The School of Clinical Sciences and the Alumni team recently hosted an intimate evening celebrating the success of the Doctor of Health Science programme – now the largest health professional doctorate in Australasia.
Alumni and current students had the opportunity to network and hear from AUT's Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Kath McPherson, Head of Programme – Professor Duncan Reid, and the outgoing Programme Leader – Professor Liz Smythe who's been instrumental to the programme's success since its inception in 2003.
With its distinguishing feature of having a clear focus on both practice and research, Liz reflected on why the Doctor of Health Science is so important to AUT, "It's the very ethos of what AUT is about, which is working with people in the real world of practice to help them find ways to enhance practice. Yes, they do research to get there but it's not about research for the sake of research, it's about making health experiences better for people."
Current student Cynthia Otene, who graduated from AUT 13 years ago and now practices as a Clinical Podiatrist in Northland, echoes Liz's sentiment, "I knew the Doctor of Health Science had a focus on clinical practice and creating change within practice. I want to provide evidence of improved, innovative ways of practice for better health delivery."
But it's not just the merits of the programme that brings people together. A common theme evident among guests are the lasting connections they've formed during their studies.
"We had a really tight cohort as we went through, and it was such a great support and network in building friendships," says alumna Johanne Egan, who has been working as an Emergency Medicine Doctor at Waitemata DHB for nearly 20 years and graduated with a Doctor of Health Science in 2018.
Head of the School of Clinical Sciences, Peter Lamar agrees it's awesome to see. "Because our candidates do three papers before they start their thesis, they develop a real connection. To see that synergy continue when they've finished the programme, and when they've gone onto their normal career development after the completion of their doctorate is very satisfying."
When asked to pinpoint her biggest highlight, Liz is quick to say it's the students, "They're amazing. They're already leaders although they sometimes don't know that. They come in and they blossom and they thrive, and they do wonderful research, and they often go on and do really impressive things – it's great!"
Most fittingly, Liz's final words in her inspirational address were to the Doctor of Health Science alumni and current students:
"I salute those of you who have done or are doing the Doctor of Health Science.
You are taking the time to dwell with such questions.
In growing such wisdom, you become even more inspirational than you were the day you arrived.
May each of you journey in a way that keeps the questions rolling over in your thinking and being.
Be you. Be authentically you. Live life in a way that frees you to become even more amazing. Never doubt the gift you are to those around you. Thrive!"