Liane Topham-KindleyTuesday 06 December 2016, 9:59AM
Te Puna Kaitaka members Renee Spriggs, Anja Mulder, Ashely Howell, Tayla Tuhikarama and Hemi McKechnie. Photo Rewa Pene
A group of Maori pharmacy students at Otago have
established Te Puna Kaitaka, the Maori Students' Pharmacy
Kaiarahi (Maori leader) within the school, Lisa
Kremer, says it is something the school has been wanting for the
the past few years and with 17 Maori students currently, there are
the numbers and enthusiasm to do it.
Final-year student Tayla Tuhikarama (Tainui) from
Christchurch was the inaugural tumuaki (president) of the
association, which formed this year. When she began her studies
there were not enough Maori students to form an official group; she
is delighted this is no longer a barrier, with increasing numbers
of Maori students studying pharmacy.
"Whakawhanaungatanga [building relationships and
getting to know each other] is a real focus for us, so we have good
working relationships in the future," Tayla says.
"This is what we wanted as an association. Previously
we knew each other, but we never had a forum to do everything
Maori Pharmacists' Association affiliate member Dee
Isaacs gave the association its name, Te Puna Kaitaka, based on the
core values of the Maori pharmacy students - academic and social
support, inclusive for all Maori pharmacy students irrespective of
their whapakapa journey, commitment to Maori health and dedication
to the pharmacy profession.
At the association's first annual meeting in October,
Tayla stood down as president and Ashley Howell (Ngati Rangi), who
is originally from Gisborne, replaced her. Hemi McKechnie
(Ngapuhi), from Whangarei, is tumuaki tuarua (vice president); Anja
Mulder (Tainui), from Paraparaumu, is kaituhi (secretary); and
Polly Browne (Ngati Kahungunu) of Wairoa is kaitiaki putea
Ashley says the number of Maori students studying
pharmacy is small when compared with medicine.
"We are trying to entice people to come into
pharmacy; we're coming up with a few ideas like open nights and
visiting the halls of residence to talk to students."
Polly enjoyed the support from the team at the Maori
Centre, when she was studying first year health sciences and says
she was inspired to study pharmacy when meeting Maori pharmacist
Leanne Te Karu.
She hopes Te Puna Kaitaka will be able to develop
relationships with other Maori student health groups, such as
medicine and dentistry.
Ashley says the association is keen to work with
other professions. "We want to grow together and make
connections with other groups."
All of the students and Ms Kremer are also members of
the Maori Pharmacists' Association.
Hemi recently returned to his high school, Kamo High
School, and spoke to an assembly about his experiences at Otago
University and the School of Pharmacy.
Hemi is well aware of the poor health statistics of
Maori and he believes having more Maori health professionals will
help improve the situation.
"I definitely think it will have an impact on that
[helping to reduce health inequalities].
"We are going to be role models to our community and
helping our whanau and that's definitely going to help."