Conference Awards

The PONZ conference recognises excellence at both ends of the professional service spectrum, honouring established members of the psychosocial workforce with the Outstanding Service Award, and presenting the Doug Sexton Award to the best first time presenter at a PONZ conference.

Outstanding Service Award

Don Baken

Don has been a leader of psychosocial oncology in New Zealand for well over a decade and has had a significant impact. He has been instrumental in the development and recognition of the field in New Zealand through his clinical practice, research and involvement in service and organisation development. Few others have contributed in so many different ways but Don remains incredibly modest about his contribution. Don has been actively involved in PONZ for many years, as well as being a past president. He was very involved in raising the awareness of the importance of psychosocial oncology care in New Zealand which has resulted in a number of initiatives and services including the MOH funded Cancer Psychological & Social Support Initiative. He was a member of the expert advisory group for the CPSS initiative and has remained involved in the ongoing development having taken up the role of Regional Lead for the Mid Central region. Don gives a lot of time and advice to many organisations/services that want to increase psychosocial input (research and clinical) and this is often not well known or recognised. Don provides a large amount of official and unofficial mentoring and supports a wide range of health professionals and is contacted for advice by many. Don we thank you for your ongoing contribution to the development of psychosocial oncology in NZ - you are a very well deserving recipient of this award.

Hazel Neser, Mary Potter Hospice, Wellington 
2017, Wellington

Hazel’s area of practice is education. She has provided this expertise in a number of years over a sustained period. Hazel is a staff member of the University of Otago where she contributes to the training of Radiation Therapists with a focus on their interactions with patients. We are sure that this has contributed to a whole generation of Radiation Therapists being better skilled to work with patients and so this has had a massive impact on patient care.  Hazel has helped to provide education through PONZ with her contribution to the organization of two PONZ conferences. Recently she provided a workshop for the NZIMRT on behalf of PONZ where she highlighted PONZ and contributed to the ongoing upskilling of Radiation Therapists in working with patients.  Hazel has also been involved with the Cancer Society in Wellington and over the years Hazel has also facilitated a successful support group for people affected by cancer.  Hazel has made a significant contribution to PONZ and psychosocial care. She has been on the PONZ Executive for more than ten years and served for 4 years as President.

Assoc Prof Chris Atkinson, St George’s Cancer Care Centre, Christchurch
2016, Christchurch

Chris Atkinson was involved in the earliest Psycho Oncology Interest Group (POIG) meetings, which evolved into PONZ. He has always been very passionate about the psychosocial needs of his patients and has worked hard to interest others in this area too.   He and Dr Chris Wynne gave funding to begin the Doug Sexton Award for best first time presenter at a PONZ conference.  He continues to support development of psychosocial-oncology and is a regular speaker at Cancer Society support groups, and has contributed to PONZ education sessions in Christchurch.  He is also very mindful of wellbeing of staff and is interested in developing support for staff who work in this sometimes very difficult area.

Assoc Prof David Perez, Southern DHB
2015, Invercargill

David Perez was another of the key players in POIG and the establishment of PONZ, and drafted the constitution that is the basis of that in use today. He was part of the committee who hosted the memorable conference in Dunedin in 2004. David has been an important figure in supporting psychological and social support services in cancer care as part of a broad approach to treatment and care. He was instrumental in lobbying for the counselling role to be developed at Dunedin Public Hospital, which was the first role based within a cancer centre at that time (1999).

Lorraine Sutherland, Canterbury DHB
2014, Palmerston North

Lorraine Sutherland has been providing psychosocial support for patients with cancer in Christchurch Hospital for over 20 years and, like Chris and David, has a longstanding association with PONZ. She played a leading role in establishing the Canterbury PONZ forum and has been on the organising committees for the 2011 and 2017 conferences.

Fiona Pearson, Wellington Cancer Society and Lizzy Kent, MidCentral DHB
2013, Auckland

Another stalward of  psychosocial oncology in New Zealand, Fiona Pearson was also involved in the earliest Psycho Oncology Interest Group meetings. Fiona was nominated for her leadership, her encouragement, her passion and her ability to reach out and inspire so many of those who work in the field of cancer care throughout New Zealand.

Along with her colleague Don Baken, Lizzy Kent was instrumental in establishing and developing the Massey University Cancer Psychology service in 2006. Lizzy was nominated for her ready participation in projects, as well as managing her own busy caseload, her commitment to helping her clients to make lasting improvements in their lives, and her efforts to empower her colleagues to help optimise the patient’s journey.


Doug Sexton Award

2019    Laura Ross - "Alleviating the fear of the unknown: Radiation Therapy department tours" 
2018    Jo Kemp, Kat Clark, Ciara Young, Julia Linde - "Ask me who I am. Creating culturally safe spaces for members of the LGBTI+ community"
2017    Tamyra Matthews - "Communicating bad news about cancer: exploring the experiences of patients, family/whanau, and health professionals" 
2016    Alannah Flockton
2015    Dr Simone Petrich
2014    Fiona Hewerdine
2013    Colleen Kendrick