The University of Otago’s Division of Health Sciences, as we know it today, is relatively recent. In 2001, the Division was restructured into the Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Schools of Pharmacy and Physiotherapy. It now also contains the Bioethics Centre and the Schools of Medicine in Wellington and Christchurch.
This restructure followed a major review of the University’s administration in 1988. The nine University Faculties were reorganised into four Academic Divisions. A Pro-Vice-Chancellor heads each Division, and is responsible for the overall management of the Division, including the allocation of resources.
The origins of Health Sciences
The faculties and schools that comprise the Health Sciences Division have a much longer history than the Division itself. The University of Otago’s Medical School was founded in 1877, and is the oldest in New Zealand. The Faculty of Dentistry was founded 30 years later in 1907, and the 'National School of Physiotherapy' for New Zealand was established in 1913, making it one of the oldest physiotherapy schools in the world. The School of Pharmacy was established in 1963, initially within the Department of Pharmacology.
Changes to Health Sciences through the years
A lot has changed in the years since the opening of the University of Otago’s Medical School. In its first eight years, the School only provided a two-year course and students were required to go abroad to complete their medical degree, usually to London or Edinburgh.
The introduction of the four-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree in 1907 was a welcome change from dental work being carried out by barbers, pharmacists, blacksmiths and doctors (Brooking, A History of Dentistry in New Zealand, 1980), although registration of dentists was introduced in 1880 to ensure ‘a standard practice’.
The School of Physiotherapy celebrated its centenary in April 2013. Its four-year full-time Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPhty) course was the first degree course of its kind in New Zealand.
The School of Pharmacy had its first professor appointed in 1971, although due to its cramped accommodation behind the Dental School, initial intake was limited to 20-25 students. It was only in 1981, when the School moved to the Adams Building, that Pharmacy was able to grow into the thriving School it is today.