Dear PDH whānau,

Our 2020 Research Day seemed to sum up the year for us all. Eagerly looking forward to finally bringing the whole PDH community together, we found out the night before that there was an unexplained community case of COVID-19 and gatherings in Auckland were discouraged*. Instead of meeting in person, we hosted a(nother) Zoom marathon. Our research teams demonstrated great progress, maturity and communication prowess. It was particularly pleasing to hear of stories from partners like Vensa Health, who had taken technology developed through the PDH partnership, and adapted it to support rapid telehealth delivery in New Zealand. Even more pleasing was the engagement and energy of teams from around 20 projects sharing, challenging and growing together.

It is difficult to say whether we have progressed because of, or despite, the circumstances of the year. Without question we have seen the value of trusting data, trusting each other, and trusting data science in health. I am sure the world has created data that will fuel years of research and debate, and I for one cannot wait for that to be a retrospective study. One senior leader in the health sector recently observed that we have seen what you can achieve when you have a singular focus; another remarked to me that it was a year when some truly stood up and showed their value and values. I’m particularly proud of some quiet contributors (Waitematā DHB’s Dr Lara Hopley being recognised with the Clinical Informatics Leadership Award and Orion Health’s Dr Ning Hua being described as a “Data scientist of national significance” by Statistics New Zealand come to mind). Ma tini ma mano ka rapa (By many, by thousands, the work will be accomplished).

Many of you deserve recognition but I’d like to particularly thank two outgoing Board members, David Meates and Kate Reid, who have shaped and sharpened PDH since its formation almost five years ago; and Scott Arrol, who has served on our Independent Advisory Group. I’d also like to thank my core team of Kelly Atkinson and Fleur Armstrong, who have steered the partnership through 2020 with purpose and class.

I wish you all a time of whakangā (rest and relaxation) this season and look forward to your company in 2021.

Ngā mihi,

*As it turned out, the COVID case was linked, and New Zealand’s remarkable success in community elimination restored – I think we could have met any day before or after.