Haitana's ‘Exceptional Thesis' on the treatment of Māori with bipolar"> Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

PhD graduate Tracy Haitana’s ‘Exceptional Thesis’ on the treatment of Māori with bipolar

Wednesday 7 December 2022 10:41am

Tracy Nicola Haitana image

Registered Clinical Psychologist Ms Tracy Nicola Haitana (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) graduates Saturday, 10 December with a PhD from the University of Otago in Christchurch and reflects on the journey that led to this moment.

Haitana began her professional career working as a clinical psychologist in criminal justice settings before moving into advisory work in the area of sexual trauma, with no initial plan to pursue a PhD.

“I was working clinically when Associate Professor Cameron Lacey, my would-be primary supervisor from the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation [MIHI], received a grant to put together a team to investigate Māori experiences of bipolar disorder,” Haitana says.

“I have a long-standing relationship with the MIHI team, who I first worked with when I was a psychology undergraduate.”

“Professor Suzanne Pitama, the now Dean of the Christchurch campus, supervised my Master’s degree and encouraged me to pursue clinical training because of the shortage of Māori in the psychology field.

“Her guidance throughout my career and tireless advocacy for Māori was the reason I decided to return to MIHI to complete my PhD. I wouldn’t have done this anywhere else.”

Haitana also had a personal interest in the kaupapa having supported whānau during periods of contact with specialist mental health services previously.

Haitana’s PhD is part of the wider Māori and bipolar disorder research project led by Associate Professor Cameron Lacey, whose purpose was to investigate health inequities and contribute to Māori health advancement.

Specifically, her PhD investigated the experiences of Māori patients and their whānau receiving treatment for bipolar disorder to identify how organisational and structural features of the healthcare system impacted clinical care and contributed to health outcomes.

She shares that one of the fundamental principles of kaupapa Māori research is that it is conducted with the needs of the Māori community in mind. The research findings indicate that a redesign of the healthcare system is required to deliver equitable health outcomes for Māori. Though ultimately, changes in health outcomes and health equity for Māori with bipolar disorder will require a consistent Crown commitment to resource structural, organisational and clinical level transformation.

After her exam in July, Haitana was “surprised” to hear that her thesis was also placed on the 2022 “Exceptional Thesis” list, a great commendation for all her efforts and inspiration for the new chapter she will be starting in her life.

“I didn’t originally know about the list and so when I heard the good news I was surprised and thrilled but I also need to emphasise how none of this would have been possible without the expertise of my participants,” Haitana says.

“Without their significant contribution there would have been no thesis and so the commendation is owed to them and the support of my whānau and supervisors.”

Kōrero by the Health Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.

Tracy Nicola Haitana (Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Tuwharetoa)
Exceptional Thesis List 2022
Māori/Indigenous Health Innovation’ (MIHI)
Dean and Head of Christchurch Campus: Professor Suzanne Pitama
Department of Psychological Medicine Associate Professor Cameron Lacey