Sir Collin Tukuitonga 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 next year. 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 this 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 have 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: Chairman, Sir Dr Collin Tukuitonga, 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).