Vale Dr Paison Dakulala

News | Published on 04 Mar 2021

The Kirby Institute joins the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) and our colleagues and friends in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in mourning the loss of Dr Paison Dakulala, an internationally recognised leader in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 in PNG, and a close research collaborator and friend.

Dr Dakulala was Papua New Guinea’s Deputy Secretary for Health for more than 10 years before being appointed Acting Health Secretary in January 2020. He was Deputy Controller of the PNG National Pandemic Response to COVID-19, taking a pivotal role in the country’s early success, and in ongoing efforts to prevent transmission and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the country.

Professor John Kaldor worked with Dr Dakulala for more than two decades, and said “In the 1990s, Paison was one of the first doctors to understand the threat of HIV to PNG, and to set up a treatment service in Lae that was open to all. He saw clinical medicine and public health as indivisible, and this thinking guided his work both as a doctor, and then as a leader in the National Department of Health.”

Professor William Pomat, Director of the PNGIMR and an Adjunct Professor at the Kirby Institute, UNSW said, “Paison continuously looked for opportunities to improve the health system and what it could offer the people of PNG, no matter where they lived or who they were. He was passionate about primary health care and reaching the rural majority in PNG. He was a true man of faith and always put people and his patients first. An altruistic and inspirational leader.”

“Dr Dakulala truly understood the socio-cultural, economic and direct health costs of TB and other infectious diseases,” said Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku. ”His broad understanding influenced him first as a TB physician at Angau Hospital in Lae and later in his roles at the National Department of Health. He was an investigator on our NHMRC study that is seeking to foster a social public health response to TB in PNG. He was a gentle and wise leader who put his commitment to PNG health above his own. He will be sadly missed.”

“Dr Dakulala was incredibly supportive of our collaborative research program in maternal health and cervical cancer prevention in PNG, extremely generous with his time, and always provided tremendously valuable and insightful guidance. He will be very much missed by all of us working to improve the health of the people of PNG,” said Professor Andrew Vallely.

The Kirby Institute extends our deepest condolences to Dr Dakulala’s family, friends and colleagues.