The challenge for students going on to postgraduate study is to select a subject they are really passionate about, says Anna Dawson, who is completing her Master of Public Health degree at Otago.
Anna grew up in Auckland and reconnected with her Kāi Tahu heritage when she came south three years ago to complete a degree in sport and recreation here.
With a strong background in public health, physical activity and nutrition, and experience as the Fruit in Schools adviser for Otago low decile schools, Anna was invited to join the Cancer Society’s Social and Behavioural Research Unit as an assistant research fellow and encouraged to study for her master’s.
Her thesis identifies different ways to approach Māori when researching issues that are important to them.
She has created an intervention from her findings that has been implemented in three seminars at Te Kura Kaupapa o Otepoti, a Māori language immersion school that her daughter attends.
The intervention promotes cultural self-awareness, knowledge, sensitivity and action of other cultures, and how researchers can apply this knowledge.
The findings from her research are now incorporated into the curriculum of a postgraduate Public Health Hauora Māori paper that Anna teaches in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine.
As a single mother working and studying full-time, Anna values the strong support networks she has built to handle such a busy schedule.
“I have my whānau, kōhanga and kura that help me raise my daughter and a workplace that gives me strong support and flexible hours,” she says.
“I never thought I would go to uni, but once you get into it there’s no looking back,” she says.
“You also learn that whatever you study, it has to benefit the next generation and make a difference for our people.”
Anna Dawson now works as the Hauora Māori Advanced Learning in Medicine (ALM) Convenor and Lecturer at the Kōhatu – Centre for Hauora Māori, in the Dunedin School of Medicine.