A positive impact on health inequities

4 April 2018

Rebecca Doherty and Jakob TenetiWhen Jakob Teneti graduates from medical school in 2023, he wants to be a “people’s doctor” back in his community of Gisborne.

The 19-year-old, in his second year of a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Auckland, hopes to work as a GP (general practitioner) or specialise as a paediatrician.

“I see those areas as probably the best way I can make an impact on my community. As a GP you are working with such a wide range of people, and as a paediatrician, you are working with the youth.

“I feel that’s where I would make the most difference, compared to a surgeon where you would get hardly any patient-doctor interaction.”

But working in health wasn’t always something Jakob wanted to do.

“Originally I thought I’d be an architect or a physiotherapist.

“It wasn’t until Year 12 that I was introduced to Whakapiki Ake.”

The former Gisborne Boys’ High School student said it was his careers adviser Maria Jefferson who made him aware of the group and enrolled him in a camp they hold, called MASH.

The Whakapiki Ake Project is a recruitment programme that actively engages with Māori enrolled in secondary schools to promote health as a career and entry into the faculty of medical and health sciences professional programmes.

“At that camp, they really push for young academic Māori who wants to make a positive impact on the health inequities and poor health statistics in our community.

“That was a driving factor in my decision to be a health professional.

“I always knew I wanted to make a difference and help people but I wasn’t sure I was capable of being a doctor.”

The people involved in Whakapiki Ake also encouraged him and gave him the confidence that he could do it.

Jakob said he was relieved to get through the first year, as it was very competitive. It is at the end of that year when students learn whether they have reached the standard required to carry on.

Jakob remembers going to the Careers Expo as a student. “It was really important to show people, especially in Gisborne, who are not aware of all the opportunities out there in terms of work and professions. The Career Expo really opens your eyes to what is out there.”

If there was any advice he would give to high school students it was, “learn to study” and “learn to love to learn”. “At university, if you don’t learn how to study you can really fall behind. Also, if you don’t love what you’re learning, and are not passionate about it, it makes it hard. Because it is hard enough being away from home so if you are not doing something you love it makes it even harder.”

Pictured are Rebecca Doherty and Jakob Teneti, University of Auckland Medical students both from Tairāwhiti.