A Christchurch urologist says racist comments he made at a conference in Queenstown diminished the mana of a Mori man who was present but the incident resulted in a journey of reconciliation.
Peter Davidson, 63, said he took part in a debate at an Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand (USANZ) conference in November 2020 about whether Mori mens reluctance to undergo a digital rectal examination prevented them from being screened for prostate cancer.
I hugely regret those comments and if I could take back those five minutes, believe me I would.
Hamilton-based regional Mori health manager Rawiri Blundell was the only Mori person in the audience of about 200 people, and filed a complaint following Davidsons comments.
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Blundell’s complaint stated Davidson said many Mori were in prison and could not access screening but this should not be a problem as there is so much rectal probing, so they could do their own examinations.
Blundell, who is a member of Mori cancer group Hei huru Mwai, was scheduled to present on his work supporting Mori men with prostate cancer and their whnau immediately after the debate.
Urologist Peter Davidson says his comments at a conference in Queenstown were hurtful. He is pictured here with Stuff reporter Lee Kenny for a story on prostate examinations.
Davidson said on Friday he realised his comments had been harmful as soon as Blundell got up to give his presentation.
I dont set out to hurt or offend people. The reality of this is that I did, and I guess firstly I reduced the mana of a Mori man in the room and I didnt really understand concepts of mana.
The bottom line is those comments were considered offensive and I think, correctly so, and I accept that.
Davidson said he apologised to conference attendees and Blundell but, realising this was not enough, he arranged to meet with him in Hamilton.
The pair met for an hour and Blundell explained how Davidsons comments were harmful. A restorative justice hui facilitated by Hei huru Mwai followed.
From my perspective I think he was taking in what I had called out in terms of racist comments, Blundell said of the meeting.
He said the conversation and hui was challenging but necessary, and he hoped they would lead to changes for Mori patients at an organisational level as well.
Change happens with the movers and the shakers within the system and if it doesnt come from the top then were going to struggle to influence change.
Davidson said he agreed at the hui to work on his unconscious bias over the next 12 months.
He had since signed up to a basic te reo Mori class and had started a course at Otago University aimed at improving the way health practitioners work with Mori.
The course involved readings and podcasts including the book White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DeAngelo, and had helped him understand links between individual and organisational bias, Davidson said.
Ive had a privileged life. Ive never considered myself racist but actually with that privileged life … there is … bias and unconscious racism thats existing there.
That is probably part and parcel of the institutional racism that weve talked about a lot with [Hei huru Mwai] about.
Davidson has agreed to present at the 2021 USANZ conference about his experience and learnings.
It’s been a huge journey.
He said his experience had already changed his practice as a urologist and particularly his approach with Mori patients.
You never, ever think of yourself as being racist but understanding the importance of a connection particularly with Mori patients at the start of a consultation is something that is already in place.
Davidson said he was extremely grateful to Hei huru Mwai for its constructive approach to the incident and praised its work to reduce stark inequities in cancer care and outcomes.
This group have been trying to address that, and I have immense sympathy for the task ahead of them.

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