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Original Research

The Northland Regional-Rural program (Pūkawakawa): broadening medical undergraduate learning in New Zealand

Submitted: 16 June 2009
Revised: 30 November 2009
Published: 1 March 2010

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Author(s) : Poole P, Bagg W, O'Connor B, Dare A, McKimm J, Meredith K, Shulruf B, Reid P.

Phillippa PooleWarwick BaggBarbara O'ConnorJudy McKimmBoaz ShulrufPapaarangi Reid

Citation: Poole P, Bagg W, O'Connor B, Dare A, McKimm J, Meredith K, Shulruf B, Reid P.  The Northland Regional-Rural program (Pūkawakawa): broadening medical undergraduate learning in New Zealand. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1254. Available: (Accessed 20 October 2017)


Context:  Medical schools in Australasia are using a range of initiatives to increase the number of graduates working outside major centres. This article describes the design, implementation and selected outcomes of the University of Auckland’s regional–rural program, Pūkawakawa. The program is based on a ‘hub and spoke’ model located in Northland, New Zealand, an area of 150 000 people with a high proportion of Māori and relative social deprivation.
Issue:  A 27 week curriculum for 20 volunteer year 5 students was developed in collaboration with stakeholders. The curriculum had three main attachments: integrated care and general practice; women and children’s health; and secondary care. These were designed to promote better continuity with patients and supervisors, and a greater likelihood of a rural career. Funding for Pūkawakawa came from existing government grants with a contribution from the Northland District Health Board. A mixed-methods evaluation of the first year was conducted.
Lessons learned:  Staff and students reported high levels of satisfaction with the program and students performed at an academic level similar to their standard-program counterparts. Early reservations related to the experience of supervisors with assessment standards, and the resourcing required to maintain academic equivalence across sites. It is too soon to detect whether students’ career aspirations are altered as a result of Pūkawakawa. Areas for future study include student preparedness for later stages of training, career destination, how students learn in this environment and the benefits to the Northland region more broadly.

Key words:  Indigenous, Māori, medical curriculum, medical education, New Zealand, regional health, rural medical school, student assessment.

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