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Sir Collin Tukuitonga Becomes ISC Fellow And Will Also Head WHO Transition Team

Sir Collin Tukuitonga (Niue: Alofi) from Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland has been made a Fellow by the International Science Council (ISC).

The Associate Professor of population health was recognised for his outstanding contribution to promoting science as a global public good; he joins over 100 Fellows, and two honorary Fellows from around the world appointed on 19 December; the highest honour conferred by the Council.

Just two months ago Sir Collin led the call to establish a Pacific Science Academy on behalf of the ISC during a forum in Sāmoa with the African Academy of Sciences, Australian Academy of Science, the Royal Society Te Aparangi (New Zealand) and U.S. National Academies.

Talks concluded favourably with the development of an Establishment Committee to set up the academy, to be headed by Sir Collin along with Professor Teatulohi Matainaho, Vice Chancellor of the Adventists University in Papua New Guinea.

“It is indeed a great honour to become a Fellow with the International Science Council but recognition at this level comes because of the people who I work with and especially my family.”

Sir Collin has been a long-standing health champion for Pacific people in Aotearoa New Zealand, across the region and internationally. Proudly tagata Niue, the public health academic, public policy expert and ardent advocate has become an important Pacific voice. He supported the previous government on its Covid-19 response for the Pacific communities resulting in that cohort’s highest number of vaccination uptake, as well as addressing health inequities for Māori and Pasifika people.

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As a new Fellow he will support the Council in its mission at a critical moment for science and sustainability for science, with the UN’s International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development in 2024.

The Council’s new Fellowsinclude eminent social and natural scientists, engineers and thought leaders who have made impactful contributions to science and society. Hailing from different countries and regions, disciplines, sectors and career stages; they were nominated by ISC Members and existing Fellows, and by partners such as the InterAcademy Partnership.
Ambassadors Macharia Kamau (Ambassador and Special Envoy of the East Africa Community Facilitator on the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Csaba Kőrösi (former president of the United Nations General Assembly) were appointed honorary Fellows. Both ordinary and honorary Fellows provide a critical, diverse mass of special individuals who can supplement the insight, expertise and perspectives of ISC Member organizations.

"The ISC Fellowship recognizes individuals who are ambassadors and advocates working tirelessly for science internationally and for the vital importance of evidence-informed policymaking. ISC Fellows hail from wide-ranging geographies, sectors, disciplines and career stages, and we look forward to working with them all in multiple capacities in the coming months and years," said Professor Terrence Forrester, Chair of the Fellowship Council.


Heading transition team for new WHO regional director

In another prominent appointment in late 2023, Sir Collin will help pave the way for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) incoming Western Pacific Regional Director, Tongan surgeon Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala.

Dr Piukala was nominated in October and will be formally appointed to the role next month. Sir Collin will chair a transition team helping to guide the incoming Regional Director, who will step into the role in February 2024.

Dr Piukala said he looked forward to leveraging the collective wisdom of the transition team as he prepares for the UN health agency’s top job.
“I have invited Sir Dr Collin Tukuitonga to chair the Transition Team… I look forward to meeting everyone next week and tapping into your collective wisdom to guide my transition into this challenging but no doubt rewarding role.”

Sir Collin, an associate professor of population health for Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland will lead a group of representatives from across Japan, Singapore, Philippines, Fiji, Tonga, Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand.

“This will certainly be a busier period than normally at this time of the year, but this work is crucial for the WHO to continue its invaluable work to improve health outcomes for the region,” said Sir Collin.

The team will hold its first meeting on Friday, 22 December and Sir Collin said he was honoured at the invitation to chair the transition team, given the importance and necessity of ensuring leadership at the highest levels for the WHO Western Pacific region.

In the past year, the WHO has been working to address the region’s current health challenges and ensure a healthy future for its 1.9 billion people. There had been many gains as the WHO celebrated its 75th anniversary this year notably an increase of life expectancy by some 30 years, increases in immunisation with the with vaccination of children reaching 93 percent and the eradication of Smallpox.

The WHO Western Pacific Region Transition Team are Chair, Sir Dr Collin Tukuitonga (Aotearoa New Zealand), Dr Audrey Aumua (Fiji), Dr Paula Vivili (Tonga), Dr Suzuki Yasuhiro (Japan), Dr Derrick Heng (Singapore), Dr Susan Mercado (Philippines), Blair Exell (Australia) and Secretariat, Sunia Soakai (Tonga).

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