'Trust has been eroded': Meeting to discuss med school admissions

The historic Scott Building which is part of the University of Otago, Dunedin Medical School. Getty
Otago University Medical Students' Association president Anu Kaw said students were distressed about the way the university had been handling the issue. Photo: Getty Images
University of Otago senior leaders have agreed to meet with students who requested urgent discussions about the way students are selected for medical school.

The meeting with vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne and other leaders is set to happen on September 29, following weeks of debate about behind-the-scenes discussions that could result in changes to the way some groups are given priority entry for second-year medicine at Otago.

Leaders of a collective of medical student associations wrote an open letter to the university, asking for a Zoom hui and that university leaders publicly affirm their commitment to the Mirror on Society policy.

The policy aims to help create a health workforce more reflective of New Zealand society's make-up by giving priority to students from minority groups such as Maori and Pasifika.

However, the university is considering limiting those priority pathways, which have recently become the way most students get into second-year medicine at Otago.

The student representatives said that, as future health professionals, they were deeply concerned about suggested changes to medical school admissions regulations associated with the Mirror on Society policy, "as well as the attitudes of those presenting them".

"We wish to make it known that we, as a student body, oppose a cap being imposed on the number of applicants that can enter medicine through any of the five Mirror on Society categories of Maori, Pasifika, rural, low socio-economic and refugee."

University leaders have been at pains to point out suggestions in discussion documents - including that preferential pathways should be capped - do not amount to a formal proposal for change.

The university is also facing a legal challenge relating to the way admissions to the medical school were managed this year and health sciences pro-vice-chancellor Paul Brunton has now confirmed this was considered when the documents were drafted.

Otago University Medical Students' Association president Anu Kaw said students were distressed about the way the university had been handling the issue.

"That sense of trust has been eroded."

The medical collective has asked for written confirmation about what the consultation process for reviewing preferential pathways will involve.

It wants the university to acknowledge discourse about the issue has been hurtful and caused distress for many students.

The collective is seeking answers about the rationale for possible changes.

"What is the goal of any changes to be made, given that the current policy is working successfully?

"Why has there been a sense of urgency to make this change, and why has this subsequently been denied publicly?"

Otago University Students' Association academic representative Emily Coyle said the association supported the stance taken by the Otago medical students' collective.

"The university has been vocal in its commitment to the Mirror on Society policy but OUSA calls on the university to align its words and actions when it comes to these proposed changes."

The University of Otago has been approached for comment.


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We need the excellent students to become excellent doctors based on their abilities not on where they come from or who they are.

Why would our best, most capable, most studious, most dedicated from other ethnic or nonpreferred groups even bother with trying to gain entry into NZ universities if they are competing for an unknown, ever decreasing, number of places?
Australian universities are not that far away, their standards are better than ours, their facilities are better than ours and ongoing opportunities are greater.
Marxist madness will demean not only the universities global standing but also that of our health system.
Universities need to focus on their core business of excellence though merit NOT social justice via favouritism based ethnic origin or social class.

You're being monomaniacal.

Marx is buried deep in Highgate (London, not Maori Hill).

You're objection to diversity is reactionary. Like it or not, this is the thing: through no fault of their own, 'European' doctors represent a colonising power. Some cultures are more comfortable with their consultant of choice.

Patient centred, not an ideological matter.

If that is the case maybe maori shouldnt rely on colonialist medicine and science ?? Afterall it does represent colonialism

The problem with trying to achieve equality through outcome (as in this case (ie through social reconstruction) rather than opportunity is that it will magnify and perpetuate problems that currently exists between racial groups in this country. If the goal is to have the best doctors serving our communities, otagos current policy will not achieve this goal as its not a numbers game ultimately. The pacific islands where im from is made up of culturally different people. To be consistent, shouldnt entry also be divided along island groups or iwi demographics? Why not go all the way and also divide along hapu or village demographics? Where do you draw the line? Polynesian nations are invariably christian nations. We believe in the same set of values and teachings. Jesus Christs standard of character cant be bent to suit a culture for whatever reason. The last time i checked, the same values are also found in many of our worlds cultures summed nicely in the 'golden rule'. Point is, decent doctors will work effectively in ANY cultural environment. To suggest that island people are 'better' served by island doctors betrays the christian beliefs they claim to live by.

Unfortunately everyone has biases - a doctor could think that they're moral, open minded, and would treat everyone equally, but this is rarely the case. Their up-bringing and experiences shape how they perceive and interact with people, whether they realise it or not, and it inevitably affects the care they give to people.
This discrimination has been studied extensively in many countries, including NZ. Just google "healthcare bias" and you will confronted with the sheer volume of information/research on this subject.
The medical school understands this issue, and their goal is to not only reduce and/or expose these biases through education and exposure to other cultures/religions/ethnicities, but to also understand that bias is inevitable, and that certain communities and individuals will be better served by doctors better understand them and harbour have fewer biases against them.

One people one country.Entry to university based on race is discrimination.You have the qualifications for university.that's how you gain entry not on race.

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