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Fifty Years Of Mahi – A Milestone For The University Of Otago, Christchurch

‘Kia Mau’ – a call to come together and hold tight to one and all – is the chosen theme to celebrate 50 years of medical education and research excellence this year at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

More than 5000 medical students have completed their medical training at the city’s “health university” in the past five decades, along with several thousand health professional students (in nursing, mental health, physiotherapy, pharmacy, nutrition and radiation therapy) and health research students (masters, honours, PhD, summer students and post-doctoral students).

It’s a history of which Dean and Head of Campus Professor Suzanne Pitama (Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāti Whare) is suitably proud.

““In this our fiftieth year, we will celebrate both where we have come from, how we have grown and flourished, and also pay homage to the dedication and success of those who’ve helped shape our campus and gone on to achieve professional and academic success on the national and world stage.

“It’s fitting that the theme of ‘Kia Mau’ is being used to celebrate our campus in this special year, encouraging us to come together and hold tight both to our history, the exciting adventures we are currently undertaking, and to the future endeavours we aspire to achieve,” says Professor Pitama.

The symbol of this year’s 50th celebrations is the Pākē, a cloak woven by Ngāi Tūāhuriri artist Morehu Henare-Flutey - a taonga supporting and protecting the wearer from the environmental elements of rain, wind and snow.

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“The University of Otago, Christchurch has supported its staff, students and stakeholders through figurative storms and literal earthquakes over the years, resulting in a strong, caring and resilient community of practice.

“Just like the Pākē, our campus has evolved to represent five key values woven together like the strands of the hukahuka leaf, namely; mana whakatupu (leadership); tōtara tū ki te parae (social accountability); mā whero, mā pango (collaboration); ngākau tapatahi (integrity); and aroha ki te tangata (respect),” Professor Pitama says.

It took decades of lobbying for the University of Otago medical school in Dunedin to establish a campus in the Garden City.

Student placements were trialled as far back as 1924, but it took a further 44 years for an external review to recommend the establishment of the University of Otago’s Christchurch Clinical School.

Ratified in 1971, the School welcomed its first cohort of medical students in 1973, with Professor George Rolleston appointed first Dean of Campus.

There have been six subsequent Deans, with the campus now boasting more than 1500 staff and students.

Alongside this year’s record intake of 126 fourth year medical students, the campus offers a growing number of internationally-recognised courses, including 50 at postgraduate level - the increasingly popular Master of Nursing Science, Bachelor of Biomedical Science with Honours and Master of Public Health courses are just a few on offer.

The campus also boasts acclaimed research taonga, including The Christchurch Health and Development Study, Mātai Hāora – Centre for Redox Biology and Medicine, McKenzie Cancer Group, Christchurch Heart Institute, The March 15 study, CReaTe (Christchurch Regenerative Tissue and Engineering Research Group), the New Zealand Brain Research Group, the Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI) and many more.

The first 50th campus anniversary event to celebrate the milestone takes place this Friday March 10th – an Academic Welcome and communal lunchtime picnic in Hagley Park’s Botanic Gardens.

There will be an evening showcase and civic and shareholder event in June, followed by a series of four public speaker events in July and August revealing the latest research findings on topical health issues, led by our campus “leading lights”. The final event – a staff and student gala evening – will take place in November.

Professor Pitama is looking forward to an exciting year of celebrations ahead.

“We will wear our Pākē every day in the mahi we do, so we can continue to protect and support those on campus and out in the wider community, reflecting on our incredible history and acknowledging the exciting endeavours ahead we aim to achieve.”

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