A third medical school proposed for New Zealand

17 October 2016

A third medical school for NZ

A third medical school is being proposed for New Zealand at the University of Waikato.

A third medical school has been proposed for New Zealand at the University of Waikato.

The new Waikato Medical School will be a community-engaged, graduate entry medical school based in the Waikato and at regional clinical education sites in 12-15 locations throughout the central North Island.

The medical school is being proposed in response to health workforce shortages, and in particular shortages of primary care doctors and specialists in provincial and rural centres and hospitals which, given the expected pattern of retirement of doctors practicing outside the main centres, these workforce shortages are expected to worsen in the future unless a new medical school is created.

The medical school is being proposed as part of a strategic alliance between the University of Waikato and the Waikato District Health Board which aims to ensure a close alignment between medical education and health workforce needs in the central North Island.

The medical school will focus on selecting graduate students who are committed to meeting the health care needs of New Zealanders living outside the main centres (in small cities, provincial towns and rural areas), and in particular high-needs communities.

During their education, students will be trained in the use of new technologies for providing health care and will gain practical experience of community-based health and social service partnerships.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says that with only two medical schools, New Zealand currently has one of the lowest ratios of medical schools to population in the OECD and very limited diversity in approach to medical education. New Zealand is the most heavily dependent OECD country on overseas-trained doctors, each year importing 1100 doctors to meet medical workforce shortages.

“Based on any of those comparators New Zealand should be well advanced in developing a third medical school, and against Australian and UK standards we would already have a third medical school and be considering a fourth.”

A business case for the medical school was presented to government today (17 October).

Waikato DHB Chief Executive Dr Nigel Murray says a new medical school in New Zealand will go a long way towards addressing the needs of provincial communities, and will “put the patient at the centre of healthcare.”

“In our region we have many people with high health needs who have difficulty accessing healthcare and have poor health outcomes. We have an aging medical workforce, a preference for part-time work among GPs and a reliance on overseas-trained doctors. This medical school will address our region’s workforce shortages and community health needs by producing doctors who will be able to use the latest advances in technology, and will be more representative of the communities we serve.”

Professor Quigley says the University’s partnership with the DHB will yield direct results for the community. “Combining our strengths and resources will help grow and strengthen both organisations’ teaching and research in health nationally and internationally,” he says. “The partnership will strengthen our regional economy by attracting research development funds and world-class teaching and research staff, which in turn will improve the health of Waikato communities.”

Professor Quigley says the new medical school would be an alternative to Auckland and Otago’s medical schools but would complement their offerings.  “We are following a widely accepted and successful model currently in use in Australia, Canada and other developed countries by focusing on community-engaged medical education. This is an approach to medical education that will help us train a new breed of doctor.”

University of Waikato Professor of Population Health Dr Ross Lawrenson says the Waikato Medical School is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to develop a programme to create a new sort of doctor equipped with new ways of working that help address the health needs of our communities. “With a new programme we can work with community partners, including Māori, to change the way we select students, the way we teach them, and importantly, change the settings in which they learn.”

Te Kuiti GP Dr Keith Buswell says this type of medical training means students gain greater exposure to rural and community practice, which makes them more likely to want to work in those settings once they’ve graduated.

“We regularly have medical students work in our practice in Te Kuiti and they often comment that it’s one of the more rewarding aspects of their training,” he says.

“They enjoy working in a community-based practice where they get exposure to a wider range of health conditions than they do in a hospital.”

The strategic alliance formalises the research and teaching relationship between the DHB and University. Other features of the partnership include:

  • Combining infrastructure, labs and financial resources to increase world-class research, education and training
  • A Postgraduate Certificate in Management – Health Management and Leadership, a 10-month programme for health professionals to enhance their management and leadership skills
  • The future development of a centre of innovation in virtual health, including the application of training to medical students
  • Enhanced recruitment and retention of students and teaching staff through the offering of flexible, shared and adjunct employment opportunities

For more information on the proposed medical school, see the website: