Papalii Dr Viopapa Annandale-Atherton graduated from Otago with a medical degree (MBChB) in 1964 and went on to gain a postgraduate Diploma of Tropical Health (Distinction) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1976.
She has continued to maintain close connections with the University of Otago, providing support for other graduates who have returned to work in the Pacific Islands. The University is delighted to recognise her strong leadership and excellent work internationally and in the Pacific region with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree.
She has championed work related to improving health outcomes for women and children’s health, including sexual, reproductive and public health.
Papalii Dr Annandale-Atherton was the head of Samoa’s Maternal and Child Health Department from 1971 to 1982. She was a founding member of Aoga Fiamalamalama (School of Special Needs Children) in 1979, and Mapusaga o Aiga (focussing on domestic violence, children and human rights) in 1994, and former president of Soroptimist International of Samoa, a global volunteer organisation that empowers women and girls by supporting access to education.
She is a strong believer in the importance of primary care and opened a medical practice in 1993 to serve the needs of her community.
She represented the Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association on the Taskforce of the Samoa Umbrella of Non-Government Organisations for many years. Under her leadership, she secured resources for external agencies, including USAid to “empower women’s groups in tsunami affected villages”, EU funds “to end violence against women and girls”, and Government Civil Society Support Programme for local projects.
She has a strong international presence also, having headed Family Planning and Well Woman Services in Norfolk, England, and led the development and implementation of World Health Organisation funded maternal and child health planning projects in the Pacific.
She approaches her work with tenacity, determination and conviction, fighting to break barriers and create opportunities for women and children and the under-privileged.
Four Honorary Doctorates to mark sesquicentennial
Four University of Otago Alumni will be recognised for their life’s work and their contribution to the University, New Zealand and the world during a special graduation ceremony on 1 June 2019.