Centre Director wins 2021 Women of Influence award

Professor Beverley Lawton, Director of Te Tātai Hauora o Hine—National Centre for Women’s Health Research Aotearoa, won the Innovation, Science & Health category in the 2021 Women of Influence Awards.

Portrait of Beverley Lawton
Women of Influence award winner Professor Beverley Lawton

Professor Beverley Lawton, nō Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, won the Innovation, Science, and Health category at the Women of Influence awards announced online on 10 February 2022.

The annual awards recognise women from Aotearoa who are creating real change in their communities and inspiring others to achieve great things.

Professor Lawton is an internationally recognised expert in women’s health whose work addresses health inequity by driving kaupapa Māori (by Māori, with Māori, for Māori) research innovation to transform health services, systems, and policy across Aotearoa and around the world.

The Award recognised the impact Professor Lawton’s work has achieved, particularly in cervical cancer screening and prevention. She was recently congratulated in parliament by Associate Minister for Health Dr Ayesha Verrall for her team’s input into the government’s decision to approve $53m funding for an Human Papillomavirus (HPV) self-test cervical cancer screening programme—a method she has been advocating for in the media and other forums for many years.

Judges praised Professor Lawton’s incredible perseverance and advocacy for young Māori over many years.

Professor Lawton says the award was “due to the commitment from the team and the leadership by our Kaumātua, working for the health of our wāhine and our whānau.”

“The University has provided the platform for us to undertake this mahi working in partnership with Ngāti Pāhauwera, supported by our advisory board and the Chair Deirdre Tarrant. This is an award for us all.”

Professor Lawton founded and leads the newly renamed National Centre for Women’s Health Research Aotearoa (NCWHRA)—Te Tātai Hauora o Hine at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, where she mentors a team of researchers and provides research positions, training, and development. The centre plans to screen more than 4,000 women for cervical cancer prevention through the use of HPV self tests by 2023. Professor Lawton is also an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Wellington Faculty of Health—Te Wāhanga Tātai Hauora Dean Professor Markus Melloh says the award reflects the committed role Professor Lawton and her team at the Centre play in the community, and the real-world impact of their work.

‘’It is wonderful to see Professor Lawton recognised in this way. The Centre’s research and collaborations are at the heart of such important and timely conversations—and action.

“This award shows just how inspiring her commitment to driving change that transforms lives and reduces inequity in Aotearoa is to others.”

Dr Jessica Young, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Health, was also one of eight finalists for an award in the Public Policy category.

Dr Young used her research expertise to inform her role as the Executive Director of the Yes for Compassion campaign, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation founded to provide high-quality information to the public in the lead-up to the 2020 End Of Life Choice Act referendum. With the support of a small team, she planned and executed an evidence-based public education campaign that included medical, legal, political, Māori and religious perspectives on assisted dying. The new law came into force in November 2021.