Medical Director Health Group Dr Virginia Hope is ESR's Programme leader for the Health Programme.
Virginia earned her BHB and MBChB in Behavioural Science, Medicine and Managament studies at the University of Auckland.
Early in her career she served as a Medical Officer of Health (Environmental Health) at Auckland Regional Public Health Service. She rose to the role of Manager (Environmental Health) and over the next decade was responsible for a wide range of environmental health issues ranging from toxic substance licensing, to testing water supplies, to investigating clusters of illnesses.
“Working on the frontlines in environmental health gave me a breadth of understanding that’s been extremely important to the operational and research work our teams are currently involved in,” Virginia says.
Prior to her work in public health, she worked for the Auckland Area Health Board (now the Auckland, Waitemata and Counties-Manukau District Health Boards) as Whole-Time Occupational Medicine Specialist, also for a period of transition to Crown Health Enterprises as Chief Medical Officer, Chief Health Officer, and Regional Medical Officer of Health.
A problem solver by nature, Virginia says one of the greatest lessons she learned early in her work life was the power of observation.
“Whether working with individual patients or working on a public health issue it’s crucial to make the link between what’s causing the actual problem – which often isn’t as obvious as it first appears. There’s an element of being willing to think outside the box and truly watch what’s happening before jumping to conclusions,” she says.
As ESR’s Programme Leader for the Health Programme, Virginia is able to tap into her past experience to lead a team that solves some of today’s most challenging health issues.
This team includes specialists ranging from epidemiologists, to public health experts, to clinical microbiologists, all working together to support the work of the Ministry of Health and health providers in determining, and responding to, disease patterns.
An integral part of New Zealand’s healthcare system, Virginia and her team provide data and advice to health practitioners and decision-makers on a regular basis.
Even outside work, Virginia is involved in activities to improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders. She is the health representative on the Territorial Forces Employer Support Council.
In 2014 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of her service to health at national and local levels.