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About Pacific Health Research at Otago

The University of Otago has a unique and enduring history of providing a highly-qualified workforce in the health professions, and in leading research and academic advancement in the areas of health and biomedical science.

This website is our opportunity to share the accomplishments of our talented Pacific health researchers, our Pacific-relevant health research, and to encourage our future scientists.

Associate Dean (Pacific)

Faumuina Sopoaga image Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga is the Associate Dean (Pacific) in the Division of Health Sciences.

The Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific), within Va'a o Tautai, provides oversight for all Pacific activities in the Division of Health Sciences. As the Director of the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), her role is to recruit, retain, and ensure a high completion rate for Pacific students in the Division. The support services provided for Pacific students is guided through evidence from the close monitoring and evaluation of all support services. She is responsible for monitoring the Divisional response to the Pacific Strategic Framework goals, provides guidance for engagement with Pacific communities and led developments which resulted in the establishment of the Otago Pacific Academic Caucus.

Faumuina is the high chief title from Fagaloa, Samoa. She trained as a medical doctor with expertise in public health and general practice. She is leading development in the Pacific Health curriculum in Health Sciences, through the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, and has wide connections and networks with the Pacific community in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Her research interests are in health workforce capacity building, transitioning students to higher education and Pacific health curriculum. She is currently undertaking doctoral studies on “The health and wellbeing of Pacific students in Higher Education”.

Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga

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Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit

PIRSSU folk with donations for Samoa image
PIRSSU staff help pack donated medical goods for Samoa.

Within the Division of Health Sciences, our Pacific Island Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), leads the way in underpinning our research success, and in welcoming new members to our Pacific health research community.

Our staff offer excellent training in health professional and allied health programmes, nurture successful research careers, and offer quality pastoral care in an inclusive cultural environment.

Meet our staff at PIRSSU

PIRSSU engages with Pacific communities, schools, career advisors, government, and non-government organisations. All our activities are guided by the Division of Health Sciences' Pacific Strategic Framework, which has six areas of focus:

  • Demonstrating and valuing leadership on Pacific matters
  • Enhancing capability
  • Encouraging Pacific research excellence
  • Strengthening community engagement
  • Developing Pacific curriculum
  • Contributing to the Pacific region and international progress

Pacific Islands Research and Support Services Unit (PIRSSU) website
Pacific Strategic Framework (PDF 2.8MB)
Follow PIRSSU on facebook

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Centre for Pacific Health

Centre for Pacific Health bird logo The Centre for Pacific Health was launched in 2018 to house the research and teaching activities of the Va’a o Tautai. It is now home to a dedicated team of Pacific and non-Pacific researchers working in areas of importance to Pacific communities in New Zealand and internationally.
Va’a o Tautai

Alongside research, the Centre for Pacific Health also provides leadership in teaching Pacific health across Health Sciences professional programmes, the Bachelor of Health Sciences, and other areas of health curricula where Pacific perspectives are important:


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Va'a o Tautai

Vaa o Tautai canoe imageVa'a o Tautai provides a range of academic programmes and support for Pacific students, leads the way in relation to Pacific health teaching and research, and provides strategic leadership for Pacific developments and regional engagement for the Division of Health Sciences.

Va'a o Tautai is led by Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga, Associate Dean (Pacific), for the Division of Health Sciences.

The University of Otago Pacific Strategic Framework 2013-2020 is the key document that underpins the work being undertaken within Va’a o Tautai, as well as guiding Pacific engagements across the University.

Va’a o Tautai includes the:
Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific) (OADP)
Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)
Centre for Pacific Health (CPH)

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