New HOD Of Health Practice At Ara Now In Place And Gathering Pace

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08 Jul 2020

John Grant, the new Health Practice Department Head at Ara Institute of Canterbury Ltd, has only been in the role for a few weeks but it seems that he’s already feeling quite at home.

John, who is quartered at Ara’s high-tech Manawa campus, had previously taught at Ara part-time within the Bachelor of Applied Science programme, with a focus on disability theory, policy and support practices, and was Chair of the Human Services Advisory Committee at Ara, is bringing over 18 years’ managerial experience to his new role.

“Given the size of the organization and the various parts that make up the organization, it’s a bit of a challenging proposition to get around to learn all the different systems and processes. But everyone has been extremely welcoming and helpful; it has certainly made a big difference,” says John, who is certainly familiar with the demands of a complex organization.

He is keen to spend his first months learning as much as he can about Ara and his new Department, while reaping the benefits attached to his “fresh pair of eyes”.

“The first six months really for me are about observing, gathering information, understanding what's going on, gaining some insights into what's working well and why that's working well; as well as where there might be some gaps where there might be some opportunities, and at the same time, building some of those key relationships.”

John is already well aware of the importance of those relationships, saying “Here at Manawa, the approach to how we work is firmly based on partnership and collaboration - none more so than the partnership with the CDHB, so it’s really important to us to explore it further and to see where there are some opportunities to develop more collaborative programs.”

While John steers the Ara Health Practice Department, he is also planning to help to develop the social awareness of the wider health sector in New Zealand.

“When you look at a person's health and wellbeing, it’s determined by the social context, which covers a whole range of things, including employment and housing. In New Zealand  we've got issues of poverty that are, I think, the root cause of a lot of the health issues that we see, so I'm really keen to look at how that's reflected in how we teach, and where might be some room to perhaps further build on this way of thinking.”

In keeping with these ideals, while John acknowledges that there are certainly huge changes on the horizon in the health sector, particularly in relation to technical innovations, he advocates the retention of a human-centred health system.

“From a sociological perspective, the person is at the centre really and it needs to remain fundamentally about the relationship between the health professional and the patient in order for the process to retain the crucial element of humanity.”

He is however enthusiastic about Ara’s own technological capacity within the Department.  “I'm actually having an orientation later in the week to get more of a sense of the technology’s potential for us. With the demand for our courses so high, I'm interested in exploring options that we may have to create more ‘virtual’ work experiences – with the VR technology that we have, there's got to be potential there to integrate some of that into placement training.”

John is also keen to continue the Ara habit of finding synergies between sections of departments and indeed between entirely different departments.  “I'm really excited about opportunities for different kinds of ‘cross pollination’ with ideas flowing between the various parts of the organization.”