Harvard Medical Exchange Student Examines Maori Identity
Friday, 25 July 2008
A Harvard University medical student spent time in New Zealand recently to study ways in which links might be identified between Mäori cultural identity and better mental health.
(via Massey University) Stephen Pomedli, who spent time at Massey University's academy for Mäori research and scholarship, Te Mata o Te Tau, last year as part of an exchange programme, had an article called Cultural identity and mental health published last month.
He says the exchange programme, funded by Harvard Medical School,was a valuable opportunity to learn, compare, and contrast the experiences of different cultures and consider the similarities as well as differences between indigenous peoples.
“Te reo Mäori, for example, is unique to, and distinct within the Mäori world, and thus may be especially useful in evaluating certain aspects of cultural identity,” Mr Pomedli says.
“In terms of the Mäori language, I proposed that it may be interesting to quantify language ability in te reo Mäori and see how this correlates with subjective experience in terms of individual satisfaction with one's participation with the Mäori cultural world, ultimately to see if this putative correlation impacts mental health indicators.
“One of the most interesting things that I learned from my time at Massey relates to the dynamism of the Mäori culture, and the way in which Mäori culture has adapted and continues to adapt to the multitude of forces from without and within. It was fascinating to hear about, read about, and consider how these forces have shaped the culture in the past, and how Mäori continue to reassert their core values in new ways within the 21st century context, and still retain tangible ties to the values of the ancestral culture.”
Mr Pomedli is 24 years old and is in his second to last year of medical school at Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts. He is currently completing a psychiatry clerkship at Mclean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.
Te Mata o Te Tau Director, Dr. Te Kani says he was impressed with the depth of Mr Pomedli's analysis of cultural identity and how this could be measured.
“While his paper stopped short of establishing a link between culture and positive mental health he did raise a number of important points for consideration and highlighted the complexities involved with measuring identity in a contemporary context.” Says Dr. Te Kani.