'A strong role model': Pitama new dean of Chch med school

New University of Otago  Medical School (Christchurch) dean and head of Christchurch campus Prof Suzanne Pitama. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
New University of Otago Medical School (Christchurch) dean and head of Christchurch campus Prof Suzanne Pitama. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A historic day for Māori women in leadership at the University of Otago has arrived.

Former University of Otago Māori Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) director and Māori associate dean Prof Suzanne Pitama has been appointed the new dean and head of campus in Christchurch.

This makes her the first Māori female dean of any of the university’s three medical schools.

Prof Pitama said she was looking forward to the challenges ahead.

‘‘I’m feeling excited about the opportunities we have to move forward on some really key initiatives, which includes the implementation of a governance structure that aligns with Te Tiriti, preparing ourselves for the huge health reforms next year and ensuring our campus is well placed to address equity in our community.’’

Her appointment caps an impressive rise from her first appointment as lecturer in the university’s public health department in 2001.

She has since been the Medical School’s Hauora Māori faculty lead, Hauora Māori sub-committee chairwoman, a Christchurch campus senior leadership team member, Te Poutama Rau (Māori andragogy research theme) co-director and a Mirror on Society policy working group member.

She a Māori sub-editor on the New Zealand Medical Journal, the editor of a special issue of The Clinical Teacher, and serves on the Health Council of New Zealand and the Australian Medical Council.

Prof Pitama also won the 2018 Royal Society of New Zealand’s Joan Metge Medal and the 2015 Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Acting vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson said Prof Pitama was an inspiring leader.

‘‘Prof Pitama has already inspired numerous up and coming Māori female academics and this is a really significant appointment in terms of providing a strong role model for the wahine of the future.’’

A proud Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Whare wahine, Prof Pitama said she was aware of the importance of succession and acknowledged the many Māori leaders who had paved the way before her within the university.

‘‘When I think of our earliest graduates like Te Rangihiroa, the first Māori dean of a medical school, Prof Eru Pomare, the work in te reo Māori from Prof Poia Rewi, and mana wahine leadership like Prof Jacinta Ruru, I realise the mahi they put in, and the work laid before me now to build on their legacies.’’

She will begin the new role in February, next year.




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