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Pharmacy scholarship and a higher purpose

Erana Image

Erana Ikimau (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Te Orewai) is the recipient of one of two scholarships for second year Māori pharmacy tauira. Her decision to become a health professional has a very personal origin.

“Growing up my Mum was very sick and went to see almost every health professional you could think of. She had a lot of unacceptable experiences that were heart-breaking for me to hear about.”

Erana is motivated to ensure a more equitable and culturally responsive health system.

“I understand how poor Māori health is here in New Zealand and personally I believe it is because health professionals don’t understand aspects of Māori health and Māori do not feel comfortable seeking help from professionals. By becoming a pharmacist, I have high hopes that I will be able to change this. I am driven and believe that having more Māori in the health care sector is a major start to improving Māori health in New Zealand.”

One of the main reasons Erana chose to become a pharmacist was the under-representation of Māori in the profession, with about two percent of practising pharmacists identifying as Māori (Pharmacy Council demographic report, June 2020).

“Finding out the low percentage of Māori pharmacists was not a shock to me but more of a wakeup call,” Erana says.

Once qualified, she also plans to engage with school students in lower socio-economic areas to share her experiences and inspire Māori and Pacific Islands children into higher education.

“My parents always taught me to value education because they did not get the same opportunities that I have. My Dad grew up in Niue while my Mum grew up in a very big family and could not afford to have a higher education. Knowing this I have always tried my hardest in school and have always wanted to make the most of the education I have by helping to improve the recognition of Māori and Pacific people.”

She came to Dunedin from her home in South Auckland and, while she felt a bit overwhelmed at first, she’s become more confident as her studies have progressed.

“I have really enjoyed how intimate it all is because our cohort is very small. Our lecturers get to know us and it is very easy for us students to get to know each other.”

With her strong sense of duty and purpose, Erana is set to make a positive and lasting contribution to healthcare in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“I know that I am just one little person in a sector of millions of people, but I hope that when I graduate I stand proud as a Māori woman wherever I work and make sure that everyone who comes to us for help is treated equally and sufficiently. I live in hope that Māori feel like they are being heard and treated fairly, and that no more have to go through the same unacceptable experiences as my Mum.”

Erana is one of two recipients of a scholarship for Māori students in their second year of Pharmacy, alongside Anika Moana Kite Perenara (read Anika’s story here).

Leanne Te Karu, Associate Dean Māori for the School of Pharmacy, says Māori are severely underrepresented among pharmacists and the limited numbers cannot be acceptable for the profession nor the University.

“These scholarships are a real factor for recruitment when considering the inequity of Māori health outcome and the role pharmacists can play in contributing to equitable and culturally safe medicines optimisation.

“These scholarships are also an opportunity to highlight the tauira as they commence their journeys to becoming pharmacists. I am so proud of both recipients.”