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Professor “humbled” by Pacific recognition

Thursday 25 February 2016 3:36pm

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) Professor Peter Crampton (centre) with Division of Health Sciences’ Associate Dean (Pacific) Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga (left) and Xaviour Walker at a welcome for Pacific Island Health Science students on Tuesday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Singing and dancing filled the Hunter Centre on Tuesday night as Otago’s Pacific Island Health Science students were formally welcomed to the University with a cultural celebration which included special recognition of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences) and Dean of the Otago Medical School Professor Peter Crampton for his ongoing commitment to the Pasifika community.

Nearly 200 people gathered for the colourful occasion which included a Mihi whakatau, Pacific blessing, and cultural performances.

The night was filled with celebration and emotion, but it’s likely none felt the occasion more personally than Professor Crampton who, near the close of the ceremony, was presented with special cultural acknowledgements by representatives of the Pacific community.

Each community had their own special way of honouring Professor Crampton: Samoans through a special kava ceremony, Kiribati with a garland presentation, Fijian with the presentation of a special mat, Cook Islands drumming and gifts, and Tongans with a special dance called Tauolunga.

"Pacific people value meaningful relationships. Professor Crampton was honoured because people recognise he embodies what this means."

The head of the Cook Islands Ministry of Health travelled to Dunedin specifically for the acknowledgement and a video message from the National University of Samoa’s Faculty of Medicine Dean relayed messages of gratitude and good wishes from the government, Vice Chancellor and people of Samoa.

Wearing cultural garlands atop his academic regalia, Professor Crampton addressed the audience saying he was “very humbled” and “overwhelmed” by the experience.

Professor Crampton had already been actively working with Pacific health care communities for several years as a general practitioner when he first came to Otago in 1996.

Though he has seen the number of Pacific Island students rise over the years to more than 400 in the Health Sciences Division, he is reluctant to take any personal credit for the increase.

“It is through the inspiration, direction-setting and energy of the University’s Pacific leaders that success is possible.

“I would also like to acknowledge the families who support our students through their studies. I thank them for having the confidence to send their young people to study with us and for their support of our mission to provide New Zealand and the Pacific with highly trained Pacific health professionals,” he says.

For her part Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga, the Division of Health Sciences’ Associate Dean (Pacific), says it is “difficult to describe the high regard our Pacific community holds Professor Crampton”.

“Pacific people value meaningful relationships. Professor Crampton was honoured because people recognise he embodies what this means. I am confident that every new Pacific student who was welcomed last night felt that they belong, and indeed this University will enable them to ‘find their place in the world’.”