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Doctoring results for Māori

Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship recipient Chekodi Fearnley-Fitzgerald just joined a growing number of Māori healthcare professionals motivated to drive better health outcomes for their people.

When Chekodi graduated last year with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (Distinction), she joined the very few healthcare professionals that identify as Māori.

She is the first doctor in her whānau and was motivated to pursue medicine, in part, by the lack of diversity in the health workforce.

“I grew up never having a Māori doctor or nurse, or someone who understood our tikanga, culture and way of living,” says Chekodi.

“I want to see a health workforce that mirrors the people we serve, and with only 4.4 percent of clinicians in Aotearoa being Māori I want to be an active advocate in growing this number.”

A diverse range of health professionals, delivering culturally appropriate care, can address some of the bias and inequity resulting from the colonisation of Aotearoa, Chekodi says.

Her approach is different from non-Māori practitioners, in that she combines a kaupapa Māori, values-based approach with evidence.

“Having a solid foundation in te ao Māori, I believe that tikanga, whanaungatanga and the use of te reo should be better integrated in the day-to-day care of our patients.

“I honestly believe 90 percent of the job of being a doctor is being able to form and promote connections with our patients and their whānau, our community as a whole, and working together effectively as a healthcare team.”

While she’s the first doctor in the family, she’s not the first with a desire to serve.

Her tīpuna Manga Putere was also a compassionate man – he fought in WWI and also received a Royal Humane Society Award for an act of bravery in 1924.

Grants like that of the Māori Soldiers Trust are - alongside the support of whānau, iwi, kaiako and the wider community – instrumental in the success of tauira Māori, Chekodi says.

University is time-intensive, demanding and expensive, says Chekodi, and she encourages all Māori studying to apply for scholarships like this to ease the pressure.

“The Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship allowed me to fully immerse myself in my studies and give 1000 percent effort into learning and becoming the best doctor I can be for my patients, without having the financial pressures of the basic necessities of living and studying while at university.

“I will be eternally grateful for the support the Trust has given me and I encourage any Māori university student to apply.”

Pictured above: Chekodi at her graduation in 2023. 

Sir Āpirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship is a tertiary education scholarship that support Māori students, in remembrance of those Māori that fought in WWI. To find out if you are eligible and get an application, go to Applications close May 1.



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