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Raewyn Paku (Ngāti Kahungunu) - Medicine (2005)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

Raewyn Paku was seven when her Nan died from pancreatic cancer. According to her family, that’s when she announced she was going to become a doctor to find a cancer cure.

While her focus may have changed along the way, her journey into medicine did not.

 Having received a Hauora Māori Scholarship each year as she studied for her Bachelor of Human Biology, Raewyn applied again in 2005 when she started her Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery.

She was aware of the John McLeod Scholarship but thought it was only for ‘the ones who really excelled in their field’.

So the award came as a big surprise.

‘It was always an honour to receive a Hauora Māori Scholarship,’ said Raewyn.

‘It’s an added bonus – you’re there because you love what you’re doing anyway.  But it’s neat when your hard work gets recognised, especially with an award like the John McLeod where you’re up against such talented people from a range of specialties.’ 

Raewyn puts much of her success down to whānau support, hard work and determination.

‘People think you have to be really intelligent to make it through med school, but it’s more about working hard, setting goals and sticking with it,’ she said.

Raewyn acknowledges the efforts of her parents, who encouraged all three of their children to go to university and supported them through the tough times.

And she said she was also lucky to have an extremely supportive husband, who ‘always provided a shoulder to lean on’ – both during her study years and now that she is working in the hospitals.

She’s grateful for the friends she made while studying, not only because of the support they provided at the time but because of the life-long friendships and collegial relationships that have developed. 

Born and raised in Wairoa, it was always Raewyn’s plan to return home to Hawke’s Bay after graduating in 2008. Which is exactly what she did.

Up until March 2011 she was a House Officer at Hawke’s Bay Hospital. After that she began working as a locum at Whakatane, Palmerston North and Hawke’s Bay hospitals.

‘After studying in Auckland, it was good being able to work at home, to see and treat your own people, and be a local again. That’s been a real highlight for me,’ she said.

 ‘I was brought up close to my marae and strongly identify as Māori. Coming from Wairoa, with its huge Māori population, you do see the burden that health and socio-economic problems have on our people.  I’ve always wanted to eventually come home and contribute to that – help address those problems.’

That’s part of the reason she wants to pursue a career in General Practice (GP) – she sees herself working more effectively with families at a community level rather than in a hospital setting.

Having recently given birth to her first baby, Raewyn is currently taking some time out to enjoy motherhood. 

Once she returns from maternity leave, she plans to apply for the General Practice Education Programme and continue towards her goal of working as a GP in Hawke’s Bay.

‘The GPs working in Wairoa are awesome role models. They work tirelessly and are so committed to achieving the best results for their patients and their community.  I want to get some more practical experience first, but that’s where I want to be.’