Members of the Pacific community presented Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Peter Crampton, with a traditional va'a (waka) at a welcoming function for Pacific Island students into the Division of Health Sciences on Friday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
The University of Otago continues to lead the way in education for Pacific peoples with the development of Va'a o Tautai, the Pacific entity within the Division of Health Sciences.
Va'a o Tautai provides strategic leadership within the division bringing together the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific), the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit and a new centre for research and teaching, the Centre for Pacific Health.
Through Va'a o Tautai, health science students will have increasing exposure to Pacific health teaching.
This year's official welcome for Pacific students in the Division of Health Sciences last Friday, 23 February, was significant in that it incorporated the formal introduction of Va'a o Tautai and the cultural acknowledgment for a number of staff who are retiring who have contributed significantly to Pacific developments.
Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga says the University of Otago is leading the way in Pacific education among New Zealand universities. For example, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Professor Peter Crampton, strongly supported development of an inaugural Pacific Strategic Framework (2011-2015) for the division and this has since been replaced by a University-wide Pacific framework (2013-2020).
Associate Professor Sopoaga was appointed to her role in 2009 and established the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit in 2010. Following her appointment, new Associate Dean (Pacific) roles were established at the Wellington and Christchurch campuses and in the Dunedin School of Medicine. Other similar roles have since been established University-wide.
More recently, the School of Pharmacy has appointed a Pacific Adviser, Wellington Hospital Clinical Pharmacist and Otago alumna, Kasey Brown.
Associate Professor Sopoaga says she is grateful to the University's visionary leaders, former Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg, current Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne and Professor Crampton in her division, who have led and supported Pacific strategies.
“I'm very proud of this University and its visionary leaders.”
University settings are unfamiliar environments for Pacific communities, she explains. The University has established the welcoming Pacific Islands Centre with manager Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai. Pacific families are now increasingly choosing to bring their children to Otago University.
“To come to this prestigious University with its proud history, yet one which has also adopted a social accountability agenda that is inclusive of everyone who wants to come here, is wonderful.”
The immersion programme for fourth year medical students at the Dunedin Campus, whereby they spend a weekend living with a Pacific family, is now compulsory and will be rolled out in Christchurch this year, with discussions underway for the Wellington campus next year.
“It's about training health professional students to integrate clinical and cultural competencies in a way that translates to positive outcomes for their patients,” Associate Professor Sopoaga says.
Professor Crampton, who is later this year stepping down from his role, was formally recognised by the Pacific community at Friday's ceremony, with the presentation of a traditional va'a (waka), symbolising the Pacific journey he has enabled in the Division of Health Sciences.
Associate Professor Sopoaga says the University's Pacific Island community is indebted to Professor Crampton who has worked tirelessly to improve Pacific representation within the Health Sciences Division.
The total numbers of Pacific students enrolled in Health Professional Programmes has been steadily increasing since 2009. The total number enrolled in Health Professional Programmes has increased by 20% to 157 this year, up from 130 in 2017. This is more than twice the number enrolled in 2012.
A team of three traditional master carvers from Samoa was brought to Dunedin for three weeks by Va'a o Tautai to build a double hulled waka, with one presented to Professor Crampton and his family, and the other to remain at Va'a o Tautai's offices.
Professor Crampton told those gathered on Friday that it was “an incredibly humbling experience” to be presented with such a “remarkable, beautiful and unique gift”.
While stepping down from his current roles later this year, Professor Crampton says he will continue working at the University and is committed to working with his Pacific colleagues in the future.
“We are all in the same waka together and paddling in the same direction.”
Associate Professors Pat Cragg, David Perez and Jonathan Leichter, who are retiring this year, were also acknowledged for their excellent services to Pacific students, staff and communities.
Associate Professor Sopoaga is excited to be part of the Pacific journey in the Division of Health Sciences. “It's a journey into unchartered waters,” she says.
For further information please contact:
Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afeti Sopoaga,
Associate Dean (Pacific)
Division of Health Sciences
Mob: +64 21 268 2244
Professor Peter Crampton,
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences
Telephone: +64 3 479 7413
Mob: +64 27 455 0147
Senior Communications Adviser
Telephone: +64 479 9065
Mobile: +64 21 279 9065
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