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Pegasus Announces Maori and Pacific Scholarships

Media release, 17 December 2007

Pegasus Health Announces Maori and Pacific Scholarship Winners

A father of three who took the leap and enrolled at medical school on being made redundant from his truck-driving job is one of six recipients of this year’s Pegasus Health Maori and Pacific Scholarships.

Fifth year Christchurch School of Medicine student Eli Leckey received his Pegasus scholarship at a ceremony in Christchurch recently. The scholarship will be a welcome supplement to his only income at this time – a student loan.

“My wife and I would like to show our three boys that you can achieve goals and that education is very important,” says Eli.

“Many Maori do not get the opportunity to go to university – my mother and father never went, and neither did my brothers and sisters.”

“I struggled at school, left at the end of the fifth form and was expected to go on to become a farm worker, work in the mines or do some other labouring job. Now my children talk about going to university. I’m changing my life, not only for me, but also for my family so they can also become what they want to be.”

Eli plans to work in rural health on graduation in 2008 and following his house surgeon years.

“The number of Maori doctors in rural areas number less than 1% of the total doctors in New Zealand. Growing up in rural areas, I have seen the impacts of this first hand.”

Pacific nursing students, Sereima Cokanasiga and Fonofili Taefu Pearce, and Maori nursing students, Lisa Silk and Kressy Bryant, along with medical student, Kiri Wicksteed, also received scholarships from Pegasus Health this year.


About the Pegasus Health Maori and Pacific scholarships

The scholarships were established in 2001 to encourage young Maori and Pacific Island students to train to work in the health sector.

“While 16% of New Zealand’s population is Maori, just 2% of its general practitioners are,” says Pegasus Health Managing Director Dr Paul McCormack.

“Pacific people make up 7% of our population – yet only 1.5% of our GPs identify as being of Pacific descent,” adds Dr Api Talemaitoga, a Pegasus Health Pacific GP.

“The figures for nurses and allied professionals would be similar – and it’s an issue right across the health sector.”

Dr Matea Gillies, a GP who sits on Pegasus Health’s Maori Reference Group, says that encouraging young Maori and Pacific workers to train as doctors, nurses and allied health professionals not only opens the doors to new careers for those who might not otherwise consider them, but can remove barriers for some patients.

“There are lots of barriers to people accessing health care, but having the option of seeing someone of the same culture can sometimes mean the difference between visiting a health professional and not.”

“When they do see a health professional, some people will respond quite differently to a person of the same culture than they would somebody from another. I know that in my practice there are patients who will tell me things they wouldn’t otherwise disclose because they know I am Maori.”

Dr Talemaitoga says that being sensitive to individual cultural barriers can make all the difference.

“We ran a ‘buddy’ programme recently to try and encourage Pacific women to undergo cervical screening – friends made appointment for women to get screened and attended the appointments too. It made all the difference to have that support.”

Tagaloa Su’a, Manager of Tangata Atumotu Trust, agrees.

The trust is one of a number of Pacific providers in Christchurch delivering mobile nursing and health promotion services to Pacific people. It is an accessible and culturally effective service set up to address barriers to accessing health care.

“The service began because of the huge demand for Samoan nurses to provide free care to sick people in the community after they’d finished working their ‘day jobs’ in hospitals. The project started out as the Samoan Nurse Association, but soon went pan-Pacific.”

Tagaloa says while there is clear demand for Pacific health workers across the board, supply remains light.

“There are shortages right throughout the sector – we need nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, physios, counsellors, the whole lot.”

“What Pegasus is doing is fantastic – they are taking a very responsible attitude towards the problem, and initiatives like the scholarships and Pegasus’ wider Pacific initiatives really do help.”

“As well as helping financially, the scholarships make young people aware that they have a choice. They begin to see that a career in health is an option.”


Pegasus Health has invested more than $200,000 in the scholarships programme over the past six years, and more again into cultural education programmes for its practice teams.

“While there are excellent services targeted specifically at Maori and Pacific patients, by far the majority of care is still provided by general practice doctors and nurses,” says Dr McCormack. “All of our practice teams have the opportunity to undergo education programmes to help them better understand the individual needs of these groups.”

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The winners

Maori Nursing Scholarship Winners

o Lisa Silk of Ngati Kahungunu descent is in her final year of studying towards a bachelor of nursing degree at CPIT

o Kressy Bryant of Nga Mahanga Otiri and Te Ati Awa iwi is in her second year of nursing training

Maori Medical Scholarship winners

o Kiri Wicksteed, of Tuhoe Whakatohea and Tuwharetoa iwi, is a 4th year medical student

o Eli Leckey, of Ngati Porou and Nga Puhi 5th year medical student at the Christchurch School of Medicine

Samoan Nursing Scholarship Winners

o Fonofili Taefu Pearce, of Samoan descent

o Sereima Cokanasiga, of Fijian descent, in her second year of a nursing degree at Otago Polytechnic

Other Pegasus Health Pacific Initiatives

The Pegasus Health Pacific Scholarship programme is part of a wider range of initiatives aimed at improving services for Pacific people.

Workforce development is a key plank of the Pegasus Health Pacific Health Strategy, which addresses some of the barriers to Pacific people accessing general practice services.

The strategy has two key aims:

o That every Pacific person is enrolled with a general practitioner
o That Pegasus Health members provide Pacific-friendly services.

A Pacific Reference Group provides strategic advice to Pegasus Health to enable organisational planning and management that are culturally appropriate and responsive to the health needs of Pacific people as well as providing input into Pegasus Health service development.

This group also facilitates communication between Pegasus Health and Pacific primary care providers.

Members of the group, which is chaired by Pegasus GP Dr Api Talemaitoga, include:

o Representatives from each of the major Pacific health provider organisations (Pacific Trust Canterbury, Tangata Atu Motu)
o The Pacific representative on the Pegasus Health Community Advisory Board
o The Managing Director of Pegasus Health
o A Pegasus Health Board of Directors representative
o General practice representative with a particular interest in Pacific health issues
o Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs representative
o Pegasus Health Pacific project manager.


About Pegasus Health

Pegasus Health is a registered, not-for-profit charitable company
supporting general practice teams in 94 neighbourhoods.

Each Pegasus Health member practice is an independent business
that chooses to be part of the Pegasus family and shares the vision
of improving the health of the community we serve.

We support our practice teams with the following activity streams:

- Our education and patient services support practice teams every day in caring for 296,000 patients
- Our cultural education programme helps them better care for Pacific patients
- As an MSO (Management Services Organisation), we deliver projects, on behalf of Partnership Health Canterbury Primary Health Organisation, designed to improve or maintain the health of Christchurch and Selwyn patients and broaden the range of community based services available to them
- As workforce issues begin to impact on the communities we serve, we are working on projects to stem the worrying trend of patients not being able to access general practice services when and where they need them
- We run the Pegasus Health 24 Hour Surgery – one of New Zealand’s few remaining dusk-to-dawn medical practices – ensuring that our community has access to GP care no matter what the time of day or night
- We advocate on behalf of our patients to maintain a well-funded, effective primary health care system to ensure they get care when they need it
- We undertake projects to enhance the skill base and infrastructure of general practice to ensure the highest quality care for patients.

--

Kressy Bryant

“The health system so desperately needs Maori health professionals.”

Nursing student and Pegasus Health Maori Scholarship winner Kressy Bryant grew up surrounded by people working in and around the health field – and even though it took her some time to commit to both her own nursing training and her Maori heritage, she’s never looked back.

“Mum has worked as a nurse since I was five years old and our neighbour was a nurse too. Dad works as an environmental health officer – so I am surrounded by health, really.”

However, it took a frustrating stint working in a low-functioning dementia unit for Kressy to take the leap into nursing training.

“We had a very high turnover of registered nurses, and each one would give us a different set of instructions and belittle the previous nurse’s work. I got really sick of it and thought the only way to really find out what is right is to become one.”

Kressy only recently embraced her Nga Mahanga Otiri and Te Ati Awa Maori heritage, having been brought up in a European family.

“My mother is Maori, but was adopted out as birth. When I finally met her birth family, I felt at home for the first time – ever.”

Just two years into her nursing training, Kressy says just 80 of her original class of 130 remains – with only a handful of Maori students.

“Of those just three ‘look’ Maori, etc. There are a few others who identify as being 1/35th Maori, that kind of thing. But so few who would put their hand up and say they’re Maori.”

Part of that, Kressy says, is the fear that not having te reo skills makes them somehow ‘lesser’ in terms of their Maori heritage.

“I was quite iffy about even applying for the scholarship at first,” says Kressy, “because I don’t speak Maori and therefore don’t feel 100% Maori. Another girl I encouraged to apply said she felt like it was wrong, like she was abusing the system because she had been labelled as a plastic Maori in the past by other Maori for her lack of knowledge about her heritage.”

Kressy says it’s time to move on from the idea that a person needs to live and breathe it in order to take pride in their heritage.

“We need to accept that there is a broader range of people who identify as Maori, beyond those who speak the language. The health system so desperately needs Maori health professionals.”

Kressy says the scholarship money will make all the difference to her studies – and her life.

“It might not sound like much money to most people – but it’s the most money I’ve seen in a long time. It’ll buy me a laptop and make the work so much easier. Before this I’ve had to go into polytech after hours to get things done, sometimes until three or four in the morning – I couldn’t afford a taxi home, so I used to find it quite scary walking home in the early hours.”

“The laptop will mean safety and security – it’s a great feeling.”

--

Kiri Wicksteed

“Hopefully this will encourage other Maori students to get involved in heath…”

Fourth year Otago University medical student Kiri Wicksteed was one of four Maori students to receive a Pegasus Health Scholarship at a ceremony in Christchurch recently.

“There is a real shortage of Maori doctors for Maori people so it is an honour to be recognised as a Maori student going through medical school. Hopefully this will encourage other Maori students to get involved in health,” says Kiri.

A love of sciences led Kiri to university four years ago but it was an open day at Otago Medical School that really sealed the deal. “Since starting my medical training I have not had one days regret.”

“The statistics are not good for Maori health. I don’t think this is going to change overnight but if we get more Maori doctors working in Maori health it will go a long way to making improvements long-term.”

“There are still many cultural barriers out there that need to be broken down – many Maori people don’t trust the health system. We need doctors and nurses who understand the needs and cultural background of Maori – this is where we will see big changes in attitudes,” she says.

Kiri belongs to both the Tuhoe Whakatohea and Tuwharetoa iwi. “I grew up in Christchurch but my whanau is from the North in Opotiki and Ruatoki.”

After three years training Kiri is excited to have embarked on her practical training.

“This year we are starting to come face-to-face with patients – this is what it’s all about and it has been really affirming of my decision to become a doctor.”

Kiri has not decided what field of medicine she will practice when she graduates, saying that she wants to get experience before she makes any firm decisions.

“The scholarship has really taken the pressure off for this coming year – instead of having to get a job on top of school I can really concentrate on my studies.”

“The scholarship does mean more than just money though – the support we get from Wendy Dallas-Katoa and everyone else at Pegasus Health is outstanding,” she says.

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Lisa Silk

“…encouragement that you are doing something as a Maori student that is worthwhile…”

Lisa Silk (Ngati Kahungunu) says the money from her Pegasus Health Maori Health Scholarship will make a difference to her at an individual level, but the difference it could make on a wider scale is just as important.

“Winning the award is important to me because it is encouragement and acknowledgement that you are doing something as a Maori student that is worthwhile. But more than that, encouraging young Pacific students into health can potentially make a difference beyond their own lives to other individuals, families and communities.”

Lisa is in her final year of nursing studies at CPIT, so she has had plenty of opportunities to work with patients.

“I think Maori clients do identify with me quicker than they might non-Maori health workers. It helps build a rapport faster and that is always a good thing.”

Lisa says she chose nursing as a career partly as a result of her own personal experiences – both good and bad.

“My own experiences with different health workers were not always nice. However, I have also met some great nurses who were inspiring, and I was able to see through them how nursing can create change and make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

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Eli Leckey

“I’m changing my life, not only for me, but also for my family so they can also become what they want to be.”

A father of three who took the leap and enrolled at medical school on being made redundant from his truck-driving job is one of six recipients of this year’s Pegasus Health Maori and Pacific Scholarships.

Fifth year Christchurch School of Medicine student Eli Leckey received his Pegasus scholarship at a ceremony in Christchurch last week. The scholarship will be a welcome supplement to his only income at this time – a student loan.

“My wife and I would like to show our three boys that you can achieve goals and that education is very important,” says Eli.

“Many Maori do not get the opportunity to go to university – my mother and father never went, and neither did my brothers and sisters.”

“I struggled at school and left at the end of the fifth form and was expected to go on to become a farm worker, work in the mines or do some other labouring job. Now my children talk about going to university. I’m changing my life, not only for me, but also for my family so they can also become what they want to be.”

Eli is of Ngapuhi and Ngati Porou descent. He plans to work in rural health on graduation in 2008 and following his house surgeon years.

“The number of Maori doctors in rural areas number less than 1% of the total doctors in New Zealand. Growing up in rural areas, I have seen the impacts of this first hand.”

--

Sereima Cokanasiga

“Nothing would ever deter me from this path, but to win a scholarship for doing what I love is just Christmas.”

After helping nurse her grandparents and watch them struggle to get proper care through the Fijian health system, Sereima Cokanasiga knew she had to do something.

“That was my defining moment – I knew then and there I wanted to be a nurse, to do my bit to make improvements to the health system. I told myself that I couldn’t just stand by and let things fail – I needed to be an advocate.”

Sereima is in her second year of her nursing degree at Otago Polytechnic and received a Pegasus Pacific Health Scholarship in Christchurch recently. The scholarship will go a long way to helping Sereima pay for course related and travelling expenses.

“The scholarship is a real achievement for me. I came here from Fiji in 2004 knowing that I wanted to become a nurse and work in the Pacific community and this has given me a real boost.”

“We need more Pacific health professionals working in the community. At this time there are very few Fijians working in the community.”

“We need a good mix of all Pacific cultures to run Pacific community health and ensure the health messages are getting out to the right places. A good example of success in this regard would be the recent cervical screening programme – this illustrates what we can do when people come together,” she says.

Sereima is one busy nursing student – she is also doing a course on childcare and community as well as working part-time as a caregiver for the elderly.

“This certificate is great because it is really giving me the good basics for community care across all levels – childcare, the elderly and disabled.”

“I love what I do – I really believe I was born to look after people. Nothing would ever deter me from this path but to win a scholarship for doing what I love is just Christmas,” she says. “Nothing would ever deter me from this path but to win a scholarship for doing what I love is just Christmas.”

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