One of the country's first Maori general surgeons says he hopes his success in his chosen profession has encouraged young Māori to see that it is possible to get into medical school, graduate and practice medicine as a specialist.
Associate Professor Jonathan Koea, Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Mutunga, was recently recognised for his contribution to Māori health with an Indigenous Health Medal from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons at its conference in Perth.
Another New Zealand surgeon Professor Patrick Alley was also recognised.
Dr Koea who specialises in oncology and hepatobiliary surgery said Māori or Pasifika now made up to between 10 and 15 percent of medical graduates, which was a significant achievement.
He said when he was at medical school in 1982 there were about eight Māori and Pasifika students in his class, and now there are between 20 and 40 each year in the country's two medical schools.
"The number of Maori kids now coming into medicine and graduating close to or at the top of their classes I think is absolutely awe-inspiring and is probably not something that is paralleled in any other indigenous population around the world."
Dr Koea said the increase reflected a shift in the expectations of Māori parents and their ability to have their children educated.