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Estelle Arundell image

Among her many accolades, Estelle has won the Coast-to-Coast endurance race last year and placed second in the open women’s category in the ‘Longest Day’ race in February this year.

Estelle Arundell follows in her parents’ footsteps when she graduates as a doctor this weekend – having crammed more into her six years of study than most.

While she is elated to be collecting her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery tomorrow, Estelle will also be reflecting on other achievements she's ticked off since leaving her hometown of Fairlie.

Having been surrounded by “the joys and challenges” of rural medicine throughout her life and as the eldest child in the family, she felt pressure to follow in her parents’ footsteps. But she wanted to be sure that a career in medicine was something she actually wanted, which led to her exploring several different pathways.

One of these paths took her to Malawi for six months. There she volunteered as a secondary teacher and met locals who inspired her to return to New Zealand and commit to becoming a doctor to help support rural communities.

“I realised that being able to learn and practice medicine is such an incredible skill to have,” Estelle says.

“It puts you in a unique position in people’s lives when they trust you during times of great need and vulnerability.”

Seeing the impact her parents have made in the Mackenzie community through their family owned-and-operated medical practice has also been a great source of inspiration and she is grateful to have been raised rurally while acknowledging that there are challenges. Rural communities often face healthcare disparities by not being able to access the services they need and likely would have been able to access in urban locations, she says.

This knowledge, coupled with her parents’ influence, experiences in Malawi, and upbringing in Fairlie, inspired her to take part in the University of Otago’s Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP) enabling her to do placements in Ashburton and Methven. Afterwards, she took up an elective in Timaru where she ended up working at her parents’ clinic for six weeks.

“Being able to learn from my parents in a clinical setting and apply my knowledge from the last few years of study in my own community was a very special experience, one I will never forget, and one of the highlights of my degree.”

  • Estelle

    Estelle with her parents Dr Lewis Arundell and Dr Paula Hyde outside their family owned-and-operated practice in Fairlie.

  • Estelle

    Estelle says she chose Otago because of its reputation for having a strong sense of community, adding that she liked the community-feel so much she spent a further two years at Carrington College as a residential assistant.

  • Estelle

    Over four months, Estelle hiked 3000km solo from Cape Reinga to Bluff, fundraising for the Mental Health Foundation along the way.

She then decided to begin volunteering for the Students of Rural Health Aotearoa, where she helped organise trips for students to visit rural secondary schools around the country to inspire and empower rural youth to consider a career in healthcare.

As a strong believer in self-reflection and personal development, Estelle also took a gap year to complete the Te Araroa trail solo, a nationwide hike from the top of the North Island to the tip of the South Island, where several days would go by without her seeing other people.

“The independence that I gained from Te Araroa also gave me the confidence to be able to manage myself and my learning, a skill that meant I did not shy away from opportunities to spend my clinical years in placements such as the RMIP and my trainee intern year in Timaru.”

But her list of accomplishments doesn’t end there; after finishing the trail, the med student was inspired to continue pursuing adventure which led to her winning the gruelling two-day Coast to Coast race last year and placing second in the Open Women’s category and eleventh overall in the one-day Coast-to-Coast race this year – a considerable achievement for a recreational athlete.

However, she says she could not have achieved all of this without the support of her whānau, friends and the University.

“I would like to thank the University of Otago for the endless opportunities that have presented themselves to me during my time studying,” Estelle says.

“I have been gifted a variety of special experiences, with memories and skills that I will carry with me into my career.”

~ Kōrero by the Division of Health Sciences Communications Adviser, Kelsey Swart.

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