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Lincoln Nicholls (Ngāti Raukawa) - Medicine (2001, 2003)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

‘If you have focus, can relate to people and work hard – you can be a doctor.’

That’s what two-times John McLeod Scholarship recipient Lincoln Nicholls tries to impress upon young Māori – it’s not all about brains or academic ability. That’s just part of the big picture.

Lincoln believes Māori have the ability to relate to New Zealanders in general, and Māori in particular. He’s ‘happy the med schools are slowly recognising that being Māori brings with it a set of natural skills - being able to relate to Māori and their whānau.’

Lincoln was in his health science year the first time he received the John McLeod Scholarship, and at medical school the second time.

He was surprised to get the scholarship because he thought it would go to someone further along their studies. But he felt extremely honoured. And it re-affirmed he was on the right track in his pursuit to be an active Māori doctor.

‘Receiving awards is an acknowledgement; recognition that all the sacrifices you make and the hard work you put in, the late nights, the assignments – that it all pays off. It’s really nice to get recognition for all that hard work.’

Lincoln said he owes a lot to his grandparents, who brought him up in Otaki.

‘Although they were Pakeha, it was important to them that I kept in touch with my Māori side. They made sure I spent time with my father’s whānau, my taha Māori.’

They also encouraged him to opt into the bilingual class at Otaki College.  Although hesitant at first, Lincoln saw it as an opportunity to learn te reo Māori and Māoritanga, which he knew would serve him well in the future.

Being a doctor wasn’t on Lincoln’s radar until much later in life. Initially, he trained in physical education (PE) before going on to teach at high school for six years. After a stint as a Head of Department, he decided he wanted another challenge.

Lincoln chose medicine because it built on his knowledge of human biology and his interests in health and well-being. He felt he could make a difference as a Māori doctor.

Once he entered medical school, he taught fellow students te reo Māori me ona tikanga because he was aware that having knowledge in things Māori would help doctors be more effective with Māori patients.  

He said one of the hardest aspects about studying medicine was the time spent away from his daughter, Awarangi, while living in Dunedin.

She was, he said, one of his biggest supporters. A special mention must also go out to Awarangi’s mother, Elizabeth, who provided the primary caring role for Awarangi. This enabled Lincoln to pursue his studies in medicine.

The tautoko and encouragement he received from whānau, friends, colleagues and tutors continues to motivate him in his work.

Lincoln is in his final year on the General Practice Education Programme and is currently working as a general practitioner for the New Zealand Army.

He is on the board of Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa - Māori Medical Practitioners Association, learning to work at a more strategic level to develop and support Māori medical professionals.

He is also an ambassador for Kia Ora Hauora, a national Māori health workforce development programme. It’s a role that gives him greater scope to promote health as a career to Māori, especially rangatahi.

Looking to the future, Lincoln is considering several options – general practice, sports medicine or perhaps surgery or orthopaedics.

‘The beauty of medicine,’ he said, ‘is that it’s so open with many various specialties and you can do just about anything’.