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Ministry of Health appoints Chief Science Advisor


Ministry of Health appoints Chief Science Advisor


The internationally recognised cancer researcher, Professor John Potter, has been appointed as Chief Science Advisor to the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health’s Director-General Chai Chuah says Professor Potter will bring a fresh perspective to the way science is used and viewed within the Ministry, as well as increased engagement with other government agencies, universities, crown research institutes and the wider health sector.

“Professor Potter is eminently qualified to add to the high quality advice the Ministry is constantly seeking,” says Mr Chuah. “His experience in scientific research will allow him to challenge the thinking processes we use in delivering core health values.”

Professor Potter notes that New Zealand has many strengths in its healthcare infrastructure but there are places where further attention to prevention and early detection of disease will pay dividends.

"With leadership on science issues from Sir Peter Gluckman and its own internal priorities, the Ministry has already begun to work on some of these, for instance clear recognition of the problem of childhood obesity and the launching of a programme on colorectal cancer screening. I see this appointment as an opportunity to respond with science input on policy already under consideration and on questions drawn from my own research and experience."

Professor Potter’s research has been aimed at understanding the risk and biology of colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancers, developing biomarkers for screening and early detection and monitoring cancer progression in high-risk individuals.

Professor Potter’s appointment was also welcomed by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

"I am delighted that the Ministry of Health has appointed a science advisor – it adds immensely to the capacity of our evolving science advisory system. John Potter is an outstanding appointment, with a depth of experience and an ideal skill set for the role. I look forward to working with him as we collectively work to improve the use of evidence in policy development and evaluation," says Sir Peter.

This is a new role within Health and follows similar appointments at the Ministries of Social Development, Conservation, Education, Primary Industries, the Environment and Business, Innovation & Employment.

Professor Potter, who will take up his role on January 7, 2016, has a distinguished career in cancer research, most recently at the Centre for Public Health Research of Massey University, Wellington. He also serves as a Member and Senior Advisor of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and as Professor Emeritus of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health & Community Medicine, both in Seattle, Washington. He is Adjunct Professor at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch.

Among a number of international awards, in 2012 he received the Medal of Honour of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

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