New grouping to support Pacific health students

University of Otago Va'a o Tautai Pacific Health head Associate Prof Fa-afetai Sopoaga. Photo:...
University of Otago Va'a o Tautai Pacific Health head Associate Prof Fa-afetai Sopoaga. Photo: Linda Robertson
As the number of Pacific health science students continues to rise at the University of Otago, a redeveloped Pacific Health grouping has been established on campus.

The new Va'a o Tautai Pacific Health grouping provides strategic leadership within the university division of health sciences, and is headed by Pacific divisional associate dean Associate Prof Fa'afetai Sopoaga.

The redeveloped grouping consists of the office of the associate dean, Pacific; a new Centre for Pacific Health headed by Dr Rosalina Richards, and the existing Pacific Islands & Student Support Centre.

The university's positive approach was contributing to a big rise in the number of Pacific students, and many North Islanders were heading south to Otago to study, Prof Sopoaga said.

``The University of Otago is leading the way, in many ways, for Pacific development,''she said.

The new, more co-ordinated approach aimed to foster the growth and development of Pacific students and of university Pacific health education.

It was also aimed to improve the health of Pacific people, and to promote connections between everyone with an interest in the Pacific.

``It's fantastic. I'm really grateful, really looking forward to the opportunity that has been provided to us.''

The new development will be celebrated at a function at its campus premises today.

The function will also welcome new students and strongly acknowledge the contribution of Otago Medical School dean Prof Peter Crampton, who has supported the new grouping.

Pacific student numbers in Otago health sciences have risen steadily since 2009, and last year 482 Pacific students were enrolled in Otago health sciences courses.

The number of Pacific students enrolled in health professional programmes had increased by 20%, to 157 this year, up from 130 last year, university officials said.

This was more than double the number enrolled in 2012.

The number of Pacific students studying medicine increased from 87 last year to 104 this year, and Pacific dentistry student numbers rose from 12 last year to 21 this year.

Prof Crampton said the health division's aim was to ``train the next generation of Pacific scientists, researchers and health professionals'' to help meet the ``health needs of our diverse Pacific communities in New Zealand and in the Pacific''.

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