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Director of Student Health steps aside

Monday 14 May 2018 10:20am

The departing Director of Student Health Services Dr Kim Ma’ia’i. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The well-being of students has always been a focus for Dr Kim Ma’ia’i who steps down as the University of Otago’s Director of Student Health Services next month, after 14 years in the role.

He has appreciated the importance of students having a dedicated point of health care and is proud, and not at all unbiased, to describe Otago Student Health Services as the most integrated and effective campus health service in Australasia.

“Our decision-making has always been centred around the well-being of our students - it cannot be any other way,” Dr Ma’ia’i explains.

“We are at our best when we have the combined efforts of our whole team.”

Over his 14 years, Dr Ma’ia’i has overseen a steady increase in the number of staff at Student Health, which has paralleled the growth of the Dunedin campus. There are 52 staff members in the current team.

"I am very proud of the calibre of clinical leadership we have developed within our team during my time at Otago."

Despite the growth, his focus has been on “one waka”, a diverse team of health professionals working together for the student.

The mental health of students has become an issue of scale, both for universities and society as a whole, Dr Ma’ia’i says.

“These issues concern universities globally. It has been gratifying to have been able to implement some pragmatic local solutions for some of the challenges we face.”

Dr Ma’ia’i led a review of mental health services at Student Health in 2016 which resulted in an upgrade of the mental health and well-being services to better meet the needs of today’s students.

As a result, there has been a 47 per cent increase in the year to date in students who have received mental health care from the Mental Health & Well-being team in 2018.

“I am very proud of the calibre of clinical leadership we have developed within our team during my time at Otago,” Dr Ma’ia’i says.

“Not only are these health professionals’ strong leaders in their own right, they have also empowered members of their respective clinical teams: Practice Nurses, General Practitioners and Mental Health Professionals.”

He would like to see this become a template for the future of effective primary care services.

“Each day the new team demonstrate their great value to our community, through their positive attitude, collaborative values, high work rate and strong regard for students.

“The strong support from our Chief Operating Officer and Vice-Chancellor through the review process was instrumental in achieving this success.”

From a national perspective, Dr Ma’ia’i considers the Dunedin campus is very special and renowned for the richness of its social and academic fabric.

"His leadership and expertise has been extremely valuable during his time at Otago."

“As an Otago graduate, I have experienced this as both student and subsequently a doctor. Otago has long recognised the importance of providing student-centred, health care to the Dunedin campus, which is holistic and responsive to student values and needs.”

Dr Ma’ia’i started his career at Student Health in 2001 as a medical officer under his predecessor Dr Jim Jerram, and then took on the Directorship in 2004.

Beyond his role at the University, he has had broader leadership roles, some with a national focus. He has served on various University committees and related boards, including most recently the Healthy University Advisory Group and a brief term on boards of residential colleges, Knox College and Salmond College.

He is Chair of Dunedin After-Hours Medical Services, has served on the board of the Pacific Medical Association and the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC). His time on ALAC council overlapped with the Law Commission review of the Sale of Liquor Act. Alcohol harm reduction has been an area of interest, particularly within the student context, he says. He has also chaired a Pacific Advisory Group to the Health Promotion Agency.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Harlene Hayne says Dr Ma’ia’i will be sadly missed.

“His leadership and expertise has been extremely valuable during his time at Otago,” Professor Hayne says.

“We wish him the very best for the next stage of his career.”