Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
POPO internship group image

Student interns, Pacific Health Provider supervisors, University staff and respective communities and whanau gathered to celebrate the completion of the Programme.

This year’s theme for the Pacific Opportunities Programmes at Otago (POPO) is ‘uku aki e ulu’, which is a Niuean proverb meaning ‘go headfirst’.

A group of Pacific students in health professional courses did exactly that as they dived into the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with Pacific health providers and communities over the summer.

The POPO Internship is a 10-week programme aimed at exposing students to Pacific health services across New Zealand, giving them a glimpse of the reality of working with Pacific communities while creating career networking opportunities.

The internship programme is the final component of the POPO pipeline offered by Va’a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health, who provide start-to-finish support to Pacific students enrolled in health professional programmes & allied Health Science degrees.

A cohort of 22 Pacific student interns from the University of Otago, Te Pūkenga, the University of Auckland and the Manukau Institute of Technology were spread across 11 Pacific health providers in five different cities in order to gain experience in their respective fields.

The programme structure includes one week of orientation activities, eight weeks of placement at a Pacific health provider and one week of reflections.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie spoke at the programme’s orientation event held in Auckland in November of last year.

The orientation was well-attended by Pacific leadership, including former Minister of Pacific Peoples Aupito Tofae Su'a William Sio and National Head of Pacific Workforce at Te Whatu Ora Pauline Fuimaono Sanders.

Fifth year medical tauira and POPO Intern Corey Symon was placed at Etu Pasifika in Ōtautahi Christchurch, where he now resides, and says the internship was a great way to get to know the Pacific community there.

“It was a good opportunity to learn a bit about all the agencies in the community, what’s available and how they all link together.”

He was placed within the Whānau Ora team, which provides social support wraparound services, and had the opportunity to lead a food support initiative for Pacific families over the Christmas period.

“I developed skills in project management and working with businesses, as well as organising deliveries and home visits.

“I think part of the appeal of the Internship is that it wasn’t medical. Working with our social services was entirely new to me and it was really valuable to experience that side of things.”

POPO internship Pauline Fuimaono Sanders with interns image

National Head of Pacific Workforce at Te Whatu Ora Pauline Fuimaono Sanders (pictured left) speaking to POPO interns Corey Symon and Kelsie Grantham at the Programme’s orientation event.

Fifth year medical student Kelsie Grantham joined the POPO Internship Programme in the hopes of learning what it means to serve Pacific communities.

“I came into this experience wanting to learn how I could comfortably be there for my Pacific patients so they feel like they are being served by one of their own in the way that they deserve.”

She was placed at Va’a o Tautai and, together with Dr Lama Tafuna’i in the medical teaching team, they worked on the Pacific health curriculum for all years of medicine study.

“It was amazing to see how much hard work goes on behind the scenes.

“It made me realise our lecturers and teachers really do shape us as health professionals. What they teach us is so well thought out and carefully considered.”

Despite not having an interest in research prior to the internship, Kelsie says Dr Tafuna’i “planted the seed” during the 10-week programme and she is now actively investigating this option.

“She gave me the skills that made me believe I could do research and taught me the importance of developing a Pacific lens on the work we do, considering Pacific values and how we’re working by them.”

With Dr Tafuna’i’s encouragement, Kelsie is now working on a blog article to be published in the New Zealand Student Medical Journal.

Through the programme, Kelsie also had the opportunity to connect with the Director of the dialysis unit in Samoa and says this has led to her considering serving in the Islands later in her career.

The programme recently held a graduation ceremony, where interns came together to celebrate their efforts amongst their peers, Pacific Health Provider supervisors, University staff and respective communities and whānau.

Kōrero by Keilah Fox

Back to top