Relate to ethnic health professionals lost to other countries
Zade Al-Ali is now in his fourth year at the European University of Cyprus. Photo / Provided via RNZ
By Soumya Bhamidipati from RNZ
New Zealand could lose various young health professionals to other countries.
Ethnic communities say it is common for children of immigrants to study medicine and dentistry abroad. For some it’s the lure of bigger places and broader horizons, while for others it’s the limited number of places in New Zealand universities.
Zade Al-Ali studied health sciences in his first year at the University of Otago, but was unable to attend the dental course there, despite his good grades.
He is now in his fourth year at the European University of Cyprus. He said he was one of many who had to make the trip.
“There are a lot of people who when I was studying in Otago who I thought were very capable and very intelligent individuals and it’s quite sad when they’re not accepted,” he said.
“A lot of people are very capable of becoming doctors and dentists.
“Once you get the degree, it kind of transforms you into being the practitioner you want to be.”
Arush is studying medicine at the University of Leeds in the UK. Like Zade, he had to move to pursue his professional aspirations.
“I would say it’s more difficult in New Zealand just because New Zealand only has two medical schools, so the number of people applying for medical versus the number of places available is much more competitive in New Zealand than here,” he said.
The Department of Ethnic Communities was aware of this phenomenon, particularly among New Zealand Indians wishing to study medicine.
But chief executive Mervin Singham said there was not enough data.
“One of the challenges we have in this space, as generally with ethnic diversity, is the lack of statistics that give us an accurate picture of who’s coming, who’s leaving, how many, and why.”
He said it was clear there were limits for people wanting to study fields like medicine in New Zealand.
“The important thing is that we have a diversity of workforce in the health sector, and I would say in the health sector in particular, because it is so essential to the well-being of people,” said he declared.
“And I know that ambition is shared with the Ministry of Health and the health sector in general.”
In a statement, the Dental Council said it has not collected information on second-generation New Zealanders who have immigrated overseas to pursue dental education.
The Medical Council said it was not aware of this group going overseas to study medicine, but noted that New Zealand had one of the highest proportions of doctors trained in the foreign to the world, at 41.5%.
And while Te Whatu Ora said he was aware of the trend, he only tracked the number of practicing doctors, not the number of applications or where they came from.
So why this trend among children of immigrants in particular?
Arush said this could be due to cultural values related to education and the type of immigrants allowed in New Zealand.
“Our parents had to struggle a lot to leave India to come to New Zealand, so the selection pressure was quite strong to bring those who are very well educated into the country and I believe that carried over into our childhood. and our education.”
He and Zade eventually want to work in New Zealand.
Te Whatu Ora said priority would still be given to people trained here, but several recently announced initiatives would help internationally trained professionals.
He would also be looking at options for more clinical placements, alongside the Department of Health and the Higher Education Commission.
The agency said there were no plans to change the number of dental students as they were not on the skills shortage list, but this would be reviewed in 2023.