Kura Lacey (Te Arawa, Ngāruahine), BDS. In recognition of work to deliver equitable access to oral health services.
Inspired by her whānau and supported by friends and like-minded colleagues at Otago, Kura is committed to working to achieve equity in Māori oral health.
What was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?
This award goes out to my whānau, hapū and iwi (Te Arawa, Ngāruahine) and to all tangata whenua who have been burdened by an oral health system that has continuously failed to provide them with accessible, timely and affordable dental treatment. I always have and always will continue to advocate for Māori oral health, and this award validates that my passion for equity is worth the battle.
What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?
Since graduating as a dentist, I have spent most of my time working in academia at the University of Otago. I am very fortunate to be mentored by Senior Lecturer Dr Esther Willing, who supported me to develop the hauora Māori curriculum at the Faculty of Dentistry, publish papers related to achieving Māori oral health equity and build my health research portfolio. I am now in my second year of the dental public health training programme at the Faculty of Dentistry, to further develop my research skills with the intentions of contributing to nation-wide strategy and policy.
But the most important event that occurred following graduation was becoming a mother to my beautiful daughter, Olive.
What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?
My upbringing and my whānau. Working in the hauora Māori space is not a job, it is my reality as a Māori woman. I am inspired by my whānau, and specifically my Nan and Koko, who have always dedicated time to our Pā, our marae, our whānau, and the hauora of te iwi Māori.
What were the highlights of your time at Otago, and has it influenced you in following your interests?
I have made life-long friends with like-minded people, who share the same passions as me and who genuinely want to see each other succeed. The people I have met along the way at Otago have played a pivotal role in the person I am today.