May 14, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Scholarships encourage Maori seeking careers in Health

5 min read

The Maori and Pacific scholarships, awarded in Christchurch recently, aim to encourage more Maori and Pacific students into the health-care workforce. Over the past eight years, scholarships have been given to 42 students, totalling more than $130,000.

Pegasus Health Chair, Dr Martin Seers, says while this is a significant sum, the scholarships are about much more than providing financial aid.

PegasusHealthF“It’s great to assist people in a practical way to allow them to carry on with their studies. But it’s also about providing support and encouragement to Maori and Pacific people thinking about entering the health professions.”

He says the scholarships are designed to lead to improved health services for Maori and Pacific people.

“Pegasus Health has long recognised workforce development as an essential element in progressing both Maori and Pacific people’s health.

“As an organisation we are committed to the outcome of more Maori and Pacific people working at the coalface in the provision of health care – this will enrich the health culture and provide a greater range of services to our patients.”

The scholarships mark the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the Pegasus Health family for these high achievers.

“Recipients are provided with mentoring, support and opportunities to connect with primary care – which enables them to gain an insight into the way general practice and community health care works.”

This year, Pegasus Health Maori Health Scholarships were awarded to fourth-year medical student Mercedes Burnside, fifth-year medical student Tesa Porter, third-year nursing student Tracey Crofts, and second-year nursing student Jade Blokker.

Pegasus Health Pacific Health Scholarships were awarded to third-year nursing student Liliola Toma, second-year nursing student Elena Moevao, public health student Terisa Tagicakibau, and mental health student Malu Tulia.

Profiles of some of the winners: Busy mothers triumph at Pacific scholarship awards

Women who are adept at juggling busy schedules to meet study commitments and fulfil long-held career ambitions, dominate this year’s Pegasus Health Pacific Health Scholarship Awards.

Mother of seven and post-graduate public health student Terisa Tagicakibau, became aware of the health needs of Pacific people when she was given the health portfolio at the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

“It made me realise that more needs to be done to address disparities in New Zealand’s health system,” says Terisa.

“Pacific people are experiencing illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes at an increasingly younger age. We need to work on this now if we want the next generation to be healthier.”

Terisa believes if more Pacific people worked within the health sector it would greatly improve the health of New Zealand’s Pacific communities. She says the Pegasus Health scholarships are a step in the right direction.

“These scholarships are an avenue to allow our people to realise their ambitions within the health sector.

“To me, it is an acknowledgment of what I’m doing, while the financial assistance takes away some of the stress which is an enormous help to me and my family.”

Meanwhile, Malu Tulia has successfully completed a National Diploma in Mental Health – in spite of the challenges associated with studying in the early hours of the morning.

“It’s the only time and the quietest time for me to study,” says Malu. “After I’ve finished work, I’ll cook tea and will spend some time with the children. Once I’ve finished all my chores I generally don’t start my studies until one in the morning.”

Malu works at the Pacific Trust Canterbury as a Community Support Worker, where she’s striving to raise Pacific people’s awareness around mental health.

“Our people don’t want to discuss mental illness because they don’t understand it.

“In Samoa they call mental illness, ‘vale’, which means stupid or dumb. But after I’ve explained it, families feel much more comfortable to access the support their loved ones need.

“This experience made me realise I wanted to continue my studies at university, so I can go on to become a psychologist to help Pacific people more in this area.”

Malu is pleased to receive the extra help and support the scholarship provides.

“I was overjoyed to receive the award, it’s helping me to reach my dream. I’m proud of myself, and it feels good to be setting a good example to my children.

Maori winners are an example to all

This year’s Pegasus Health Maori Health Scholarship recipients include two medical students who see the importance of succeeding to become role models for other young Maori.

Fifth-year medical student Tesa Porter, looks forward to the day when she can offer patient consultations in fluent Te Reo. Unfortunately, with few Maori working in general practice, Te Reo is not an option for most patients.

“Speaking Te Reo makes an enormous difference to building better relationships with Maori patients,” says Tesa. “There is evidence to suggest that Maori working with Maori has a significant impact, leading to better treatment outcomes.”

Tesa would like to encourage more Maori into primary care, as she says this would reverse the trend for Maori to be over-represented in health statistics. She says key to achieving this is to have more Maori general practitioners and practice nurses.

“The scholarships are so important because they promote primary care. If more Maori can form a relationship with their GP, then health professionals have the opportunity to intervene before hospital care is required.”

Fourth-year medical student, Mercedes Burnside is every bit as passionate about the positive difference that she can make as a Maori medical professional.

“Knowledge is power and with it comes the ability to be a positive role model to other Maori students.

“In this Pakeha-dominated health system, the scholarships are an important way to draw more Maori into health care.

“Along with helping to relieve some of the financial pressures, the scholarships give you the sense that your hard work is being recognised. They are something to strive for as Pegasus provide ongoing career coaching, which makes such a difference.”

Source: Pegasus Health; Voxy

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