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Aroha Si’ilata (Ngāti Raukawa, Tuhourangi, Samoa, Fiji) - Medicine (2009)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

Medical student Aroha Si’ilata hasn’t decided which branch of medicine she’d like to specialise in. Whatever it is though, her driving motivation will be to help improve Māori health outcomes.

It’s a subject that is close to her heart. 'I am very passionate about working with Māori and Pacific communities and whatever specialty I decide on, one of my biggest commitments will be to improve the health of my own people.’

Winning the John McLeod Scholarship has further fuelled her determination to be the best doctor she can for Māori.

Doing this, she feels, helps honour and acknowledge the support she’s had from whānau and friends, as well as groups and organisations that have believed in her potential to help others.

It’s about giving back, she said.

Aroha was in her second year of study when – after a lot of encouragement from fellow Māori med students – she applied for a Hauora Māori Scholarship. She wasn’t confident she would get one and certainly didn’t dream she’d win the John McLeod.

She was at home studying when she got a phone call from the Ministry of Health, informing her of her success.

‘I was blown away. I was so shocked, I went silent. The person on the phone was like, ‘are you there?’ It was hard to get back to studying after that phone call.’

 Aroha said initially, she hadn’t realised how prestigious the scholarship was. When she did, she felt ‘so very grateful’ and humble.

She cites family and personal faith as key factors to her success throughout her studies.

Understandably, her whānau are very proud of her achievements, as are her friends. But she’s quick to point out that hard work is a determinant of success at medical school. ‘Pursuing a career in medicine involves perseverance and commitment – and a good memory helps,’ Aroha said.

Other sources of support have been Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa – Māori Medical Practitioners’ Association, and Te Oranga – the Māori Medical Students’ Association.

‘Both groups provide so much support. The reo wānanga are fantastic; students from Auckland and Otago hang out together. The opportunity to talk to the ones who’ve been doing it for longer is amazing,’ Aroha said.

‘It helps to support your choice to pursue medicine. The encouragement and support is great – these are strong memories that will go with me from med school.’

While still formulating her plans for the future, Aroha has definite career interests. She likes the idea of working in the community and can see herself working with Māori and Pacific communities in South Auckland.

In the meantime, however, she is concentrating on graduating and her prevocational training years.