The number of Maori studying towards medical degrees at the
University of Otago has almost doubled in five years.
''It is a win-win for communities and for Maori health, and
the opportunity to have New Zealand-trained doctors working
in our hospitals is also really positive,'' Associate Prof Jo
Baxter, health science division associate dean Maori, said.
In 2008, just over 60 students who identified as being Maori
were enrolled in medical courses at the University of Otago
and just under 20 were beginning their medical degrees.
In 2012 the number of enrolments was over 200, and more than
40 were beginning their medical degrees.
Those enrolments were expected to have increased again in
Prof Baxter said the university - with funding from the
Ministry of Health - was able to support initiatives such as
the Tu Kahika programme, which was launched in 2010.
That scholarship programme helped prepare Maori students
academically for their first year of tertiary study and a
future career in health.
In 2011 another programme began in partnership with the
university's Maori Centre aimed at supporting health science
students, such as providing information, holding
get-togethers and encouraging students to study together.
''Our hope is to help the health professional workforce in
New Zealand reflect what society looks like,'' Prof Baxter
At present, only 2.9% of the medical profession identified as
being Maori, but that looked set to change, as about 15% of
new students studying at the Medical School identified as
The students came from diverse backgrounds, some being the
first in their family to go on to tertiary education, or the
first from their respective schools to go to university.
''Many of them have had some significant disadvantages before
coming into university: financial ones, health issues in
their families, difficult life circumstances,'' Prof Baxter,
who is also director of the Maori Health Workforce
Development Unit, said.
It was important Maori became health professionals, as they
brought different skills to the healthcare of patients,
''We do have a number of students who want to return home to
do general practice. Others have been inspired to be
pediatricians because they see the need for healthy
Others had been inspired to get involved in public health
because there were opportunities to contribute.''
It was expected the increase in Maori enrolments would in
turn lead to more Maori graduating with medical degrees.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said the increase in
Maori medical students was ''pleasing news and contributes
greatly to the growing number of Maori health professionals
''It is vital that we have as many qualified Maori doctors,
nurses, dentists and other health professionals as we can,''