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Maori Students' Pharmacy Association, Te Puna Kaitaka, forms its roots at Otago

Thursday, 1 December 2016 2:53pm


“We are going to be role models to our community and helping our whanau and that’s definitely going to help.”

A group of enthusiastic Maori pharmacy students at Otago have established Te Puna Kaitaka, the Maori Students’ Pharmacy Association Otago.

Kaiarahi (Maori leader) within the school, Lisa Kremer, says it is something the School of Pharmacy has been wanting for the students over the past few years and with 17 Maori students currently, there are the numbers and enthusiasm to do it.

Final-year student Tayla Tuhikarama (Tainui) from Christchurch was the inaugural tumuaki (president) of the association which formed this year. When she began her studies there were not enough Maori students to form an official group and she is delighted this is no longer a barrier, with increasing numbers of Maori students studying pharmacy.

“Whakawhanaungatanga [building relationships and getting to know each other] is a real focus for us, so we have good working relationships in the future,” Tayla says.

“This is what we wanted as an association, previously we knew each other, but we never had a forum to do everything together.”
Maori Pharmacists’ Association affiliate member Dee Isaacs gave the association its name, Te Puna Kaitaka, based on the core values of the Maori pharmacy students - academic and social support, inclusive for all Maori pharmacy students irrespective of their whapakapa journey, commitment to Maori health and dedication to the pharmacy profession.

At the association’s first annual meeting in October, Tayla stood down as president and Ashley Howell (Ngati Rangi), who is originally from Gisborne, replaced her. Hemi McKechnie (Ngapuhi), from Whangarei is tumuaki tuarua (vice-president), Anja Mulder (Tainui), from Paraparaumu is kaituhi (secretary) and Polly Browne (Ngati Kahungunu) of Wairoa is kaitiaki putea (treasurer).

Ashley says the number of Maori students studying pharmacy is small when compared to medicine.

“We are trying to entice people to come into pharmacy; we’re coming up with a few ideas like open nights and visiting the halls of residence to talk to students.”

Polly enjoyed the support from the team at the Maori Centre, when she was studying health sciences first year and says she was inspired to study pharmacy when meeting Maori pharmacist Leanne Te Karu.

She hopes Te Puna Kaitaka will be able to develop relationships with other Maori student health groups like medicine and dentistry.
Ashley says the association is keen to work with other professions. “We want to grow together and make connections with other groups.”

All of the students and Ms Kremer are also members of the Maori Pharmacists’ Association.

Hemi recently returned to his high school, Kamo High School, and spoke to an assembly about his experiences at Otago University and the School of Pharmacy.

Hemi is well aware of the poor health statistics of Maori and he believes having more Maori health professionals will help improve the situation.

“I definitely think it will have an impact on that [helping to reduce health inequalities].

“We are going to be role models to our community and helping our whanau and that’s definitely going to help.”

Article written by Liane Topham-Kindley for Pharmacy Today, December 2016