Willow McKay chose to 'do things that I'm good at rather than what I thought I should be doing' when considering university options.
Inspired by her high school history teacher, Willow studied at Otago for a BA Honours in History and Social Anthropology, and a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology looking at New Zealand women's experiences of the pre-natal test amniocentesis.
"I enjoyed history at school and university and became really interested in medical anthropology - the interaction between people and medicine. Anthropology gave me a broad knowledge base, introducing new ways of interpreting the world, and developing my cross-cultural understanding."
During postgraduate study, Willow maximised part-time work opportunities - helped out by a fantastically supportive supervisor.
"She played a massive role in letting me know about paid work opportunities within the university such as tutoring, giving me a great start."
After finishing her Masters, Willow landed a six-month position as a research assistant at the University of British Columbia, on a project examining the impacts of cultural background on communication between cancer patients and specialists.
Back home she's now with the Ministry of Health's Sector Policy Directorate, and part of the Strategic Policy on Ethics and Innovation team.
"The job ties in nicely with my studies as I'm particularly involved with issues around reproductive technology."