Maori pathway critics 'playing blame game'

Tiana Mihaere.
Tiana Mihaere.
The Otago University Medical Students' Association says students who criticise the university's Maori Entry Pathway have lost sight of the bigger picture, as some Maori students claim racism has been directed at them by their peers.

The pathway allows Maori first-year health science students who meet a range of criteria, such as academic outcomes, commitment to Maori health and verified whakapapa, to obtain a place in medical school. Once there, they are required to sit the same exams and reach the same standards as other students.

Third-year medical student Tiana Mihaere told RNZ yesterday she had been told on many occasions the pathway was wrong and unfair.

''I remember being in the dining hall one time and some girl was having a moan about how unfair the pathway was and it was just real blatant, dumb-arse racism.''

While people accepted the pathway once they were told why it was there, people still used it as an excuse for not getting into medical school.

OUMSA has a Maori students' group, Te Oranga Ki Otakou (Toko), which declined to comment on the RNZ article.

However, OUMSA president Chris Wang told the Otago Daily Times that for first-year health sciences students, it was ''easy to play the blame game'' and lose the bigger picture.

It was ''a privilege and not a right'' to serve the population, he said. ''The purpose of healthcare is serving people to better their wellbeing and reduce suffering [through] medicine or through other means.''

Division of Health Sciences Associate Prof Jo Baxter acknowledged health sciences could be a ''difficult and challenging'' course.

''It is unfortunate that some Maori students have received negative feedback from others.

''However, in recent years, the poor health outcomes for Maori have been well documented and there is a greater understanding of why we need more Maori people in the health workforce.''

The university's ''Mirror on Society'' policy aimed to ensure medical graduates reflected New Zealand society, and covered other special categories such as students from rural areas.

Third-year Maori medical student Alexandra Dempsey said in her experience, staff and students were ''very welcoming'' and a lot of support was available.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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