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University of Otago Launches Pilot Programme to Increase Number of Māori Health Professionals

Blossom outside Clocktower

Wednesday 9 September 2009 2:39pm

A new pilot transition programme to support up to 20 Māori students to fulfill their ambition to become health professionals is being developed by the University of Otago. The programme will be called Tū Kahika, a reference to the Kahika (Kahikatea) tree, which grows strong when surrounded by others.

The students will enrol in the University's Foundation Year programme in 2010 to prepare for entry to Health Sciences First Year or other health studies in 2011.

New Zealand has a serious shortage of Māori health professionals in many health fields and the programme is responding to this acute need by offering opportunity for up to 20 students, according to Professor Don Roberton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences.

"With a stronger foundation in the health sciences and sound study skills, we hope that these students can achieve the academic standards required to apply for entry to a range of programmes leading to medical, dental, pharmacy, physiotherapy and medical laboratory qualifications," says Professor Roberton.

The programme will also help achieve goals for Māori success in tertiary education set by both the University of Otago and the government, he says. It is intended that the pilot programme be developed into a model that will be scaled up to address shortages in other areas.

The University of Otago has government support for the pilot which is being developed in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Te Tapuae o Rehua Ltd, a joint-venture between Ngāi Tahu and five South Island tertiary institutions, including the University of Otago.

Recruitment of students will begin immediately. During their Foundation Year in 2010 the students will be provided with mentoring support and receive assistance with fees and accommodation.

Professor Roberton acknowledged the highly valued support of Ministry of Health and Te Tapuae o Rehua Ltd, and emphasised that the students targeted by the programme are likely to have missed out on the academic opportunities of many of their peers.

"Tū Kahika," he emphasised, "is designed to help them overcome such obstacles and reach the level required to be successful in health sciences, other health related programmes and ultimately, in the health workforce."

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg welcomed the launch of the programme.

"The future prosperity of New Zealand depends on ensuring that Māori young people can reach their full potential through higher education. It is also essential that Māori are well represented in the health professions. The University of Otago wants to work in partnership with Iwi to assist in achieving these goals," says Professor Skegg.

For more information, please contact

Mr Darryn Russell
Director, Māori Development
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 8420

Professor Don Roberton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Health Sciences
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 7413

For more information:
Megan McPherson
Head of Communications
University of Otago
Tel 021 279 5452

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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