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Pegasus Health Announces Scholarship Winners

Media release 7th August 2008

Pegasus Health Announces Maori and Pacific Scholarship Winners

Three Maori and three Pacific students studying for health care careers have received scholarships from Pegasus Health, one of the country’s leading GP groups, at a ceremony in Christchurch.

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

Pegasus Health has invested more than $226,000 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, and to make general practice more accessible for all.”

Maori Health Scholarships were awarded to allied health student Jennifer Reid, nursing student Tania Hooper and fifth year medical student Kiri Wicksteed.

Diploma of Public Health student Kathy Culshaw and nursing students Liliola Toma and Fonofili Taefu Pearce received Pacific Health Scholarships from Pegasus Health this year as well.

Profiles of two of the winners:

Having more Pacific people within the health industry makes all the difference

Liliola Toma, a second-year full time nursing student and mother of seven, says the award is a welcome addition to the family coffers, especially with her now sacrificing a salary to enable her to study.

“Everything has gone up – shopping, food, heating in winter, and with seven kids, any help makes a huge difference.”

Liliola was working as a health promoter at Pacific Trust Canterbury when she made the decision to go to nursing school – but really, the motivation came much earlier.

“My younger sister passed away, and nobody knew she had heart problems. And I thought ‘I’d like to study cardiology’ – something I’m now planning to specialise in.”

“Pacific people are over-represented in health statistics, especially for cardio-vascular diseases. They are more likely to open up to someone from their own culture than somebody they consider to be ‘different.’”

Juggling family life and study means time is tight for Liliola.

“It can be quite stressful and very busy – and sometimes I don’t have enough time to study – I study at the last minute. But I think I might be blessed with a very good memory.”

Maori health professionals have a lot to contribute.

Third year nursing student Tania Hooper came to nursing relatively late, but says she had been interested in a career in health since high school, spurred on by what she saw as the unmet needs amongst her whanau – especially in the hospital system.

“I’d see some of the ways that Maori were judged just because they were Maori. They were seen as somehow less compliant and less knowledgeable than other people. It actually kept them from seeking health care a lot of the time.”

“I had a great GP, though – and that’s why I wanted to do primary care. Later, when my marriage broke down I wanted a career that would make me get up in the morning. Something that was fulfilling, where I could give something to the community and make a difference.”

Tania says Maori health professionals have a lot to contribute.

“Maori understand how Maori families work. I’m very fair and a lot of people would think ‘oh, she doesn’t look Maori’. But I was brought up that way, and I understand how the family dynamics work and the little idiosyncrasies – how Maori people think.”

Tania sees a range of factors that influence the low levels of Maori entering health professions at every step along the way.

“There’s often a very low intake of Maori students into training courses at the start – and of those who do go through, probably less than half will make it through to graduation, because they usually have a lot more outside influences. They are usually a bit older and have children already.”

Tania is doing her bit to encourage future generations of Maori students to consider careers in the health professions.

“My son’s high school was looking for role models, so invited all of the parents of Maori students to come along. I got up and said that we should be encouraging our children to aim a little bit higher, encourage them to consider a career in nursing. And I challenged the school to start setting them up at a school level – so that by the time they finish, they’d already have a lot of the science background they need behind them.”

Tania has an interest in providing diabetes and cardiac care in a primary care setting “…because they’re very prevalent amongst the Maori population. My son was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so now I have a personal passion, too.”

Tania says her Pegasus Health Maori Health Scholarship means a lot.

“I’m a single parent with three children, so it all helps. The money will go to things like textbooks, and I have the registration exam coming up at the end of the year – that’s $200. And a lot of travel costs.”

“It means I can buy books instead of going to the library and getting books out. Some students will be there until nine o’clock at night, but with childcare issues and things like that I just don’t have that time available.”

“I think the scholarships are a fantastic innovation for a group like Pegasus to do. Once there was a time you became a nurse, you worked in the hospital for ten years and then you might have gone practice nursing. Pegasus is very dynamic. They’re changing the way health care is delivered. They’re a forerunner.”


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