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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Monday, 14 August 2023
Academic background
Health Sciences
Host campus
Medicine (Wellington)
Dr Hemakumar Devan, Ms Cheryl Davies, Associate Professor Lisa Te Morenga


We have an exciting opportunity to join our research whānau to do a 3-year full-time PhD for the HRC Health Delivery Project titled:
Co-designing whānau stories to reduce opioid use for pain management in Aotearoa (2023–27).

Project details

Opioids are commonly used in pain relief for chronic non-cancer pain and although beneficial in the short-term, long-term use risks include dependency, reduced function, and early mortality. Māori adults had the highest rates of strong (prescription) opioid use suggesting inequities associated with opioid prescriptions.

Clinical guidelines recommend opioid tapering (i.e., from gradual reduction to cessation). However, opioid tapering is extremely challenging for both patients and clinicians. With significant inequities for Māori, culturally responsive strategies from a te ao Māori worldview are urgently needed. Pūrākau (a form of Māori narrative) are powerful tools which can shape behaviour.

The main aims of this 4-year project are:

  1. To co-design a story-based, opioid tapering intervention for people with chronic non-cancer pain
  2. To evaluate the clinical implementation of this intervention in four tertiary pain services and four primary care practices

What will my PhD involve?

If successful, you will be involved in collecting stories of Māori with pain and their whānau via individual interviews and group digital storytelling workshops (Phase I). The next phase (Phase II) will be to develop an opioid tapering support intervention using digital stories. You will be working with participatory action research group members involving Māori whānau living with pain and previous experience of tapering opioids, researchers, clinicians, and storytelling experts.

Who will I work with?

You will be working a supportive and passionate research whānau of Māori researchers, clinicians, and Māori advisory group members with lived experience of pain and non-Māori researchers and clinicians.

Who can apply?

Applicants from any health background (Psychology, Pharmacy, Social Work, Medicine, Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy) or humanities background (Arts, Social sciences) with a passion to work with Māori communities are most welcome to apply. A Master's degree in one of the above fields would be advantageous.

Scholarship details

The annual stipend will be NZ$30,696 tax-free.

Who funds my PhD?

Health Research Council of New Zealand Health Delivery Project Grant.

I'm interested, what should I do?

Please submit your CV and a covering letter to Dr Hem Devan.


Hemakumar Devan
Tel +64 22 677 9751

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