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Cancer Society appoints first female and Māori Medical Director

Today the Cancer Society of New Zealand heralds two historic firsts – the appointment of our first female and first Māori Medical Director.

Dr George Laking (Te Whakatōhea) and Dr Kate Gregory have been jointly appointed as Co-Medical Directors of the Cancer Society of New Zealand. Dr Gregory starts as Medical Director on 1 September and Dr Laking will follow in the first half of 2022.

The role of Medical Director is integral to the Cancer Society providing oversight of our research programme, and medical and clinical policies.

Cancer Society of New Zealand CEO Lucy Elwood says: “This is a significant and exciting moment for us as an organisation and demonstrates our Equity Charter in action. In addition, this is a huge step towards further aligning with Te Tiriti through jointly appointing a Māori and non-Māori Medical Director.”

Through our Equity Charter, Cancer Society is committed to improving outcomes and support for those experiencing cancer. That includes recognising that some population groups in Aotearoa carry a disproportionate burden of cancer, including higher incidence levels, mortality and impact.

Dr Laking says: “I am very excited to be joining the Cancer Society at this time of renewal especially in regard to matters Māori.”

Dr Kate Gregory says: “I feel very privileged to have this opportunity to work with the Cancer Society to improve the lives of patients and whānau affected by cancer in New Zealand and am looking forward to a new challenge.”

As we extend a warm welcome to our new Co-Directors, we also want to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of our outgoing Medical Director Dr Chris Jackson. Dr Jackson has served as Medical Director for 6 years contributing immensely to Cancer Society. His achievements during his term are many including advocacy leading to the establishment of Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency. 

Dr Chris Jackson says: “The Cancer Society is New Zealand’s only cancer charity focused on all people and all cancers. The Medical Director is one of the most important voices in the cancer sector; a voice heard by many affected by cancer, and needs to be authoritative, evidence based, reliable, and bring strong patient and sector perspectives to many different cancer-related discussions.

Drs Gregory and Laking are nationally recognised and respected cancer specialists and will be both enormous assets to the Cancer Society and to patients and whānau affected by cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Dr Jackson will remain as Medical Director until the end of August, seeing through Daffodil Day which is taking place on 27 August.


Media Contact
Susan Barker
Communications Manager


Background info

Dr George Laking

Dr Laking is from Lincolnshire England on his father’s side, and from Te Whakatōhea on his mother’s side He grew up in Wellington and studied medicine in Dunedin and Wellington. He completed his postgraduate work in Britain where he wrote his MD on tumour perfusion and PhD on the economics of diagnosis. 

Since 2007 he has worked as a Medical Oncologist in Auckland and Northland, with focus on sarcoma, gastrointestinal cancer, and adolescent and young adult oncology. 

Alongside hospital work, George is active at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, where he is Aotearoa New Zealand President until May 2022.  He is a past Chair of Te ORA (the Māori Medical Practitioners' Association), and a current board member of Hei Āhuru Mōwai, Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa.

Tobacco control is a major theme of George’s work, dating from the 2010 Māori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the tobacco industry in Aotearoa and the consequences of tobacco use for Māori. He is a past board member of the Smokefree Coalition, and current Chair of End Smoking New Zealand.

Since 2020 George has chaired Te Pou Ārahi, the Hauora Māori aspect of Te Pūriri o Te Ora (Auckland Regional Cancer and Blood Service). They are working on a project to reinvent cancer care, so it honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi and integrates into the community. George maximises his spare time on a bicycle and would love to visit your town by bike.  He has twice ridden from Cape Reinga to Bluff in the Tour Aotearoa. 

Dr Kate Gregory

Kate trained in the United Kingdom, completing her general training in Newcastle Upon Tyne before moving to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London to complete her specialist training in Oncology. Whilst there she completed a research degree in molecular assessment of response to chemotherapy in Breast Cancer. Her first consultant post was in Southampton where she led the Gynaecology service.

In 2006 she moved to New Zealand and took up her current job as a Medical Oncology Consultant in Nelson. She specialises in the treatment of Breast and Gynaecological Cancers and melanoma. She chairs the New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer special interest group and is also on the board of the Nelson region Breast and Gynaecological Cancer Trust. Kate also does on-call work for the Nelson Tasman Region Hospice.