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Source: University of Otago

Sophie Papali’i has a rich heritage which enables her to bring a range of cultural perspectives to the board.
Meet the newest student representative on the Otago Medical School Academic Board.
Sophie Papali’i, a trainee intern from Porirua, has a rich heritage which enables her to bring a range of cultural perspectives to the board. She is of Samoan, Māori and New Zealand European descent along with affiliations to Ngāti Whātua and Ngāpuhi.
The dedicated student has an interest in governance and experience including service on the national Māori Advisory Committee for Arthritis New Zealand. Outside of Medicine Sophie is also a busy Mum to three sons aged 11, 8 and 5.
“After having children I really didn’t think becoming a doctor was a possibility for me. My husband Fau knew it was a dream of mine so encouraged me to go for it. I was also motivated by the example of my incredible mum Tania who is my greatest role model in life. She became a lawyer after having us kids and although this was difficult she excelled in her studies. She did this while also being the best mum ever.”

“The tragic reality of ethnic health inequalities really hit home for me. I vowed to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help other people’s loved ones.”

“The final push to apply for medical school came in 2015 after I witnessed my Dad have a cardiac arrest. My Dad is my absolute hero so this experience was traumatising as well as unexpected given he was only 50.”
“Thankfully my Dad survived but the tragic reality of ethnic health inequalities really hit home for me. I vowed to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help other people’s loved ones. At the time I was undertaking a Bachelor of Health Science at Massey University. I completed this degree as a Massey Scholar and decided to use it to apply for second-year Medicine under the Graduate category.”
Sophie says the move to Dunedin was no simple feat and came with its fair share of sacrifices.
“Reflecting on my journey now I can wholeheartedly say it was 100 per cent worth it. I absolutely love Medicine with a passion and being a doctor is the only job in the whole world I would ever want to do. My children are also very proud of me and I’m happy to have set a good example for them. I want them to know it is important to educate and extend ourselves so we are well-positioned to help other people, particularly our Māori and Pasifika communities.”
For other students looking to head down the medicine avenue Sophie has some words of wisdom to express.
“Don’t be deterred by obstacles in front of you. You can overcome those and we need doctors who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and life experiences. This will allow the medical workforce to best reflect and therefore serve the New Zealand population.”
While the journey has been a big one so far with plenty of challenges and success alike, the goal for her future is clear.
“Ultimately I would love to become a surgeon because that is the specialty I love the most. Wherever I end up I will strive to be the best doctor I can be. My time at Medical School has certainly equipped me well to do it.”

MIL OSI