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Student Profiles - Health Sciences

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Find out students reasons for undertaking distance study and how their learning has been applied in their workplace:

Health Sciences

Samantha CameronSam Cameron

Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science, endorsed in Occupational Health. Occupational Health

"There is a lot of self-directed learning in the process, but getting support has been no problem at all.”

Sam Cameron has returned to study not just to boost her own skills, but to grow her business. The Otago-trained physiotherapist has her own Auckland physio business, which is now large enough that she can take time out to study. “I wanted to try and challenge myself, but also diversify my business, so I’m doing a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science, endorsed in Occupational Health. Occupational health is a more preventive area of work than physiotherapy. Sort of like the fence at the top of the cliff.

“It goes beyond simply identifying hazards in the workplace. We explore avenues and implement changes to promote the mental and physical health and well-being in workers.

“It’s quite fascinating how some small and inexpensive approaches can have large effects on staff health and performance. One day, I am hoping to contract to bigger companies and work with employers, to ensure and promote staff health and well-being. I think this will be an exciting new area of business for me.”

The University of Otago is the only institution to offer this particular diploma and studying by distance was perfect for her, Sam says. “I fit the study into my day rather than the other way around.” Read more...

Diana Bowalgaha Ralalage

Master of Health Sciences endorsed in Nursing (Clinical)Diana - Graduation photo

I first started looking at postgraduate study options whilst I was a second year nursing student in Melbourne, though when I was about to complete my new grad year, I thought, “no more studies after all that!" It was with my husband’s support and encouragement that I decided to embark on an exciting journey of postgraduate study with the University of Otago.

It was certainly a shaky start, to say the least, when I began my Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences endorsed in Musculoskeletal Management. This was in February 2011 with the earthquakes and constant aftershocks. It was an enriching, stimulating and challenging year, and I made it through!

2012 was an exciting year because I was looking forward to attaining the PGDip in Health Sciences endorsed in Musculoskeletal Management and attending graduation in Dunedin. I must admit that I love graduation! Read more...

Louise Sheppard

Masters of Health Science (Pain and Pain Management)Louise Grant

As a newly graduated physiotherapist, I often found myself working with patients with long term pain issues, mainly because of my exercise prescription background. However, I quickly began to realise that I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to really help these patients - here was so much more to this pain thing than I had learnt in my undergraduate education and I wanted to know more!

In 2008 I decided to embark on some postgraduate study in the area, and I chose the Certificate in Musculoskeletal Management through the Department of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Medicine. Living in Queenstown at the time, the fact that I could do the entire course by distance was a huge drawcard for me.

When I finished the certificate I was enjoying learning so much, I decided to continue on to the diploma. The way the qualifications are structured makes “up-sizing” your qualification really easy, without having to commit to several years of study up front. I was delighted when the department added the new endorsement in Pain and Pain Management in 2012 and I decided to “up-size” once again to the Masters degree, which I completed in 2013. Read more...

John Kristiansen

Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Health Care

John Kristiansen

John Kristiansen’s Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Health Care offered from the University of Otago, Wellington not only boosted his CV, but dove-tailed into his existing job.

A qualified pharmacist, John holds two positions within the Waitemata District Health Board’s Funding and Planning team: a project manager for the Quality Use of Medicines team, and as the Pharmacy Portfolio Manager.

Happy as he is in his career, he felt the need to add another qualification to his CV and also to study in an area that was broader than pharmacy, but still relevant to his career. The Primary Health Care qualification he recently completed, in which he focused on long-term conditions management, meant he could study at his own pace. For him this meant a paper a year and several opportunities for residential courses in Wellington. “The beauty of it was I was able to include quite a lot of the assignments, even project work, within my work.”

Tools he has been instrumental in developing, such as patient guides for – a website which contains medicines’ information for primary care – were developed as part of his diploma. Read more...

Catherine Willett student profile

Catherine Willett

Master of Health Science (Sports Medicine)

Far away is never far from Otago: Podiatrist Catherine Willett jumped straight into postgraduate studies after her undergraduate degree, tackling a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Medicine at Otago. It was her first taste of distance learning, and when she moved to outback Queensland she decided to continue with her studies to upgrade her qualificaton to a Masters degree.

Continuing with study is an important way Catherine can keep in touch with her clinical knowledge and skills. “Working in remote areas, you often feel out of touch with what’s going on in the cities. We don't have the opportunity to attend conferences and workshops readily so there’s a stigma that remote practitioners aren't as good or as well qualified as those on the coast. So I decided to enrol in a Masters of Health Science to keep up-to-date.” Read more ......

Nuno Hermiterio

Certificate in Health Sciences (Radiation Therapy Advanced Practice)Nuno_resized

Co-worker and fellow student keeps him motivated... I’m originally from Portugal. I finished my bachelor's degree in Radiation Therapy in 2006 and I have been working since 2010 for the Auckland District Health Board.Every year students spend time in our department hoping we can work magic and help them qualify. As a foreigner, I felt I needed to understand the way Radiation Therapy is taught in New Zealand in order to do a better job teaching them. Plus this further qualification might open some doors and help me progress in my career.

Staying motivated is definitely the biggest challenge when you’re learning via distance … after eight hours of work the last thing I want to do is shut myself in a room in front of the computer! However, my co-worker Amie Bryant is studying with me, so we keep each other motivated over a packet of ginger nuts and cups of tea.

The lecturers are all very helpful and supportive, and are available via e-mail and mobile phone. Read more ….

Eddie Callachan

Eddie Callachan student profile

Master of Health Sciences endorsed in Aeromedical Retrieval and Transport

"I chose Otago because it is well-known in aero-medical care circles as the only university offering top quality graduate studies". Flight paramedic/rescue swimmer for the United Arab Emirates Air Force, Eddie is a part of the team responsible for all ICU transfer flights in the UAE Military, plus crews the helicopter for anything requiring Search and Rescue. His team also crews the Airforce medical flights in times of disaster, such as the Pakistan Earthquake, to repatriate victims.

"The course is well-structured and a fantastic entry into the field of aero-medical care. The course notes are of a high standard and the lecturers are readily available and truly committed to their students’ requirements". Read more...

Gener Delos Santos

Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Medicine

Gener resizedHow I found time to update my qualifications whilst working in several locations around the world... I'm involved in helping to maintain and set up occupational medical support in various industrial sectors. When I started my studies at Otago, I was working in several locations around the world, so my work involved intensive travelling interspersed occasionally with about two weeks of leave. This was when I had time to update my medical qualifications. The timeframe was virtually impossible for undertaking a postgraduate diploma, let alone embarking on a Master's degree. I came to meet doctor-students in different parts of the world who had similar challenges which Otago was able to help them meet.

The modular training at Otago is very appealing. With good time management, I'm usually able to keep up with the readings, and through some logistics planning I'm able to attend audio-conferences, submit homework on shedule and have even been able to attend the annual residential school in New Zealand. The facilitators are more than willing to assist with my queries as well as very helpful and understanding about the many times I encountered hurdles in my studies. Read more ...

Claire Gilbert

Master of Health Sciences (Mental Health)

Claire Gilbert student profile

"The course was based around clinical work, so it was applicable and it helped me use my workplace for clinical learning".

Not long after Christchurch-based mental health nurse and addiction worker Claire Gilbert took up a position managing a clinic for women with addictions. Claire enrolled part-time in the distance-taught Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences while juggling full-time work and parenting. The certificate led to a diploma and later to a Master’s degree.

Throughout her studies Claire appreciated the integration of clinical and academic learning, and found this enabled the practical application of her learning. The lecturers were also readily available and promoted discussion, and they showed flexibility with deadlines – they really considered the realworld stresses that exist on students.” Read more ....

Liz Day

Master’s degree in Primary Health Care

Liz Day with cat

The perfect way to combine study with motherhood and work: Balancing four children, a career and higher education is all in a day’s work for Liz Day, whose distance study with Otago University led to a new career as a full-time nursing lecturer. “... these qualifications open up so many doors; it’s up to you which ones you want to walk through.”

“Otago’s Distance Learning administration staff are fantastic and always accessible by email or phone. So are all the lecturers and course co-ordinators. You never feel you are being a trouble to anyone.” “There is also a course on improving your study habits, which really sets you up and teaches you the tools of the trade. It makes you think about your own learning style and what really works for you.”