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Monday 22 May 2023 1:15pm

Josiah Edwin - image
Josiah Edwin has turned a challenge into an opportunity.

Otago medical student Josiah Edwin believes that sometimes you must stumble to succeed.

Josiah says it was very challenging to be diagnosed with a mental illness while at medical school, but his experiences snowballed into research and volunteer work with the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust and he feels excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

“I want to be an example for people who may not be doing so well to show that you can be unwell at times, but that the step you stumble over can help you become a better doctor and a better researcher.

“You can make something really valuable from the pain.”

Originally from India, Josiah and his family moved to Aotearoa New Zealand nine years ago. He moved from Christchurch to Dunedin to study at Otago and has completed the Early Learning in Medicine programme. He is now in his second research year focusing on his PhD before he steps back into medical school next year while working part time on his PhD.

His research involves developing mental health resources, using existential therapy, for young people. An existential approach blends elements of philosophy into therapy.

“It encourages people to recognise suffering as a normal part of the human experience and centre their lives around a fulfilling meaning to understand their place and value in the world.”

Josiah's supervisor and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Psychological Medicine, Dr Kobus du Plooy, says, “Josiah possesses traits that any supervisor loves in a PhD student, such as being proactive, dedicated, hardworking, reflective, adhering to deadlines and open to learning.

“However, what I appreciate most about Josiah is his giving of himself to others, whether it is his spare time to work as a volunteer, or the bread he baked for his research participants. In a world where most people are focussed only on what they can take, Josiah is a breath of fresh air.”

Co-supervisor and Programme Co-Director of the BMedSc(Hons) programme, Dr Jon Cornwall, agrees.

“As well as being an outstanding student, Josiah is always involved in helping people and has a permanent smile on his face while doing it.”

Josiah is one of a handful of MB ChB students each year who choose to undertake a PhD while doing their medical training. He has also started the Medical Research Students' Association at Otago to provide a support network and professional development opportunities for students who, like himself, might have little or no previous research experience.

Josiah has recently been awarded a $10,000 Freemasons Scholarship, which he is thrilled to receive.

“This will make a big difference, especially as next year I'll have to give up my lab demonstrator work so I can do both my medical study and my research.”

His supervisors say Josiah thoroughly deserves the scholarship, which recognises not only his academic efforts, but the wide range of voluntary and community activities he is involved with.

Josiah's voluntary activities have included running mental health workshops for children and young people, helping out at the SPCA, and knitting blankets and beanies for babies in Dunedin Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Josiah has also donated plasma more than 50 times to the blood bank. He was named the 'Highly Commended Rising Star Volunteer' at the 2022 Volunteer South Awards.

Josiah says his role as a peer support volunteer with Life Matters is very important to him.

“Research moves slowly and it can be hard to see the effect of what you're doing, but with Life Matters, you see the positive impact you have immediately.”

Life Matters Co-General Manager Corinda Taylor says, “Josiah uses his lived experience as a strength to benefit other people in his role as a peer supporter for Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust | Te Whare Oranga Ngākau. He is a very valuable asset to our team of peer supporters and we love having him as part of our team.”

Josiah says his life is exciting and challenging, and he uses his experiences to drive and inspire positive changes in his communities.

“It wouldn't have been as much fun if it had been a straight line.”

-  Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications

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