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N Z Med J. 2012 Feb 10;125(1349):37-45.

Training medical students in Pacific health through an immersion programme in New Zealand.

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  • 1Pacific Health, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.



Medical schools are required to adequately prepare students to work in increasingly diverse and multi-ethnic societies. Students need to be able to integrate clinical knowledge with an understanding of the society they live in. Pacific peoples are a disadvantaged migrant minority ethnic group in New Zealand. This paper discusses the development of, and lessons learnt from a Pacific Immersion Programme for medical students at the University of Otago, New Zealand.


A cultural programme was developed where fourth-year medical students spent a week-end with a local Pacific family in Dunedin. Students were invited as part of the programme evaluation to provide feedback on their experiences and lessons learnt. Student evaluations were analysed and are reported here in summary form.


Medical students were able to learn from observations, participation in activities and stories shared by families about issues that influenced the health of the community. This provided insight about factors that are important to consider, when working with Pacific peoples in New Zealand. The programme also provided positive benefits for the local community.


This cultural immersion programme provided important learning opportunities for medical students. It is important to value and empower communities when developing cultural teaching programmes. The incorporation of the programme as part of the curriculum, and its implications for overall assessment and performance of students, makes it a valued part of learning.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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