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Matire Harwood (Ngāpuhi) - Medicine (2006)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

Matire Harwood was no stranger to the John McLeod Scholarship when she won it in 2006.

In fact, she represented Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa - Māori Medical Practitioners Association on the award selection panel in 2001 and 2002.

But she never considered herself to be a John McLeod contender – as far as she was concerned, it was a scholarship that belonged to ‘bright sparks’.

Being awarded the John McLeod showed her that anyone could do it.

‘Having been on the other side and being in awe of the people receiving the scholarship – and then being recognised and finding myself among that group – has really added to my self-confidence,’ she said.

‘I knew other winners were brainy boxes, but they also had te reo, had been to kura kaupapa and were just beautiful all-round people. I didn’t see myself in that group. But actually, it’s also about recognising that we all have our own overall strengths and weaknesses.’

Matire worked in Hauora Māori, primary health and rehabilitation settings as a clinician and researcher after graduating from Auckland Medical School in 1994. She was two-thirds of the way through her PhD into stroke recovery when she received the scholarship.

At the time, the financial benefits were a huge bonus, helping to pay her student tuition fees.

But Matire believes it also helped highlight her clinical leadership potential, leading to appointments to numerous committees, boards and advisory groups.

In 2009, Matire was appointed to the Health Research Council – a career highlight she attributes in no small part to being a John McLeod Scholarship recipient.

She was recently appointed to the Auckland District Health Board Māori Health Committee.

Clinical leadership is one of her passions.

‘I think there’s a kaupapa Māori clinical leadership or governance space for us, which is about clinical excellence that gives good outcomes for Māori and their whānau. But we create that space based on Māori principles of whanaungatanga, respect, reducing inequalities and tikanga,’ she said.

 ‘I’m really keen to promote that through Māori providers – being excellent, but doing it in a kaupapa Māori way and achieving the outcomes we want.’

Over the years, Matire has worked in areas that combine her clinical and research interests.

This includes contributing to Hauora: Māori Health Standards 2000-2005 and being the principal investigator for the Māori and Pacific Stroke Study.

She also has an ongoing role providing commentary for the Māori Health Research Review –   a two-monthly online review of health research that may be of relevance to Māori.

Matire was clinical director at Te Hononga o Tamaki me Hoturoa, a Māori-led Primary Health Organisation, which is now part of the National Hauora Coalition.  Currently on maternity leave, she plans to return to general practice in the near future.

Matire doesn’t subscribe to the view that ‘you’re not a true researcher unless you do it fulltime’.

‘The clinical part keeps me grounded because I’m working with people, hearing their stories and being with them in their lives,’ she said.

‘And I like research, because you’re making a contribution at a different level that has more far-reaching consequences than just that one-on-one contact with people. As far as I’m concerned, one informs the other.’ 

Her future goals are many.

She’s looking forward to completing her PhD. She wants to more fully explore the concept of whānau ora clinical leadership. And she wants to continue to pursue her research and clinical interests.

‘Hopefully I will be able to take opportunities to be more innovative – looking at doing things a little bit differently and being a little bit more daring in the way I work,’ she said.