The number of University of Otago Māori health professional graduands has climbed to an historic high.
On Saturday, 76 Māori graduands from Otago’s health professional degrees will cross the Dunedin Town Hall stage. It will be the largest cohort of Māori health professionals to graduate from Otago.
The graduating cohort includes 40 Māori doctors, 13 Māori physiotherapists and five Māori pharmacists.
Dentistry has special cause for celebration as the highest number of Māori will be graduating from the dental school including seven dentists, five oral health graduates and two doctors of Clinical Dentistry.
Furthermore, graduating on Saturday in absentia is Dr Rob Mane, who is continuing his training towards becoming the University of Otago’s and New Zealand’s first Māori Maxillofacial surgeon.
Dr Mane, of Ngapuhi descent, says it is a great time to reflect on those who have given support.
“I am grateful for the opportunities I received while doing my qualification at Otago,” Dr Mane says.
“I also want to thank everyone including my family and friends who helped me succeed in gaining my qualification.”
The milestone will celebrated at Te Heika Pounamu, the University of Otago’s pre-graduation ceremony for Māori students on Friday at the Otago Business School.
A number of dignatories are expected to attend the ceremony on Friday, including iwi and University Council representatives as well as Health Minister and Dunedin North MP, Dr David Clark.
One of the graduands, Dr Abbey Corbett, is the country’s first Māori student to obtain a Doctor of Clinical Dentistry in Paediatric Dentistry.
Dr Corbett, of Ngapuhi descent, says she is looking forward to the big occasion.
“My family and I are excited to support and celebrate with the large number of students and their families attending Te Heika Pounamu this year,” Dr Corbett says.
“It is always a very special event that we feel lucky to be able to take part in.”
Following graduation, Abbey will be working with the Canterbury District Health Board as a Specialist Paediatric Dentist. The role will see her return to where her dental career began as a dental house surgeon in 2012.
The University’s Māori Health Workforce Development Unit (MHWU) Programme Manager, Zoe Bristowe, says it is an historic graduation that will have a widespread positive impact on New Zealand’s health workforce and communities.
“It’s inspiring to know that many of these graduates will make a significant difference to Māori health,” she says.
“Much of the growth we are currently seeing is due to the longstanding relationship between Otago University and the Ministry of Health, we are grateful for their continuous support and encouragement.”
Held the day before each graduation ceremony, Te Heika Pounamu is an opportunity to honour the outstanding achievements of tauira Māori throughout the university.
Among those graduating over the course of the following two graduation ceremonies is Te Tumu lecturer Dr Tangiwai Rewi (Waikato, Ngāti Tipā, Ngāti Amaru, Ngāti Tahinga), who will receive her PhD on 12 December.