David, or DTL as he is known by many is from Pōrangahau and of Ngāti Kere and Ngāti Manuhiri descent.
Formerly a Hawke's Bay doctor, David was appointed Professor of Māori and Indigenous Research at EIT in early 2017. DTL is known for his innovative public health projects on prevention of long term conditions such as diabetes and sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI).
When he talks about SUDI he often describes this as his "best piece of work" which was to develop and champion the wahakura, a woven flax bassinet that allows Māori mums to share a bed safely with their newborns. The "safe sleep" programme that has flourished around the wahakura – the pepi-pod – is credited with decreasing SUDI deaths by 30 per cent in just six years.
The subsequent Safe Sleep programme has been credited with saving the lives of many babies. The Ministry of Health announced in 2017 that the infant safe sleep programme would run the wahakura project nationwide.
He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and health in 2018. Other worthy mentions was DTL's appointment to a new group who advised Health Minister David Clark on the health system, and, at Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa, Māori Medical Practitioners Association (TE ORA) Hui a-Tau 2017 in Porirua he was elected to the Te ORA Kaihautū/Chairperson.
David continues to advance his research interests at EIT, where he also teaches a postgraduate programme in Māori health.