Media Release - Pūkawakawa Medical Student Programme Celebrates 10 Years | Te Whatu Ora - Te Tai Tokerau

Media Release - Pūkawakawa Medical Student Programme Celebrates 10 Years

A relationship, the first of its kind between a medical school and a health board is celebrating their tenth anniversary on Sunday 15 October 2017.

Twenty Year 5 medical students began living and learning in the Northland region in February 2008 and the University of Auckland Medical School, Northland DHB and the past and present students are celebrating 10 years of this unique medical training scheme at Toll Stadium.

The Pūkawakawa programme was a new initiative for the University of Auckland Medical School made possible by additional  Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery funding received in 2006 and close collaboration with the Northland District Health Board.

“There is no doubt that the programme has strengthened the links between Northland DHB, The University of Auckland and primary care,” offered chief executive, Dr Nick Chamberlain.   

Medical school students are based at Whangarei Hospital for two thirds of the year and spend the other third at district hospitals in Kaitaia, Bay of Islands, Dargaville and the Hokianga.  The students experience working with GPs in outpatient settings and GP led hospitals, as well as a range of community health expert practitioners.

The number of places in the Pūkawakawa programme has increased from 20 to 24 per year and each year more than 50 students apply.  Positions in the programme are fiercely contested.  

Students are selected on the basis of their interest in regional or rural medicine.  The competition for places reflects the popularity of the programme with students recognising the great learning environment Northland provides.

Medical Graduate Dr Rachael Windsor, daughter of Professor John Windsor shared some thoughts on her placement in Northland on the Programme.

“It was one of the most formative experiences of my life. I was humbled by the unquestioned hospitality and kindness I was shown throughout the year and was also struck by the many stories of heart-break, abuse and poverty. These stories have put faces to the negative social, economic and health statistics that are true in many regions of our country, including Northland.”

It was anticipated that the Pūkawakawa programme would assist with long-term medical staffing in Northland, especially in the peripheral areas of the district, by allowing students to develop their own links with these areas and experiencing the type of work they would carry out in those settings.  

Over the ten years 211 students have been through the programme and 20 percent have returned to Northland as junior medical staff.

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