In yet another first, Leanne Te Karu has become the first Māori woman, and first pharmacist, to deliver a speech at an Otago University Health Sciences Graduation. On the 7th December 2018 Leanne stood in the Dunedin Town Hall to address the Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Medicine (except MBChB), Postgraduate and PhD graduands who, along with their whānau, were gathered to celebrate the culmination of years of hard work. Whilst acknowledging this hard work, Leanne asked the students to reflect on the privilege they had in being able to attend University and gain a degree. An undergraduate degree is a privilege afforded to less than 1% of the world’s population and she asked that students use this privilege for the greater good – that they consciously apply an equity approach in the work they will continue to do in the health sciences.
Leanne applied the analogy of Polynesian voyaging to the learning and future journey of graduates. She discussed the leadership of Polynesian navigators through the application of traditional knowledge of environmental sciences to guide the journey of their people and likened this to students learning the sciences at university and now being called on to apply these learnings in the ‘real-world’ environment. Leanne urged those present to be intentional in their future ‘voyages’ in healthcare “You have had the privilege of tutelage from a world-class university… apply that tutelage to the greater good”.
Sitting proudly in the audience were four of our Māori Pharmacists’ Association members who graduated with their Bachelor of Pharmacy degrees that day. Congratulations to Tayla Cadigan, Brittany Hessell, Illie Kaka, and Renee Spriggs. These graduates will be undertaking internships at various sites across Aotearoa next year and we wish you all the best in continuing your voyage as health professionals.
Leanne’s speech is a call not only to these graduates but also to the wider pharmacy profession and health professionals in general. I urge you too to reflect on your professional journey to date, recognise your privileged position and consider and equity approach in all aspects of your work.