On Saturday, 76 Māori graduands from the University of Otago’s health professional degrees will cross the Dunedin Town Hall stage.

The graduating cohort includes 40 Māori doctors, 13 Māori physiotherapists and five Māori pharmacists.

Dentistry also as the highest number of Māori ever graduating from the dental school including seven dentists, five oral health graduates and two doctors of Clinical Dentistry. Plus 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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