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Otago academic wins supreme NZ teaching excellence award

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Wednesday 12 August 2015 1:55pm

Suzanne Pitama korowai image
Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama

The Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for tertiary teaching excellence has been won by an academic from the University of Otago for the fourth year running.

The Award was last night presented to Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama, Director of the Māori/Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) at the University of Otago, Christchurch. She receives $10,000 through the Supreme Award.

The Supreme Award is considered the ultimate prize of the national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards, held annually at Parliament. As the 2015 recipient, the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award recognises Associate Professor Pitama’s unstinting commitment to tertiary learners and the broader community spanning a 14-year teaching career.

The Awards celebrate New Zealand’s finest tertiary teachers – as recognised by their organisations, colleagues, learners and broader communities. A total of 12 awards were presented tonight for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching – under General and Kaupapa Māori categories. Each awardee receives $20,000.

TTEA 2015 Otago three image
The three Otago winners of Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards for 2015 (from left) Dr Roslyn Kemp, Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama and Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith.

Associate Professor Pitama was one of the Kaupapa Māori winners while her Otago colleagues Dr Roslyn Kemp (Microbiology and Immunology) and Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith (Dean, Graduate Research School) received awards in the General category.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is delighted that Associate Professor Pitama has joined the distinguished roll of Otago staff recognised through the Supreme Award.

“On behalf of the entire University community, I warmly congratulate Suzanne, along with Roslyn and Rachel, on their outstanding achievements. We are very proud of them all.

“The University’s ongoing success in these awards reflects Otago’s commitment to high quality teaching. Excellent, inspiring teachers such as these three are central to ensuring that we remain at the forefront of New Zealand universities in teaching, and continue to be held in high regard internationally.”

Suzanne Pitama—an innovator and a leader

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama’s teaching career is distinguished by innovation and leadership – working tirelessly towards improving health in Māori communities with a commitment to redressing the inequity between Māori and non-Māori on issues relating to illness. Her teaching is student-centred; striving to educate medical students to work alongside Māori patients, whānau and communities in ways that support best clinical practice and reduce Māori health inequities.

An international colleague describes her teaching programme as “the most comprehensive Indigenous health curricula (in medicine) in Australia and New Zealand.” She initiated Hauora Māori Day in 2010 as a student-led initiative where 100 fifth-year medical students and 35 clinical staff provided free health screenings to the Māori community. The event was so successful it has been undertaken annually since.

Seeing a need to increase cultural competency amongst teachers and learners across medical schools, Associate Professor Pitama has written and filmed instructional videos for Māori and non-Māori clinicians and students.

In 2010, she developed two Māori models of health, The Hui Process and The Meihana Model; both of which directly connect Te Ao Māori (the Māori World) with clinical practice. The Hui Process teaches students how to engage with a Māori patient and their whānau, interweaving clinical practice throughout each stage. The Meihana Model helps students to complete the Kaupapa component of the clinical interaction/assessment so they achieve both clinical and cultural integration in their practice.

These models have now been integrated into the Māori health curriculum across the University of Otago’s three clinical schools, medical schools at other tertiary institutions, government departments and a broader range of health providers.

Otago’s string of Supreme Award successes

As well as tonight’s success for Associate Professor Pitama making it the fourth year in a row that Otago academics have won the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award, it also marks the sixth time in the past 13 years that the honour has gone to a teacher from this University.

Last year, Dr Karyn Paringatai (Te Tumu — School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies) received the honour, and in 2013 it went to Associate Professor Gordon Sanderson (Ophthalmology) and Associate Professor Rhiannon Braund (Pharmacy) in 2012. Associate Professor Selene Mize (Law) won in 2009 and Associate Professor Peter Schwartz (Pathology) won in 2003. No other tertiary institution has achieved this level of success.

For more information, contact:

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama
Māori/Indigenous Health Institute
University of Otago, Christchurch
Tel 03 364 3677

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