Staff of the former Māori Indigenous Health Institute, now the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation.
The seedling has grown into a mighty kahikatea at the University of Otago, Christchurch – with the University of Otago Council approving the transition of the Māori Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) from a unit within the Department of the Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch (UOC) into its own standalone department within UOC, to be named the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation.
The move, effective immediately, will advance MIHI's status within the University and enable further growth and expertise in indigenous health research and teaching.
MIHI Head of Department Associate Professor Cameron Lacey says his team is pleased with the decision.
“This transition will enable us to grow and further cement our status as a productive hub and safe space for Māori staff within our academic campus, embedding the principles of social justice and accountability as our guiding values and allowing us to provide a forum to advocate for Hauora Māori equity.”
MIHI's growth over the past 18 years was the main motivation in applying for stand-alone departmental status, assisted by a peer review carried out two years ago, he says.
“After considerable discussion as a roopu we concluded that becoming a Department would provide MIHI with appropriate recognition and mana with the University structure, be consistent with our moving towards a Te Tiriti-based campus and also better align with the Māori Strategic Frameworks goal of te arahina me to honohono, or leadership and partnership.
It will also help align our goals of becoming world leaders in Health Professional Education, building a reputable research portfolio that advocates for indigenous health equity, and fostering an indigenous health workforce,” Associate Professor Lacey says.
MIHI was launched in March 2004, originally in the Department of Public health and General Practice, with three part-time Māori academic staff in a single office space, with no specific timetabled Hauora Māori curriculum time and with a limited research portfolio.
It later moved into the Department of the Dean in Christchurch under Professor Peter Joyce, with subsequent Deans providing MIHI with much guidance and support. MIHI now enjoys 4.8 FTE core-funded positions and 3.5 FTE external-funded positions, with a growing number of postgraduate students.
Former Director of MIHI and now Dean and Head of Campus Professor Suzanne Pitama says the move marks a substantial milestone in UOC's history.
“This signposts that the Department of MIHI is now more formally an independent entity. It has developed extensive teaching, research and service outputs which continue to contribute to the social accountability, leadership and respect values of our campus,” Professor Pitama says.
MIHI has three research priorities; indigenous medical education, Māori mental health and chronic diseases, which all have clear inequity for Māori. The MIHI research team has led six research projects in the last five years, received over $3 million in competitive research grants including four HRC project grants, and published more than 60 research papers.
It supports undergraduate, postgraduate, masters and PhD students, with over 250 annual teaching hours across its medical, nursing and post-graduate student courses, including the resourcing of a 2.5-day noho marae experience for 4th year students. MIHI has also earned a number of awards for its undergraduate medical teaching.
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