Changing Times, A Positive Challenge | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Changing Times, A Positive Challenge

A common theme for all the speakers at the 2022 Pῡkawakawa intakes welcoming pōwhiri seemed to be around adapting to these challenging and changing times. Evident from the very start when the pōwhiri itself had to be moved from Terenga Paroa Marae in Whangārei, to being online at the last minute, due to the change in traffic light setting.

Kaumātua and kuia, University of Auckland and Northland DHB staff and the 24 students, many of whom are connected to Northland already, all tuned in safely from separate portals. 

Head of the School of Medicine at the University of Auckland, Professor Phillippa Poole, helped set up the Programme with colleagues from the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Northland DHB in 2007. Professor Poole said their goal was to strengthen the training for medical students which had come to light and the 2022 students are now also part of that incredible vision.

The year-long Programme offers Year five medical students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in regional and rural health. They spend most of their time at Whangārei Hospital. Then work in integrated care and General Practice (GP) attachments at Dargaville, Bay of Islands, Kaitaia or Rawene hospitals.

Professor Poole thanked both kuia and kaumātua for providing the name, Pῡkawakawa and Northland DHB for supporting the University to adapt the Programme.

She said the University appreciates their relationship with the North, and they will support the region through these challenging times where they can.

She congratulated the students for being selected and said she knew many of them had it in their sights from the start of their studies because, like the University, they see it as the ‘gold standard.

Professor Poole finished with the whakataukī:

Ko te pae tawhiti Whaia kia tata, ko te pae tata whakamaua ka tina.
Seek out distant horizons and cherish those you attain.

Northland DHB general manager Mental Health and Addiction Services Ian McKenzie spoke on behalf of chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain.

He explained that COVID-19 had been a multiplier that has pushed our health system to a new level and said although the pandemic will further test services and communities, we will all come out the other side more knowledgeable and skilled from it.

He emphasised how Northland DHB works with Te Tiriti and within health how that has changed considerably over the last few months—especially seeing Iwi and kaupapa providers and the role of kaumātua, kuia and primary care at the forefront of the response. He believes other health providers and specialist clinicians now need to look at health differently and work in partnership when responding to and working in the community.

Ian said Northland DHB fully supports Pῡkawakawa because it gives students that broader understanding of how to work in health, encouraging students to work collaboratively and engage with the community and community agencies. In the long run, this gives them a better understanding of their role and what needs to be done.

University of Auckland’s Tumuaki and Head of Department of Māori Health at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Professor Papaarangi Reid, told the students as they begin their journey into medicine during these extraordinary times, it may be somewhat difficult, but also an extraordinary time to live, study and teach in Aotearoa.

“There will be great opportunities to learn medicine and about health systems. Not just about the hospital aspects of the health system, but about primary health care, who we’re going to rely on during these times.

“We will all learn about teamwork – and the importance of midwives, nurses, community health workers, whānau and students. Everyone’s tasks will be important in maintaining the health and wellbeing of our whānau.”

She also noted that it is essential for the students to learn about and appreciate the role of Māori health providers and how we do equity – Te Tiriti and make that understanding and collaborative thinking the forefront of their work.

Professor Reid acknowledged the Programme’s new academic coordinator, Dr Aniva Lawrence, who was welcomed to the role just weeks before alongside 17 Year 6 Trainee Interns. 

She said Dr Lawrence’s understanding of primary health systems would be valuable in dealing with the pandemic.

Dr Lawrence is a graduate of the Auckland Medical Programme and works as a General Practitioner, in Whangārei. She has taken over from Dr Win Bennett, who retired after 12 years in the role and said she has big shoes to fill.

She said she has always been interested in mentoring younger doctors coming through and has taught medical students and supervised GP registrars and PGY 2 & 3 placements from the hospital into GP practice over the years and this role would be an extension of that.

“It’s interesting seeing how the medical curriculum has evolved and changed since I was at medical school. Of course, there’s a lot to learn, but its great having that academic aspect and doing something slightly different too.”

Dr Lawrence plans to spend this year building relationships with others teaching out in the community and hospital. One of her aspirations for Pῡkawakawa is to give the students an equity focus and experience this in practice in Northland. She also hopes to provide them with a platform and voice to share and shape their new ideas.

Dr Lawrence mirrored the other speaker’s sentiments about the students being flexible and utilising new technologies for the betterment of the community during these challenging times.

She noted that several of the student’s Pῡkawakawa predecessors have become well-regarded GPs and said the Programme has a legacy of inspiring others into rural practice.

“Our communities will open the door for you, and in their time of need, they will ask the same of you – take the opportunity to help out whenever you can and enjoy this year and what it has to bring to you.”

Kaumātua Te Ihi Tito closed the day, thanking everyone for working together as a team to bring the pōwhiri together, “That this is what will get us through the next part of the pandemic – working as a team with aroha/love.”

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