Happy to be wear­ing a mor­tar board again

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - JOHN GIBB

AF­TER fit­ting thou­sands of Univer­sity of Otago grad­u­ates with their pre­grad­u­a­tion mor­tar boards, Re­becca Hard­ing will wear one her­self to­day when she grad­u­ates from the univer­sity.

Miss Hard­ing, an as­sis­tant re­search fel­low at the Otago depart­ment of women’s and chil­dren’s health, fit­ted all those mor­tar boards as a Fed­er­a­tion of Grad­u­ate Women Otago branch vol­un­teer over the past three years.

When she be­gan, her fel­low vol­un­teers were strangers but, over the years, they be­came more like fam­ily mem­bers.

‘‘It’s nice to have the fam­ily back to­gether.’’

And it was par­tic­u­larly mean­ing­ful when fel­low vol­un­teers helped to fit her for her own mor­tar board and re­galia on Thurs­day evening.

The prospect of grad­u­at­ing again her­self, with a PhD, was be­com­ing real, and she felt ‘‘pure ela­tion’’ about it.

She al­ready has a BSc in psy­chol­ogy from Otago.

Had all that pre­vi­ous fit­ting work helped her own prepa­ra­tions?

‘‘I think it’s a lit­tle eas­ier in a way be­cause I know what it should feel like [wear­ing the mor­tar board and re­galia]’’.

For some peo­ple less fa­mil­iar with the process, some of the tech­ni­cal­i­ties could make pre­par­ing for the big day ‘‘quite a be­wil­der­ing ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

Some­times, she only saw a grad­uand for about 30 sec­onds, as their mor­tar board was be­ing fit­ted, ‘‘but I feel as though I’ve been part of their jour­ney’’.

For three hours yesterday, she con­tin­ued fit­ting other graduands with their mor­tar boards, as usual.

When asked about her PhD, Miss Hard­ing said diet, ex­er­cise and sleep were tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered ‘‘the three pil­lars of health’’, but less re­search at­ten­tion had been given to sleep than to the other ‘‘pil­lars’’.

Her PhD re­search had of­fered a ‘‘re­gional and a na­tion­wide per­spec­tive’’ on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween ‘‘sleep­ dis­or­dered breath­ing and aca­demic per­for­mance’’ in New Zealand chil­dren.

‘‘A lit­tle­known fac­tor that may in­flu­ence chil­dren’s learn­ing is dis­turbed sleep, re­sult­ing from snor­ing or blocked air­ways dur­ing sleep, termed sleep dis­or­dered breath­ing (SDB),’’ she said.

A key mes­sage from her re­search was that when chil­dren pre­sented with learn­ing problems, screen­ing and pos­si­ble treat­ment for SDB should be con­sid­ered.

THE lat­est grad­u­at­ing Univer­sity of Otago med­i­cal stu­dents will this morn­ing re­cite for the first time an up­dated oath which in­cludes an un­der­tak­ing they will at­tend to their own health as well as that of their pa­tients.

Otago Univer­sity has its own oath, which draws on sev­eral sources, in­clud­ing the Hip­po­cratic Oath, which is re­cited at a cer­e­mony on the morn­ing of grad­u­a­tion.

The lat­est Otago oath for grad­u­at­ing MBChB stu­dents in­cor­po­rates sev­eral up­dates, in­clud­ing an un­der­tak­ing they will at­tend to their own health as well as that of the pa­tient.

This self­pro­tec­tive pro­vi­sion was adopted into the Dec­la­ra­tion of Geneva—the mod­ern ver­sion of the Hip­po­cratic Oath— by the World Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion last year.

This pro­vi­sion has been pro­moted by for­mer Otago med­i­cal stu­dent Dr Sam Ha­zle­dine in re­sponse to con­cerns about wide­spread burnout in the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.

Last year Dr Ha­zle­dine, of Queen­stown, suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned for a change to the Dec­la­ra­tion of Geneva.

The pe­ti­tion was signed by more than 4500 Aus­tralasian doc­tors, and he said a large US study showed 87% of doc­tors were stressed or suf­fer­ing from burnout.

There was a con­sul­ta­tion process over the up­dat­ing of the Otago oath, and stu­dents will re­cite it for the first time to­day.

PHOTO: PETER MCIN­TOSH

On board . . . Re­becca Hard­ing (27) is look­ing for­ward to wear­ing her own mor­tar board as she pre­pares to grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Otago.

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