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Pacific News/Events

2018 Pacific News/Events

Health Sciences Division Pacific Welcome in Dunedin

The annual welcome hosted by the University of Otago Health Science Division leaders to officially start the new academic year was held on 23rd February, 2018. This event formally welcomed new and returning Pacific students, their families and communities. Organised by Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga and her team, the evening also included Pacific performances from Pacific students and Pacific community groups and members. 

Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga-Vaa o Tautai

Va'a o Tautai Launch, Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago

The development of Va’a o Tautai, the Pacific entity within the Division of Health Sciences sees the University of Otago continuing to lead the way in education for Pacific Peoples. This was launched on the 23rd February, 2018 to coincide with the Division of Health Sciences Pacific Welcome. Va’a o Tautai provides strategic leadership within the division bringing together the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific), the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit and a new Centre for research and teaching, the Centre for Pacific Health. Through Va’a o Tautai, Health Science students will have more exposure to Pacific health teaching. The formal introduction of Va’a o Tautai was a significant event and the evening was enjoyed by all.

PVC Peter Crampton Va'a o Tautai
IMAGE ABOVE Members of the Pacific community presented Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Peter Crampton, with a traditional va’a (waka) at a welcoming function for Pacific Island students into the Division of Health Sciences on Friday. Photo: Sharron Bennett

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University of Otago Pacific Community Acknowledgement for PVC Professor Peter Crampton

PVC Peter Crampton-Kiki Maoate
PVC Professor Peter Crampton and Associate Dean (Pacific) Kiki Maoate

Professor Peter Crampton was formally acknowledged by the Pacific Community in Dunedin for his work with Pacific students and staff at the University of Otago, and also for his work in communities and within the Pacific Region. This was held on 23rd February, 2018 together with the Health Sciences Division Pacific welcome, and also coincided with the formal introduction of the Va'a o Tautai and the cultural acknowledgment for a number of staff who were retiring who had contributed significantly to Pacific developments at the University of Otago. Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga says the University of Otago is leading the way in Pacific education among New Zealand universities. For example, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences, Professor Peter Crampton, strongly supported development of an inaugural Pacific Strategic Framework (2011-2015) for the division and this has since been replaced by a University-wide Pacific framework (2013-2020).

2018 UOW Pacific Students Welcome evening

A welcome event was held for new and returning Pacific students at UOW on Thursday 22nd February, 2018 where they were able to meet with fellow students and also with UOW leaders and support staff. This was supported by the UOW Deputy Dean Diane Kenwright and attended by the Associate Dean (Pacific) Dianne Sika-Paotonu. Another special guest for the evening was Dr Alvin Mitikulena Director of the Kilbirnie Medical Centre and also a University of Otago Pacific alumni.

UOW-Pacific-Medical-Students with Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Diane Kenwright
IMAGE ABOVE: UOW Pacific Students with Associate Dean (Pacific) Dianne Sika-Paotonu and Associate Professor Diane Kenwright

Global Indigenous Suicide Prevention, Mental Health & Well being Research Symposium


A two-day Public Health Summer School Global Symposium focused on Indigenous suicide prevention and well-being was held at the Te Papa National Museum on the 20th – 21st February, 2018 and was organised by Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho and her team. This Symposium generated much media interest and was attended by local and international visitors and included global speakers and specialists. This Symposium had a strong focus on suicide prevention that centered on interventions that were appropriate for Indigenous health and well-being. Some speakers were able to share their personal experiences of losing a loved one to suicide. Valuable research findings and resources that were applicable to Indigenous populations were also highlighted. 

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UOW welcomes Pacific Leaders to the Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium 2018

UOW-Mihi Whakatau

Regional and global health leaders and collaborators who were attending the Department of Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium were warmly welcomed to the University with a Mihi Whakatau on Sunday 18th February, 2018 and included senior Health Leaders from the Pacific Region. Participants in this symposium were provided with the most up to date picture of the impact of cancer among the Indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. The University of Otago Wellington respects and recognises the Treaty of Waitangi, the University's relationship with Mana Whenua (local tribe Ngati Toa) in our region. This event was well received by those in attendance.

Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Mihi Whakatau
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Sunia Foliaki, Dr Kiki Maoate, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Paula Vivili

UOW Pacific Health Research Public Health Summer School 2018

Ramona Tiatia
Dr Ramona Tiatia

On Thursday 8th February 2018, the UOW held its annual Pacific Health Summer School Day. This was organised by Dr Ramona Tiatia and included other key-note speakers such as Dr Michelle Schaaf (co-Associate Dean Pacific, Head of Pacific Studies, University of Otago), Dr Patrick Vakaoti (co-Associate Dean Pacific, Snr. Lecturer, Sociology, University of Otago), Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Associate Dean Pacific, Snr. Lecturer, Pathology and Molesular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington), Ms Christine Ammunson (Snr. Communications, Human Rights Commission), and Mr Akerei Maresala-Thomson (NZ White Ribbon Ambassador, Co-founder of MYRIVR APP) on concepts and issues in Pacific health, cultural and demographic trends, priorities and insights into where the tide is moving and how we can work together to improve Pacific well being. The Summer School day was well received and took place at University of Otago Wellington Conference Centre.

Presenter Bios :

Emerging issues in Pacific Health research-Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Michelle Schaaf
IMAGE ABOVE: Ms Mokalagi Tamapeau, Ms Christine Ammunson, Ms Gayle Lafaiali’, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Michelle Schaaf, Mr Andre Afamasaga

Emerging issues in Pacific Health research-Ramona Tiatia-Dianne Sika-Paotonu
IMAGE ABOVE: Some of the Pacific Health Summer School speakers and Delegates

UOW Indigenous Peoples and Cancer Symposium 2018: A shared agenda for Aotearoa, Australia and Pacific Nations

Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Diana Sarfati
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Professor Diana Sarfati, Dr Freddie Bray

A two-day Public Health Summer School Indigenous Cancer Symposium was held the UOW on the 19th – 20th February, 2018. Organised by Professor Diana Sarfati from the Department of Public Health and her team, renowned regional and global collaborators came together with attendees to share knowledge and discuss together the impact of Cancer among the Indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Region and beyond. The Symposium attracted a number of leading International Cancer, Indigenous and Pacific speakers who included Dr Paula Vivili, Head of the Pacific Health Division at Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Professor Neal Palafox from the University of Hawaii, Dr Kiki Maoate Associate Dean Pacific at University of Otago Christchurch and Paediatric specialist, and Dr Freddie Bray Head of the Cancer Surveillance Section at the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Indigenous People and Cancer Symposium-Group Photo
IMAGE ABOVE: Indigenous Cancer Symposium 2018 speakers, chairs and organizers

UOW fundraises for Cyclone GITA relief effort in Tonga

Dr Richard Egan, Dr Rachel Dryer, Dr Sunia Foliaki

On the 19th February the UOW Pacific Team along with the Pacific Medical Students held a 'Bake Sale' event to raise funds for the relief effort in Tonga after Cyclone GITA's devastation. The bake sale raised $2,378.50 NZD which was donated to the RedCross and Tearfund agencies who have been actively working on the ground in Tonga. A special acknowledgement and thanks to those who supported by making the delicious baked goods that were sold, and also to those who purchased items and made generous donations.

IMAGE ABOVE:  Associate Professor Diane Kenwright, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Dr Paula Vivili, Dr Kiki Maoate, Ms Tina Uiese, Mr Adam Faatoese, Ms Toni Anitelea, Mr Tevita Vaipuna

University of Auckland, Head of Pacific Women’s Health Research Unit Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma visits UOW

Alec Ekeroma-Dianne Sika-Paotonu-Ramona Tiatia-Tony Dowell

Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland and Head of the Pacific Women’s Health Research Unit, visited the University of Otago Wellington on the 31st January 2018. Associate Prof Ekeroma's contribution to teaching and course development spans over 21 years, and he is noted as the only academic O&G in Middlemore Hospital responsible for scheduling and delivering the undergraduate teaching programme. During his UOW visit, Associate Prof Ekeroma presented a research seminar on "Building Research Capacity in the Pacific".

Alex Ekeroma with Pacific Students and Staff
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Rachel Dryer, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Associate Professor Alec Ekeroma, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Ms Tina Uiese, Mr Ron Puni

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2017 Pacific News/Events

Pacific community celebration event hosted by UOW welcomes new Associate Dean (Pacific)

Dianne Sika-Paotonu at Pacific Celebration

UOW recently hosted a Pacific community celebration event to formally welcome the new Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu. This event was organised by the Associate Dean (Pacific) Health Sciences Division Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga and the Pacific team based in Dunedin in collaboration with the UOW based Pacific team. 

This event was also organised to demonstrate UOW’s renewed commitment to strengthening pre-existing relationships with our Pacific communities and establishing new partnerships. The evening was well attended by the Pacific communities in acknowledgement of UOW’s commitment to Pacific peoples locally and in the region.  

Pacific Celebration
IMAGE ABOVE: Professor Pete Ellis, Dr Ate Moala, Associate Professor Bridget Robson, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Professor Sunny Collings, Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai Sopoaga, Ms Matafanua Hilda Fa’asalele

UOW welcomes new Associate Dean (Pacific) with a Whakatau pōwhiri service 

Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Robyn Maude
Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu with Dr Robyn Maude at the UOW Whakatau pōwhiri service

The new Associate Dean (Pacific) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu was formally welcomed to the UOW on the morning of 6th December 2017. The Whakatau pōwhiri service was organised and undertaken by Toa Waaka Rautaki Hononga Māori (Māori Strategic Framework Project Manager) and the Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare team under the leadership of the UOW Associate Dean (Maori) Associate Professor Bridget Robson. Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu comes to us from Victoria University of Wellington and will also work as an academic scientist based in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine with Associate Professor Diane Kenwright and her team. In her new roles, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu will continue and build on the excellent work undertaken by Dr Nandika Curry the previous Associate Dean (Pacific) at UOW. 

Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Robyn Maude, Reno Paotonu, Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Ate Moala, Ramona Tiatia
IMAGE ABOVE: Mr Reno Paotonu, Dr Keri Lawson-Te Aho, Dr Robyn Maude, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu,              Dr Ate Moala, Dr Ramona Tiatia

New Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC) Chair Ramona Tiatia from UOW

Dunedin PASC Group
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Christiane Leurquin, Dr Mele Taumoepeau, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Ms Talai Mapusua, Dr Rose Richards Hessell

On 1st December 2017, Dr Ramona Tiatia from the UOW was elected as the incoming chair for the Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC), previously held by Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar. The Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC), was formally launched on 11th July 2016 and its purpose is to support Pacific academic staff at the University of Otago. PASC also plans to support teaching and research excellence, while staying in tune with Pacific peoples’ worldviews and aspirations. Dr Ramona Tiatia is a Public Health Researcher and works with the He Kainga Oranga/Health Housing Programme. She currently holds a HRC Pacific Postdoctoral Fellowship and her work includes developing a software application for houses and households (A4HH) and also to supports the Rheumatic Fever related Penicillin research work in New Zealand.

UOW Pacific Post-Graduate Research Prize 2017

During the month of November every year undergraduate and postgraduate students from the UOW campus come together to celebrate and acknowledge prize recipients of high academic achievement at the annual University of Otago, Wellington Hui Whakanui Tauira Awards Ceremony and Reception. Held on the 17th November 2017, this year’s award recipient for the 2017 Pacific Post-graduate Research prize was Dr. Rachel Dyer. Rachel is currently undertaking a Masters of Public Health.

Rachel Dryer-VC Harlene Hayne
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Rachel Dryer and Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne

French National Order of Merit

Presented to her in person, the awards ceremony took place during the celebration at Te Tumu in Dunedin, University of Otago Teaching Fellow Dr. Christine Leurquin was awarded the French National Order of Merit by the French Ambassador Florence Jeanblanc-Risler. This major achievement recognises Dr Leurquin’s work supporting the teaching of French as a second language, her years volunteering for the Alliance Française de Dunedin – as both a committee member and President, and her years of service as the French honorary consul in Otago-Southland.

website link :

Christine Leurquin-French National Order of Merit
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Tasileta Teevale, Dr Christine Leurquin

Health Research Council of New Zealand Pacific Grants UOW


Over the past 18 months, successful UOW grants in the HRC Pacific Funding rounds have included an HRC Pacific Postdoctoral Award, the HRC Emerging Researcher Pacific Award, the HRC Pacific Knowledge Translation Award and three HRC Pacific Summer Scholarship Awards. In addition, with support of the UOW research office, four HRC Pacific Projects were selected to advance to the full HRC Pacific Project Award application stage.

Rheumatic Fever related Penicillin Research receives Health Research Council of New Zealand funding

Flowers 2

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu from UOW was recently awarded the HRC Pacific Emerging Researcher Award for the Benzathine Penicillin G (BPG) Pharmacokinetics Study. This project seeks to obtain updated pharmacology information that determines how BPG (which is a type of Penicillin given as painful monthly injections for at least 10 years to those who've had Rheumatic Fever) works in population groups such as children and young people who are predominantly of Pacific and Māori heritage. This information will be used to help generate a more appropriate form of Penicillin that is longer acting and less painful, that would ideally prevent recurrence of Rheumatic Fever and reduce the risk of developing Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Council of Medical Colleges in New Zealand Pacific Forum 2017

Pacific Forum
IMAGE ABOVE: Ms Melissa Fidow, Mr Wilmason Jensen, Ms Debbie Sorensen, Dr Ate Moala, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu

The Council of Medical Colleges (CMC) in New Zealand held their inaugural Pacific Forum on the 30th November 2017. Speakers for the Pacific Forum included Pacific Health sector leaders, clinicians and researchers who were invited to present on their experiences and research in relation to Pacific Health in New Zealand and in the region. The CMC acts as the voice of the collective Medical Colleges in New Zealand and has developed a statement in relation to its work with Pacific Peoples

University of Otago, Law Professor and Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC) Chair Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar visits UOW

Dianne Sika-Paotonu and PASC Group members
IMAGE ABOVE: Dr Ramona Tiatia, Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar, Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu

Professor Rex Tauati Ahdar from the Faculty of Law University of Otago and PASC Chair, visited the University of Otago Wellington on 17th November 2017. One of the few Pacific professors in New Zealand, Professor Ahdar's research interests include: Competition Law and Policy, Church-State Relations, Religious Freedom, Contract Law, Sports Law. Professor Ahdar was in Wellington to attend meetings with the Dean, Senior and Pacific academic staff members at the UOW and also offer a research presentation entitled: “The Death of Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide”. The Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC), was formally launched on 11th July 2016. PASC plans to support teaching and research excellence, while staying in tune with Pacific peoples’ worldviews and aspirations.

UOW Postgraduate Pacific Mentor Tina Uiese 2017 -2018

Tina Uiese

Tina Uiese is the Pacific Mentoring Co-ordinator at the University of Otago Wellington. In collaboration with teaching staff and support services available at UOW, efforts to mentor Pacific students at UOW and increase retention and recruitment rates continue and have been well supported in 2017 by Tina, with her role continuing through into the New Year.

2017 BMI Research Seminar Series

This research seminar series will focus on relevant and topical issues supporting the development and delivery of safe, appropriate, equitable care and service provision for very large patients and will be of interest to health and care providers, managers and researchers.

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2016 Pacific News/Events

Consultation: New Zealand Health Research Strategy

The Ministries of Health and Business, Innovation and Employment, with the Health Research Council (HRC) are consulting on the first New Zealand Health Research Strategy. A joint public consultation process for the strategy will run from mid-June through to the end of July. The development of a strategy is the opportunity to set New Zealand’s direction for health research for the next 10 years. It will effectively translate this research into clinical practice, commercial opportunities, and health and social policy.

Regional Focus Group dates 2016

University of Otago Pacific International Health Symposium

22 - 23 November 2016 [Dunedin campus]

The symposium will focus on strengthening Otago’s engagement with its regional partners in the areas of teaching, service and research, and will offer a one or two-day registration.

Please note that spaces are limited and early expressions of interest are welcome by emailing