The number of Maori doctors remains low in spite of special admissions schemes for Maori at both the Otago and Auckland medical schools.

While Maori comprise some 15% of the New Zealand population, less than 2% of doctors (195) on the New Zealand medical register identify as Maori. A survey of Maori doctors and medical students attending the 1998 conference of Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA, the Maori Medical Practitioners Association) has highlighted those factors that impact on success for Maori at medial school. Students and doctors attribute their success to personal ambition, hard work and to the support of their Maori classmates and their whanau (extended family). Not surprisingly they attribute the failure of their peers to complete medical studies to the absence of these same factors.

Reports on special admissions schemes in other countries have highlighted additional factors which can increase the recruitment, retention and graduation rates of minority students, such as the provision of a team-based learning environment with additional academic support, leadership training, and the provision of mentors. Although some of these activities have been implemented in New Zealand, none has been evaluated to date.