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Our people in the World of Difference service user research group

Dr Sarah Gordon

Dr Sarah Gordon thumbnail Project Lead / Senior Research Fellow


Sarah’s personal experience of mental illness shaped her university study with the areas of psychology, medical law, bioethics, and psychological medicine being the focus through to PhD level. Combining this theoretical education and personal experience, Sarah has spent the last 20 years working and advocating for an improved mental health sector and societal perceptions of mental health from the perspective of a person who personally experiences mental illness.

Her recent research has focused on two themes: reducing discrimination associated with mental illness among medical students and the Police, and promoting recovery-focused services and resources – in line with the recent major reorientation of service delivery models in mental health in New Zealand and internationally.

As a service user academic, she has done this through service user-led and co-produced research that involves meaningful service user involvement in all conceptual and developmental stages of the process, which has also been another research focus.

Sarah has promoted the growth of the service user academia discipline in various ways and now has the support of four others who make up New Zealand’s only service user academia team at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Rachel Tester

Rachel Tester thumbnail Programme Manager / Research Fellow


Rachel currently works across two departments at the University of Otago, Wellington:

  • The Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, where she is a member of the ARCH Group (Applied Research on Communication in Healthcare)
  • The Department of Psychological Medicine, where she is a member of a new service user research group called World of Difference

Rachel completed her BSc and GradDipSci qualifications in psychology (social discursive), and uses her personal lived experience to inform her work.

She has an interest in Jungian analysis and recovery from psychological trauma, and has been involved in several research projects with a mental health and addictions focus (for example, conversations on sensitive topics such as substance use, weight management, lifestyle, and behaviour change).

Rachel is the programme manager for two HPA-funded Like Minds, Like Mine anti-stigma and discrimination education programmes being developed, delivered, and evaluated by the World of Difference service user research group: one for healthcare professionals (medical students and psychiatric registrars), and one for the NZ Police.

Her key interest is in promoting recovery-oriented services to help improve health outcomes for people who experience mental distress.

Dasha Fedchuk

Dasha Fedchuk thumbnail Assistant Programme Manager / Assistant Research Fellow


Having completed her MSc (Psychology) in 2017, Dasha is now employed by the department of Psychological Medicine in an Assistant Research Fellow / Assistant Programme Manager capacity, where she is a member of the World of Difference service user research group.

Dasha operates from a service user-led perspective, which underpins her research and informs her work. Her previous qualitative research focused on understanding the mechanisms of non-suicidal self-injury in members of LGBTQ communities. Her current research focus is on two three-year, mixed-methods projects which evaluate the benefits of anti-stigma and discrimination programmes taught to mental health trainees and the New Zealand Police.

Passionate about changing damaging ideologies and stigmatising rhetoric, a common objective within her work is in improving approaches used by health professionals and other support services towards people experiencing mental distress.

Her previous work experience involves working alongside vulnerable youth, peer support for individuals with lived experience of mental distress, and work with rainbow communities of Wellington. She is also interested in suicide prevention, and advocates for service user employment in influential roles of both academia and the mental health sector.

Jeremy Tumoana

Jeremy Tumoana thumbnail Service User Lead Responsiveness to, and inclusiveness of, Māori


Jeremy has extensive experience working in a wide range of sectors including DHB health management, NGO health and social services management, philanthropy, primary care GP practice management, community and education sectors, youth and whānau services, mental health and addiction services, and Māori and Pacific services. He has worked for both government and non-government sectors. Having just joined the team, Jeremy is looking forward to using his personal and professional experience to support the application of tikanga Māori models of health and community practice to a wide range of research projects including the Like Minds, Like Mine anti-stigma and discrimination education programmes.