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.


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.

Avinesh is supported by data analyst Harrison Kim. 

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.

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


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



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

Senior Research Fellows:

  • Dr Caroline Walker
  • Dr Hakkan Lai

Research Fellows:

  • Dr Emma Marks
  • Dr Fiona Langridge
  • Dr Rebecca Evans
  • Dr Denise Neumann
  • Dr Sarah Gerritsen

Research Assistants:

  • Ash Smith
  • Jane Cha
  • Sally Gallaugher
  • Molly Bergquist-O’Sullivan

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


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


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


Caroline is a molecular biologist with a focus on molecular mechanisms regulating health and disease. Dr Walker leads the Biological Sampling sub-domain for the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Dr Walker 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


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


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


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


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.