About Our Group

With researchers from Atoifi Adventist Hospital, Atoifi College of Nursing, Baru Conservation Alliance, East Kwaio community members and Australian institutions and organisations, the Atoifi Health Research Group has a variety of public health research skills and experience. These include community engagement, epidemiology, parasitology, sexual and reproductive health, social science research, health promotion, medical science research and cultural anthropology. Formally led by Late Emeritas Professor Rick Speare (Tropical Health Solutions), Australian researchers supporting the Atoifi Health Research Group come from James Cook University and Hunter New England Health. Dr David Akin, anthropologist from the University of Michigan, USA and Dr Michael Marks, Specialist Registrar in Infectious Diseases from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are is also supporting community-led research projects.

Professor Speare's Legacy Continues to Inspire

On Sunday 5 June, 2016 Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, our Group Leader and dear friend, was tragically killed in a car accident.

One of Rick’s great passions was to understand and improve the health of people, and animals, in the Pacific. For almost a decade, Rick has worked to establish and support the Atoifi Health Research Group in Solomon Islands. We will be forever grateful for the vision, leadership and encouragement Rick has shown each of us. The Rick Speare Memorial Fund has been established to help continue the research capacity strengthening work in Solomon Islands.

To donate to the Rick Speare Memorial Fund, that will help fund research capacity strengthening work in Solomon Islands, please click on the Donate tab above, or visit: https://alumni.jcu.edu.au/rspearememorialfund

Members of the Group (select name for profile)

Mr Humpress Harrington, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Humpress Harrington is the Head, Pacific Adventist University Atoifi Campus. Humpress was Lead Investigator of the WHO-TDR Research capacity strengthening project in 2014 and is an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University. Humpress has a variety of health research experience, including leading research about soil-transmitted helminths and lymphatic filariasis. Humpress has led and co-authored a number of publications and has reported research at national and international conferences. humpress.harrington@gmail.com

Mrs Rowena Asugeni, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Rowena Asugeni is the Director of Nursing at Atoifi Adventist Hospital and an Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University. In 2013, Rowena completed her Master of Leadership and Development at Pacific Adventist University, Papua New Guinea. Rowena has a variety of research experience, including reorienting tuberculosis services in East Kwaio to suit local cultural norms, hospital responses to HIV and health service delivery. Rowena has co-authored a number of publications and reported research at national and international conferences.


Mrs Relmah Timothy-Harrington, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Relmah Timothy-Harrington is a nurse, midwife and Lecturer of Nursing at Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi campus), Malaita, Solomon Islands.

Relmah is a Solomon Islands woman from Choiseul Province who has been practicing nursing since 1996, including undertaking Charge Midwife responsibilities at Atoifi Adventist Hospital. In 1999, Relmah received a Certificate in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in 2001 Relmah was awarded a Bachelor of Midwifery from Massey University in New Zealand. Relmah has been tutoring and lecturing student nurses in both theory and practice subjects since 2004.

Relmah has provided leadership in a number of research capacity strengthening projects (HIV, maternal health) and is leading research about the use of implants for family planning in Solomon Islands. Relmah has co-authored a number of publications and reported research at national and international conferences.

Mr Hillary Toloka, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Mr Hillary Toloka is a Registered Nurse from East Kwaio who originally trained at the Atoifi College of Nursing. Hillary completed his degree in Nursing and went on to work in both in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Hillary has recently returned to Atoifi Hospital and is now working as the Hospital Research Nurse. Hillary is involved in a number of research projects and was the Chairman of the Organising Committee for the inaugural Health Research Workshop, held at Atoifi in March 2015. htoloka@gmail.com

Mr Esau Kekeubata, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Esau Kekeubata is a cultural broker, health worker and researcher from East Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands. Esau became involved in health research in 2000 while working as a health worker in the mountainous interior of East Kwaio.

Esau has presented research findings at national and international conferences and for international media. Esau was interviewed by Radio Australia about attempts by members of the Research Group in partnership with the East Kwaio community to combat the spread of tuberculosis in Solomon Islands by using local cultural knowledge.

Click here to listen

Esau is currently employed by Atoifi Hospital as Research Coordinator and cultural broker for a number of research projects, including tuberculosis, soil-transmitted helminths and biodiversity research.


Mr Tommy Esau, Atoifi Adventist Hospital

Tommy Esau is from East Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands and holds a Bachelor of Education (English and geography) from Pacific Adventist University, PNG. Tommy is currently working as a Research Worker with the Atoifi Health Research Group, having joined in 2014 to provide research support and cultural knowledge for the Soil-transmitted Helmiths project (2014) and the IUCN Biodiversity project (2014-15).


Dr David MacLaren, James Cook University

Dr David MacLaren is an Australian public health researcher who has worked and conducted research across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

David began working at Atoifi as Head of the medical Laboratory in 1992 and has since conducted his Master of Public Health and Doctoral research with colleagues in the East Kwaio interior and at Atoifi. David is particularly interested in the intersection between culture, spirituality, health and health services and leads a number of research projects in PNG and Solomon Islands. David is leading an IUCN-funded Biodiversity project in East Kwaio, and is currently researching STH, TB, Malaria and HIV with Atoifi researchers. David has led research capacity strengthening activities at Atoifi since 2009.


Dr Peter Massey, Hunter and New England Health

Dr Peter Massey is a Clinical Nurse Consultant and Program Manager in Health Protection based in Tamworth, NSW, Australia. Peter is of English descent and grew up in Sydney, on Gweagal land of the Tharawa nation. He and his wife moved northwest to Gamillaroi country in 1984 and have lived and worked in this part of rural New South Wales since then.

Always with a community focus, Peter has worked with Aboriginal communities and other disadvantaged people to address health issues, particularly around communicable diseases. In addition Peter has worked to build the research capacity of others in rural areas across Australia, and in a number of Pacific countries. His work in TB has involved supporting grass roots developments and national programs in Solomon Islands, Fiji and PNG.


Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, CQUniversity and James Cook University

Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren is an Australian public health researcher with a social work/community development background who has worked in rural, remote and international settings for over 20 years. Michelle is passionate about working in the Pacific, especially with women. For her PhD research, Michelle worked with women in Papua New Guinea to explore HIV prevention options.

Michelle facilitates health research and research capacity strengthening across a number of projects in Solomon Islands and PNG. In Solomon Islands, Michelle is currently involved in research to understand women's experience of tuberculosis and health practitioners experience of testing and treating for yaws and scabies. Michelle first visited Atoifi in 1992 and has facilitated and reported research capacity strengthening activities at Atoifi since 2009.

Email contact: michelle.maclaren@jcu.edu.au

Dr Richard Bradbury, CQUniversity Australia

Dr Richard Bradbury has diagnostic pathology background with a PhD in Pathology (Microbiology). Richard is a Senior Lecturer in Medical Laboratory Sciences at Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Qld Australia.

Having recently returned from The Gambia, Richard is continuing his research and capacity building work in microbiology and parasitology in developing countries. He is involved in projects on public health interventions for control of soil transmitted helminths in East Kwaio, the Solomon Islands, protozoa and childhood growth stunting in The Gambia, iron status and sepsis in The Gambia and a capacity building project for the Microbiology Department of the Professor Johannes Hospital in Kupang, Indonesia.

Richard first worked at Atoifi in 2012, and continues to support parasitology-focussed research activities.

Dr David Akin, University of Michigan

Dr David Akin is an American anthropologist and Managing Editor of the journal Comparative Studies in Society and History based at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he also teaches. David has been spent over six years living with inland Kwaio people since 1979. His publications include studies of spirits, ancestral taboos, politics, currencies and exchange, dispute management, suicide, art, educational development, anthropological data repatriation, and colonial history. He recently published Colonialism, Maasina Rule, and the Origins of Malaitan Kastom (University of Hawai`i Press, 2013), and is writing another book about changing women’s ancestral taboos in Kwaio. He is working with Kwaio people to establish the community-run Kwaio Archive, and is participating in an IUCN-funded biodiversity project.

Dr Michael Marks, London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine

Dr Michael Marks is a specialist registrar in infectious diseases and general medicine and a clinical research fellow on the LSHTM/Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD scheme. Hailing from England, Michael has spent a lot of time in Solomon Islands. His research focuses on treating and eliminating yaws in the Solomon Islands, including work on disease mapping and the evaluation of diagnostic tests.

Michael is working with the Atoifi Health Research group to test and treat yaws and scabies, which is endemic in the Pacific region. Research capacity strengthening is an important focus of his work.