Published : 19 May 2020

The Deputy State Services Commissioner has today announced the appointment of Professor Diana Sarfati as Chief Executive, Cancer Control Agency. 

The Chief Executive, Cancer Control Agency, is responsible for leading, prioritising, and coordinating cancer care in New Zealand and is the Government’s principal advisor on cancer.

“I am very pleased to appoint Prof Sarfati to this role,” said Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter.

“She is an impressive leader with deep technical expertise and a communication approach that engages and inspires others.”

Prof Sarfati is a public health physician, cancer epidemiologist and health services researcher with a world-leading reputation in cancer control strategy and research. A focus of her career to date has been advocating for systemic change to address cancer-related inequities and to improve cancer care and outcomes.

Prof Sarfati is currently Acting Chief Executive, Cancer Control Agency, a role she has held since the agency was established on 1 December 2019. In her substantive role as Professor and Head of Department, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Prof Sarfati is responsible for strategic oversight and governance of the department, leading about 100 staff and PhD students in active research and teaching programmes, and for engagement with a range of cancer and health sector stakeholders.

Prof Sarfati has led advances in cancer research, including a large body of work relating to ethnic disparities in cancer outcomes and is known internationally for her expertise in identifying and addressing inequalities in cancer care.

“As Acting Chief Executive, Prof Sarfati has made significant progress in establishing the agency and towards delivering the New Zealand Cancer Action Plan 2019-2029,” said Ms Quilter.

“I have no doubt she will drive the system change needed to achieve these ambitious goals that have a strong focus on achieving equity of outcomes for all, in particular Māori and Pacific people who currently experience poor cancer outcomes.”

Prof Sarfati holds Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Public Health and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from the University of Otago. She is a Fellow of the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine and is registered with the New Zealand Medical Council.

Prof Sarfati has been appointed for a three-year term from 1 June 2020.

Media enquiries: Grahame Armstrong: 021 940 457


Prof Sarfati has been Acting Chief Executive of the Cancer Control Agency since its establishment in December 2019.

From September to November 2019  she was the National Director of Cancer Control at the Ministry of Health.

Between 2015 and 2019 Prof Sarfati was co-head and then head of the University of Otago’s Department, Department of Public Health. And from 2013 to the present she was Associate Professor and Professor at the University of Otago Department of Public Health.

For three years, 2006-2009, she was Regional Director of Training at the Australasian College of Public Health Medicine.

Prior to this, from 2004 to 2013, Prof Sarfati was a Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer At the University of Otago.

Prof Sarfati has a PhD from the University of Otago, is NZ College of Public Health Medicine Fellow and until 2008 was a Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

She is a member of the New Zealand Medical Council and has a Master of Public Health (with Distinction) from the University of Otago.

She did her Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the University of Otago in 1991.

Prof Sarfati is a member of the Member, Global Initiative for Cancer Registries (GICR) Pacific Islands Hub Planning Group and the International Advisory Board, Lancet Oncology.

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