Dr Elana Taipapaki Curtis

Iwi Affiliations: Ngāti Rongomai, Ngāti Pikiao, Te Arawa

Finalist: Te Tupu-ā-Rangi Award for Health and Science


A Māori health expert is leading a raft of initiatives that have been credited with a record number of Māori and Pacific graduate doctors from the University of Auckland in 2016.

Dr Elana Taipapaki Curtis is Director of the University of Auckland Vision 20:20 programme and has operationalised a number of quality improvement measures to ensure the focus, outcomes and consolidation of the three component projects:

  • Whakapiki Ake Project or WAP (Māori recruitment);
  • Hikitia Te Ora – Certificate in Health Sciences (bridging/foundation education); and
  • Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme or MAPAS (admission and retention support).

At the university’s graduation in late 2016, Māori and Pacific medical students made up about one fifth of the 215 doctors who graduated from their six years of training. The 46 medical graduates included 28 who identified as Māori, 14 as Pacific, and four as Māori and Pacific.

Dr Curtis is leading several research projects that focus on improving the teaching and learning environment to improve outcomes for Māori and Pacifica students. A number of key indicators of student engagement, performance and retention have been improved as a result of her leadership.


Dr Elana Taipapaki Curtis is a public health physician currently working as Senior Lecturer Medical at Te Kupenga Hauora Māori at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at Auckland University.

Her areas of expertise include Māori health; kaupapa Māori research and indigenous positioning; indigenous health workforce development; tertiary recruitment, admission, bridging/foundation education and retention for Māori and Pacific students; and ethnic inequities in cardiovascular care, breast cancer and emergency department care.

Dr Curtis teaches in foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

She has been a board member of the Māori Medical Practitioners Association, Te ORA, and has held governance roles relating to indigenous health in the New Zealand Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

Distinction and honours in 2015 included the National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award (Kaupapa Māori Category) from Ako Aotearoa and the Ministry of Health’s Hauora Māori Scholarships (Post-Graduate Excellence Award).

In 2004-2005, Elana was a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy based at the University of California in San Francisco and investigated ethnic disparities in breast cancer mortality and survival.

Prior to this, she worked at the National Screening Unit at the Ministry of Health in Wellington where she investigated Māori and non-Māori disparities in breast cancer epidemiology.

At Te Ropū Rangahau Hauora ā Eru Pōmare – Māori Health Research Centre at Otago University, she also looked at the ethnic disparities in access to invasive cardiovascular procedures/caesarean sections and the relationship between disparities and deprivation.

Elana recently submitted her Doctorate of Medicine which focused on indigenous health workforce development.

Dr Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Auckland and medical school and is committed to providing a quality pathway for indigenous students who want to make a difference in indigenous health.

Her approach is firmly based around ‘evidence-based best practice’ and she believes that equity in the health workforce is an important part of achieving equity in health outcomes.