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Lizzie and Annie Stevenson image

When Dr Lizzie Stevenson was thinking about becoming a doctor, she didn’t have to look far for a role model - her older sister Annie is a third-year doctor at Nelson Hospital.

“While I was in high school, hearing about the interesting things she was learning in medical school and the positive, lasting impact that doctors have on the lives of so many, really inspired me to also give medicine a shot!" Lizzie says.

Lizzie graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) in Dunedin on Saturday, 9 December. She was also awarded The Dean of the Otago Medical School Prize for outstanding service to the University of Otago Medical School by a graduating student. She was the only one of her cohort to receive the prize, which is awarded at the discretion of the Dean.

Saturday’s ceremony was a special time for their whānau – as well as celebrating Lizzie’s achievements, Annie graduated with a postgraduate Diploma in Child Health.

Lizzie says her “passion for people” and love of learning made pursuing a career in medicine the right challenge.

“Watching my sister graduate with her MB ChB degree with distinction in 2020 was such an inspiration to me, and I feel absolutely thrilled to have accomplished the same – a unique thing that we will now always share.”

Lizzie and Annie Stevenson scrubs image

Raised on a North Canterbury farm, the sixth generation of her family to live in the same homestead, Lizzie was an avid junior sportswoman. She particularly excelled in trampolining, representing Aotearoa New Zealand in competitions around the world and winning 10 international gold medals.

That focus and determination stood her in good stead through the ups and downs of six years of intense study.

She describes medicine as special in terms of the close connections you make with your classmates through sharing a vast range of profound experiences. Some of these for her were observing first surgeries, navigating hospital hierarchies, acting in med school theatre performances and enduring exam stresses together.

“There is an extraordinary unspoken unity that binds us together.”

Lizzie thoroughly enjoyed spending her three clinical years at the Christchurch campus. After holding a range of student education representative positions over the course of her degree, this year she was President of the Christchurch Medical Students Association (CMSA).

Working with students and staff, she tackled some big issues, such as advocating for the return of overseas electives for Otago medical students. She is thrilled that overseas electives will restart from 2024.

Another focus was responding to safety concerns students had when leaving their hospital shifts late at night. While Dunedin has Campus Watch, a similar service is not provided at the Christchurch and Wellington campuses. Lizzie says while issues are still being worked through, a lot of progress has been made and she is confident good solutions will be found. She hopes to continue to be part of the project, even though she is no longer a student.

She is delighted to have helped establish a new feedback education structure and an equity committee as part of the CMSA executive, so all students feel represented and have a sense of belonging.

“It has been an absolute honour and joy to serve my fellow students over the years in these roles. It’s been an extra special year to be CMSA President, working with Professor Suzanne Pitama and her exceptional team during the 50th year celebrations for the University of Otago, Christchurch.”

Lizzie Stevenson image

Next year, Lizzie will take up a position at Nelson Hospital, working as a junior doctor. She really enjoyed her three-month placement there this year, and she looks forward to positively contributing to the Nelson-Tasman community.

Before Lizzie embarks on her medical career though, she and Annie will celebrate their shared milestones by heading off this week on a 20-day trek in Nepal, including Everest Base Camp.

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