Old Girl Dr Caroline McElnay – Chief Medical Officer, NZ

Many of our Old Girls forge successful careers all over the world and during this time of national crisis and World Covid-19 Pandemic not many are more to the forefront of the news than Dr Caroline McElnay who is the Chief Medical Officer for New Zealand. Around the World New Zealand has been held up as a country who has managed the Covid-19 crisis better than most. The Coleraine High School Old Girls’ Association Committee would like to think this is in no small part to the direction of their Chief Medical Officer who also is chair of the Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group.

Caroline was originally from Bushmills and was a past pupil of CHS during the 1970s. It was at CHS her love for science grew and on leaving school Caroline attended Queens to study medicine. She graduated from Queens with an MB BCh BAO (1984), before moving to the University of Manchester to take an MSc in Public Health (1990).

The following was taken from the Queens University Development & Alumni Relations Office

“During her Master’s degree Dr McElnay completed a year-long exchange in New Zealand, including six months in Napier, a coastal city on the country’s North Island. While there she met her future husband, Giles Pearson, and although they initially returned to the UK, in 1995 he persuaded her that New Zealand – and Hawke’s Bay in particular – might be a better place to put down roots.

Returning to Napier, she was subsequently appointed Director of Population Health for Hawke’s Bay District Health Board on the east coast. While there, Dr McElnay was involved in responses to a major gastro outbreak, the first case of the SARs in New Zealand and a listeria epidemic. In 2014 she published a major report on health inequity in the area.

Serving as President of the NZ College of Public Health when she was appointed to the Ministry of Health in 2016 – a Presidency she continued in until her term finished – she moved into the Wellington public service post at the end of February the following year.

A key statutory role, the Director of Public Health advises on public health, including those aspects of personal wellbeing that impact on public health and on regulatory matters that relate to the area.

As Director in the current crisis, Dr McElnay counsels the Ministry and the country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. And with barely a hint of a Northern Ireland accent, she can often be seen – and heard – giving lengthy daily media briefings and answering questions on all matters concerning the control of coronavirus in her adopted home country.

The Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group which she currently chairs brings together 11 of the country’s leading experts on public health and infectious diseases”.

We all wish Caroline success in her role and New Zealand continues to be a shining light of how some countries can best manage the current Coronavirus pandemic.

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