School of Physiotherapy Associate Dean (Pacific), Cook Islander Charleen Silcock. Photo credit: Michael Lameta - Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)/21101410
The University of Otago’s newest Associate Dean (Pacific) who is of Cook Islands descent is dedicated to achieving better health outcomes for Pasifika.
Silcock began in the newly established role of Associate Dean (Pacific) to the
School of Physiotherapy in July.
her role, Charleen’s focus is to support Pasifika students studying
about making sure our students are okay pastorally and academically, taking
care of them and connecting them to people who can help them.”
is also a broader goal of helping to ensure “our health system mirrors the
diversity in our community”.
it’s about trying to improve the inequity in our health system,” she says.
we’re going to make improvements, we need more Pasifika health workers in our
greater the number of Pacific physiotherapists in the workforce, the better our
services can be accessed by our communities, especially if our clients feel
comfortable and culturally safe.”
students with career opportunities beyond their studies is another priority for
needs to be links between studying and joining the workforce. Once they’ve
finished studying, I want our students to have a network, so they know where to
go from here.”
of Physiotherapy Dean Professor Leigh Hale says this role is crucial not only
in the development of New Zealand’s Pacific physiotherapy workforce but in
advancing Pacific cultural competencies and Pacific health knowledge of all
staff and students within the School.
are delighted to welcome Charleen on board.”
a member of the Pacific Physiotherapy Association (PPA) committee, Charleen is
particularly excited about the relaunch of the PPA, which she hopes will help
form those networks.
PPA connects our community, our schools, and our physiotherapists. It gives
these groups a voice.”
is herself a graduate of the University of Otago School of Physiotherapy. She
worked in a private practice in Wellington and then for the NHS in London.
spent five years at a private practice in Auckland before returning to Dunedin
to work as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at a private practice, which she
continues to do four days a week.
love of studying and learning drew Charleen back the School of Physiotherapy
for postgraduate study.
love listening to the way other people think and connecting with people with a
passion for what they do.”
spent seven years working with sports teams from the Cook Islands before
returning to academia to complete a master’s project in Pasifika rugby and
recently presented her research at Galulue mo le lumana'i: A celebration of
Pasifika Physiotherapy research.
says it is encouraging to see that her colleagues at the School of
Physiotherapy are so aware of the importance of diverse research and are
proactively supporting it.
ties to the Cook Islands, Scotland, Aotearoa, Tahiti and Niue, Charleen feels
strongly about the seminal role that her cultural identity plays in her
practice. She has an increasing awareness of where she is from, and appreciates
the strength in her hands and intuitive touch inherited from her father.
on a cultural journey herself, Charleen encourages her students to engage with
their culture and communities.
“I want my students to learn about where they are from, and how special that makes them.”