy is an experienced administrator and provides support to Professor Susan Morton, Annette Gohns and the wider team.

Research

Researchers 

A range of researchers work on core Growing Up in New Zealand research projects.  The team includes: 

Senior Research Fellows:

  • Dr Caroline Walker
    Caroline’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms regulating health and disease. She is interested in the genetic and epigenetic regulation of health-related phenotypes. Previous research has focused on advancing our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms regulating fertility and the immune response by using high throughput sequencing technologies to quantify genetic variation, DNA methylation, gene expression and microbial diversity associated with fertility and the immune response.
     
  • Dr Hakkan Lai
    Hakkan research focuses on looking at adverse health outcomes associated with harmful environmental exposures. He is currently focused on environmental epidemiology and looking at the health effects of exposure to environmental hazards in childhood. He has studied spatial and temporal distribution of air pollutant exposures and various health outcomes and is currently assessing the impact of climatic effects on drinking water quality and child health. He is also exploring the impact on indoor climate on child health.   

Research Fellows:

  • Dr Emma Marks
    Emma’s areas of expertise include behavioural ecology, bioinformatics approaches to ecological data, multivariate statistical analyses & longitudinal data and research methodologies (including the use of biological samples for genetic, epigenetic and microbiome analyses). Emma is also currently working on a funded project looking at the impact of house tenure, quality and income on child health and wellbeing.
     
  • Dr Fiona Langridge
    Fiona is a child health researcher, clinician and advocate. She has experience in global health, specifically the Pacific, and has worked with hard-to-reach children and communities in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Her research interests include, but are not limited to global child health; Pacific child health; community engagement; resilience and wellbeing in children; positive and adverse childhood experience; vulnerable communities; children in hardship and equity for children.
     
  • Dr Rebecca Evans
    Rebecca is a cognitive psychologist and musician. Her doctoral work involved studying jazz musician improvisation and the experience of playing ‘good time’ together. Her work in perinatal psychology focused on mother-infant relationships, with a special interest in maternal speech, singing and inter-personal synchrony. Her current research interests include music use and engagement; kapa haka; language development; whanaungatanga/family relationships; the early musical environments of tamariki in New Zealand; and the role of music in developing and strengthening social bonds.
     
  • Dr Denise Neumann
    Denise’s doctoral work involved longitudinal analyses of associations between dialysis treatment and cognitive functioning, as well as psychosocial wellbeing in adults with chronic kidney disease. Her current research interests include children’s cognitive development from early childhood onwards, including inhibitory control and language. She is specifically interested what factors promote or hinder cognitive development of tamariki in Aotearoa, New Zealand. 
     
  • Dr Sarah Gerritsen
    Sarah is a social scientist working in the field of public health nutrition and child health. Her PhD was on the potential for early childhood education services to assist with obesity prevention and used Growing Up in New Zealand’s preschool data linked with early childhood education records and survey data. She has subsequently used Growing Up in New Zealand data to investigate adherence to infant dietary guidelines; the association between childcare and common infections; and the effect of early exposure to food insecurity on children’s nutritional intake. Her current research is focused on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on diet, national nutrition policy, and the development of healthy eating behaviours in children.

Research Assistants:

  • Ash Smith
     
  • Jane Cha
    Jane is a doctoral candidate in Health Psychology in the Department of Psychological Medicine. Her PhD is evaluating the relationship between self-compassion and psychosocial health outcomes with affective mediating mechanisms, such as emotion regulation and affect valuation. In Growing Up research, her major research interests include pro-sociality and psychosocial wellbeing, with a particular interest in mental health. 
     
  • Sally Hamilton 
    Sally has worked on research projects investigating cardiovascular disease and public health nutrition and has skills in health technology assessment, epidemiology, and public health research methods. Her research interests are child and youth health, particularly the social and environmental determinants of health.  
     
  • Molly Bergquist-O’Sullivan
    Molly’s research background is in education. Her master’s thesis explored the effects of close interpersonal relationships for school engagement among Aotearoa New Zealand adolescents. Molly joined the Growing Up in New Zealand team with an interest in exploring how contextual factors contribute to children’s learning and development.
     

The team also has input at various different times from a number of Named Investigators, who offer support and advice across different disciplines (Domain Leads) while others (Theme Leads) ensure a comprehensive understanding of New Zealand's ethnically diverse population is incorporated in all research. See the full list below. 

Domain Leads

Our Domain Leads work with the team to provide support and advice in the areas of

  • Family and whānau
  • Societal context, neighbourhood and environment
  • Education
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Psychosocial and cognitive development
  • Culture and identity.

Dr Polly Atatoa Carr

Culture and Identity

Polly is a public health physician within Child and Youth Health at Waikato District Health Board, Associate Professor of Population Health at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA) at the University of Waikato, and National Director of Training for the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine.

Polly's research, teaching and practice focuses on the broader determinants of child health and equity (such as housing, social justice, income and identity). Her work centres around critical influences on tamariki and rangatahi (within their wider context), at key time points, to achieve wellbeing. Polly’s research and practice prioritises working with Māori and Pacific communities (particularly Cook Islands) and prior to her appointment at the University of Waikato in 2016, she was Associate Director of Growing Up in New Zealand. She currently leads the Culture and Identity Domain, and supports research ethics, data collection, and analyses that contribute to policy translation and health equity across the study domains.

Dr John Fenaughty

Culture and Identity

John has a background in community psychology focused on youth wellbeing, particularly as it is impacted by victimisation, harassment and/or cis-heteronormativity, including within schooling and education settings. 

John has extensive experience in undertaking community research, including utilising social innovation methodologies, to produce change for young people, educators, youth workers, community organisations and policy makers both nationally and internationally. His research is orientated towards goals of equity and inclusion. 

Dr Kane Meissel

Education

Kane is a Lecturer in Educational Psychology at the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. His research focuses on the use of advanced quantitative methodologies to identify and reduce educational disparities, as well promote equity and social justice for traditionally marginalised learners. Kane leads the education domain for Growing Up in New Zealand. 

Dr Amy Bird

Family and Whānau

Amy’s research interests and expertise centre around parent-child interactions, and in particular how these interactions might be challenged among families experiencing mental health problems. Better understanding these interactions can help target and refine early family interventions. Amy has particular interests in parent-child conversations about emotional events, and in the intergenerational transmission of attachment security. Amy is also interested in the intersection of physical health with children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Amy has been involved with the Growing Up in New Zealand study from the antenatal data collection. Amy has worked as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Wollongong, and from 2020 at the University of Waikato.

Dr Lisa Underwood

Family and Whānau

Lisa is a health service researcher with a background in psychology. She has a special interest in the mental health of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorder. Lisa co-leads the Family and Whānau domain for Growing Up in New Zealand. 

Professor Cameron Grant

Health and Wellbeing

Cameron is a paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland.

His research focuses on improving health in early childhood.

Dr Pat Bullen

Health and Wellbeing

Pat is a Senior Lecturer specialising in youth development and youth mentoring in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland. Her research and teaching focus on the factors that contribute to thriving during adolescence, particularly during times of transition. Central to Pat’s work is how research can be applied to enhance the human condition, by informing policy and practice. Pat contributes to the Health and Wellbeing domain for Growing Up in New Zealand.

Professor Clare Wall

Nutrition

Clare is Head of the Discipline Nutrition and Dietetics for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. Her focus is on nutrition and human adaptation, and her main research areas investigate the interrelationship between children’s nutritional status and their health. Her research spotlights pregnancy and early childhood in particular.

Dr Caroline Walker

Genomics

Caroline is a molecular biologist with a focus on molecular mechanisms regulating health and disease. Caroline leads the Biological Sampling sub-domain for the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Caroline lectures in genomic and gene expression at the University of Auckland, and is an expert in genetics and epigenetics. Her earlier research focused on advancing knowledge of molecular mechanisms that regulate fertility and immune response.

Professor Karen Waldie

Psychosocial and Cognitive

Karen is a developmental neuropsychologist. A member of the Department of Psychology and Centre for Brain Research (University of Auckland) her research interests include life-span development, as well as precursors and determinants of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Associate Professor Liz Peterson

Psychosocial and Cognitive

Liz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Auckland. Her research focuses around developmental and educational psychology, and in understanding factors that lead to development of successful and well-rounded youth.

Associate Professor Dan Exeter

Societal Context, Neighbourhood & Environment

Daniel is a leader in epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Population Health, University of Auckland.

He has research interests in GIS, big data, data zones, geovisualisation (which interprets geospatial data through interactive visualisation), accessibility and health inequities.

Funded by the Health Research Council of NZ, Daniel led a team to develop the Index of Multiple Deprivation, a set of tools for identifying concentrations of deprivation in New Zealand. This collated multiple pieces of information, to provide insights for health providers into key areas of deficiency. In 2018 the project won a New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award for their work to empower communities.

Dr Kate Prickett

Societal Context, Neighbourhood & Environment

Kate is the Director of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families.  Kate’s research is focused on the ways in which the connection between family contexts and children’s health and wellbeing is implicated in the intergenerational transmission of inequality. A particular emphasis of this research is to understand how interpersonal processes between parents and children are embedded within a complex array of proximate ecological settings (such as work and child care) and broader systems of stratification (e.g., gender, socioeconomic status).

Prior to arriving at Victoria University of Wellington, Kate was a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato and an NICHD postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies. She completed a Ph.D. in sociology and a M.A. in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Theme Leads

Our Theme Leads work with the team to provide support and advice to recognise Aotearoa-New Zealand's ethnically diverse population. 

Dr Renee Liang

Asian

Renee is a paediatrician, and her areas of interest are child health and adolescent health. Renee is also a poet, playwright and writer with links to the arts and Asian communities

Dr Te Kani Kingi

Māori

Te Kani (Ngāti Pūkeko and Ngāti Awa) is the Director of Te Mata o te Tau, the Academy for Māori Research and Scholarship at Massey University in Wellington. Te Kani has particular research interests in psychometrics, mental health, and Māori development. Te Kani is the co-Maori theme lead for Growing Up in New Zealand. 

Dr Sarah-Jane Paine

Māori

Sarah-Jane is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Tomaiora Research Group at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland. She holds science degrees from the University of Otago and a PhD in Public Health from Massey University.

Sarah-Jane is an experienced Kaupapa Māori epidemiologist with a range of projects investigating ethnic inequities in health and the determinants of health across the life-course. Sarah-Jane teaches Māori Health and Kaupapa Māori research methods across a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.She is a member of Growing Up in New Zealand's Kaitiaki Group. 

Jacinta Fa'alili-Fidow

Pacific

Jacinta is Pacific Advisor to Growing Up in New Zealand and is a researcher focused on public health especially as it relates to Pacific children. She is also the Chief Executive of a private research consultancy (Moana Research) which is centred on the early years of life. Jacinta’s background includes work at a senior level of the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council.

Her passion and area of investigation for Growing Up in New Zealand is resilience amongst Pacific children in the cohort, which is the topic of her HRC-funded PhD project.