Dr Rees Tapsell has been involved in developing several Māori specific approaches to providing mental health care for Māori in government and NGO settings for more than 30 years.
He studied medicine at the University of Otago. After several years working in primary care at the Newtown Union Health Service in Wellington in the 1980s, he completed his fellowship with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).
Rees specialised in forensic psychiatry, working as a consultant psychiatrist at the Mason Clinic in Auckland as a consultant psychiatrist for ten years. He was involved with establishing and working in Te Papakainga o Tanewhakapiripiri within the Clinic. He then worked for Hauora Waikato Mental Health Services in Hamilton and the Waikato DHB and is currently Executive Director of the Midland Regional Forensic Service and Director of Clinical Services for the Mental Health and Addictions Services of Te Whatu Ora Waikato.
He is a clinical lecturer with the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Auckland School of Medicine. He co-chairs the mental health leadership group of the Health Quality & Safety Commission. He was chair of Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te Ora/Māori Medical Practitioners Association) for some years. In 2002, he established the Pacific Rim Indigenous Doctors Congress (PRIDOC), a biennial gathering. Dr. Tapsell has served as a General Council member with RANZCP and as a psychiatrist Deputy Member on the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
Rees' research interests lie in the governance and leadership of health organisations, the epidemiology of mental disorders, Māori mental health service development, outcome measures in Māori mental health, and undergraduate and postgraduate education and training. He is particularly interested in improving care around high and complex needs, where evidence shows many Māori with chronic mental illness are highly represented yet poorly served by the current system.
Rees acknowledges the many mentors who guided him throughout his career, including the late Dr. Eru Pomare and Paratene Ngata. In addition, he acknowledges Tā Mason Durie, Dr. Erihana Ryan David Chaplow and Prof. Graham Mellsop.