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Otago appoints new Dean to Dunedin School of Medicine

Monday 14 February 2022 11:19am

Joanne Baxter 650 x 400 Image
Professor Joanne Baxter is the new Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine.

We welcome Professor Joanne Baxter (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe, Waitaha, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō) as our new Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine. 

“Leadership positions are a privilege, and I feel very privileged to have been appointed,” says Professor Baxter.   
 
Vice-Chancellor Professor David Murdoch says Professor Baxter was a great candidate for this role.   

“The Dunedin School of Medicine is a vital part of this University and makes an important contribution to medical and health education and research, both in New Zealand and globally.  We have a responsibility to constantly strive to improve and Professor Baxter brings the passion, skills, experience, and perspective to ensure we will continue to develop.  

“She is also the first wahine Māori to hold this position, an invaluable voice. As we continue to better acknowledge both the necessity and great benefits of equity and representation, I am certain she won’t be the last, ”says Professor Murdoch.  

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences Professor Paul Brunton says, “I am delighted to see Professor Baxter appointed to this role. She brings a wealth of experience and is a highly capable and visionary leader.”

With more than 20 years working in the Dunedin School of Medicine concurrent with over ten years in roles in the wider Division of Health Sciences, Professor Baxter is committed to the University as a place that can make a real difference in education and health for individuals, whānau and communities through teaching, research, and service.  

Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro nōnā te ngahere
Ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōnā te ao

The bird that consumes the miro berry owns the forest
The bird that consumes knowledge owns the world

Professor Baxter has whakapapa to Poutini Ngāi Tahu on the West Coast, and Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō in the upper South Island.   

“Māori values underpin my approach to leadership including values of whakawhanaungatanga - strong relationships and connections, whakamana - upholding mana and integrity, and manaakitanga - generosity, support and looking after,” says Professor Baxter.    

Believing that the ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, Professor Baxter is excited by the broad range of talent and expertise in the School of Medicine with eight Departments each providing teaching, research and service.  She is interested in supporting and enhancing the wide range of programmes delivered alongside medicine, including public health, medical laboratory science, health sciences, bioethics, and postgraduate health programmes.  

Professor Baxter identifies the continuing response to COVID-19, the development of the Dunedin Hospital, the restructuring of our public health system and the contribution to health professional and health science workforces as some of the big opportunities and challenges ahead.   

She appreciates the commitment by many in the University to the increasing focus on equity and fairness in terms of opportunities and outcomes. She is passionate about supporting the School’s engagement with diverse communities and health services to meet the needs of the wider community, including rural areas and Pacific and Māori health.   

Professor Baxter is a public health medicine physician.  Her research includes epidemiology and mental health, equity and Māori health, and health services. She was drawn to a career in public health medicine while working clinically in psychiatry.

“I became interested in how to make a difference for mental health and mental health services at the preventive end, and how to support health systems and structures to achieve positive outcomes.  Public health approaches are critical to supporting wider health outcomes.”

Professor Baxter is currently the Director of Kōhatu Centre for Hauora Māori in the Division of Health Sciences, Co-Director of Māori Health Workforce Development Unit (within Kōhatu), and Professor for Māori Health in the Dunedin School of Medicine. Nationally, she is involved in the health workforce and sits on the Ministry of Health’s Health Workforce Advisory Committee.  

Professor Baxter Professor Baxter, who replaces Professor Rathan Subramaniam, will begin the role on 1 July 2022. In the interim she looks forward to supporting the Acting Dean Professor Lynley Anderson.

Professor Baxter looks to a particular whakatauaki for inspiration in providing focus on what’s around her, to be mindful of today’s practicalities as well as envisioning the future opportunities and aspirations.  

Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro nōnā te ngahere
Ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōnā te ao

The bird that consumes the miro berry owns the forest
The bird that consumes knowledge owns the world