Fresh concerns are being raised over a lack of ethnic diversity among our future health professionals, with Otago University research showing Maori and Pacific students are still significantly under-represented.
And critics have said the recent changes to the Government's student loan scheme will only make things worse.
A review of this year's second year intake to medical courses at Otago University revealed Maori and Pacific students are low in numbers.
Dean of Health Sciences, Peter Crampton, said he is concerned that their representation across all eight health science degree courses does not mirror society.
"The best training ground in terms of being able to establish rapport and empathy is in fact having lived in and grown up in those communities, that has a big impact on health outcomes," he said.
Medical student Kennedy Sarich said the main barrier for Maori pupils remains a lack of role models.
"It just didn't seem like an option for me, until I met some people in our health workforce who did look like me, who did sound like me," she said.
Year-long bridging programmes to strengthen the science skills of school leavers is one remedy, along with preferential entry paths for ethnic minorities.
But new research suggests it isn't enough.
Across all eight Otago University health professional courses, just over 6% of students are Maori, despite Maori making up 15% of our population.
And little more than 2% are Pacific, compared to the 8% of Pacific New Zealanders.
But the New Zealand Medical Student's Association said any hope of medical school mirroring society has been dashed by the Government's recent cuts to the student loan scheme.
It said imposing yearly maximum entitlements to loans and allowances means graduate entrants and students from poorer backgrounds just can't afford to finish, and may miss out.
"Such short-sighted policies from the Government are making it so much harder for everyone to have a go at doing medicine," said medical student, Johnny Mitchell.
Around one-third of medical school entrants are graduates who face at least eight years of full-time study. But most will now only have access to a student loan for seven years.
"It's going to be impossible for people to come up with $30,000 a year whilst they're doing their advanced learning in medicine," said Mike Fleete from Otago Medical Sudent's Association.
Medical student Dayna Tafatu, said she wanted to study medicine so she can bring her knowledge and skills back to her home community in Nuie.
But she said the prospect of restricted loan access may mean she is forced to "compromise my study in order to find other means of financial support".
However, the Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, believes those fears are unfounded.
"The worst case scenario is there might be some borrowing outside of the student loan scheme in the last year of their study," he said.
"But don't forget that doctors, when they graduate, pay off their student loans much faster."
Joyce said the changes to the student loan scheme will remain under review, to ensure fair access for all.