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Scholarship winners passionate about Pacific health

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Ruby Alloway Ruby Alloway Ruby Alloway

Bringing together the learnings of their own heritage with a passion for improving the health of Pacific communities unites this year’s recipients of Pegasus Health Pacific Health Scholarships.

Five students studying health were recently awarded 2012 scholarships at a ceremony in Christchurch. They join 27 other Pacific student recipients, who Pegasus has supported in meeting the cost of their studies in medicine, nursing and other health professions since the awards were introduced in 2005.

2012 Recipient Toma Petelo, born and raised in Samoa, is in his final year of a Bachelor of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies. It’s an area the father-of-eight is absolutely committed to, and he currently works as an Addiction Counsellor for CareNZ Alcohol and Drug Service.

"I want to make a difference by educating our people and our communities about the harm that substances can do to us all. To achieve this, we need to have a qualified Pacific workforce specialising in the field of alcohol and other drugs, so that our people get the right support and the right tools to help them to continue to live a happy and healthy lifestyle," he says.

"My studies have already helped me and a CareNZ colleague to develop a specific programme for Pacific people that are coming through our service, and I look forward to continuing to be part of the solution to educate our people, and connect them back with their Aiga and their communities."

Ruby Alloway, born in Christchurch and proudly of Niuean descent, is in her third year of nursing studies. She’s very appreciative of her heritage and experiencing the best of both worlds and cultures.

"This is what has inspired me to want to work especially with Pacific Island and Maori people, so I can promote and help instigate positive health outcomes in our community.Through working with patients on placements, Ruby says she has learnt many things about people.

"Whether it’s where they come from or the struggles they face, it’s the stories behind them that make them unique and special. I find it a privilege to be part of someone’s life, even if it’s just for five minutes, knowing that you can make a difference, whether big or small."

The other three scholarship recipients this year are studying medicine.

Christchurch-born Jamie Hunter Ioane, of Samoan descent, is in his sixth year of study at The University of Auckland. Growing up with parents active in community and voluntary work has given him a greater understanding of Pacific Island community needs and concerns.

"It has also helped me become more of a community-minded person."

He intends to head into general practice, with a special interest in neurology.

"I strongly feel that through medicine I will be able to help those in the Pacific Island communities by being about to relate to them better through knowing the culture and customs and being of Pacific Island descent.

"I am committed to medicine, and endeavour to be a good role model for our Pacific youth."

Fellow Medical student Rhys Fa’avae also descends from Samoa. The fifth-year student has taken valuable lessons and inspiration from his father’s central role in the Samoan community.

"I am fortunate to have learnt from his leadership and supportive approach to learning, as well as an appreciation and understanding of Samoan culture and heritage."

Rhys’s priority is to develop a community-based approach to tackling cardiovascular risk for Pacific peoples.

"Helping Pacific people to really love their body and health, as much as they do their family, as well as helping them see the real value in returning to traditional, pre-colonial style Pacific diet is central to this approach."

He’d also like to spend five years working in Samoa at some stage after graduating.

"I see this as a ‘must-do’ to be able to fully understand the challenges facing Pacific people’s health in New Zealand."

Of Fijian descent is fourth-year medical student Kavitesh Karun Deo, who holds a strong interest in surgery. On graduating, he hopes to undertake postgraduate surgical anatomy training.

"I aim to eventually relocate to Christchurch where I can pursue my dream of working with the Pacific community, who have been the backbone, support and driving force to all my achievements.

"As a young member of this potentially thriving community, I feel it is my duty and responsibility to help in any way I can, and hopefully find solutions to up-lift their current health situation."

Pegasus Health Chair Dr Martin Seers says the awards are part of Pegasus’s commitment to workforce development as a key way to advance Pacific health in the community.

"As well as the financial assistance, recipients receive mentoring, support, and opportunities to connect with primary care. We’re proud to be able to assist recipients of these scholarships in furthering their careers, and realise their dreams of making a contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of Pacific people.

"We’re always excited to watch these motivated, inspiring people forge their own path in various ways across the healthcare environment, and connect with people through having cultural understanding."

Along with the Maori Health awards, introduced in 2000, Pegasus Health has awarded scholarships totalling more than $200,000 in the past 12 years.

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