Monday 23 January 2023 12:16pm
Simone Ada, her husband Ahmet and daughters Melek (left) and Lilyaan enjoy the slopes at Cardrona last year.
Sometimes life-changing decisions really do come like a bolt from the blue.
For third year Otago medical student Simone Ada (Ngāi te Rangi), realising she was meant to be a doctor was “like being shaken awake”.
Simone entered Otago Medical School in 2022 via the alternative pathway, after a mid-career change from being a manager in a university medical programme in Australia.
While in her managerial role on the Gold Coast, Simone attended an orientation for new medical students, where the Dean gave an inspiring speech.
“I said, ‘it’s enough to make you want to be a doctor’ and that was it. It was like being shaken awake, it was such a powerful experience.
“I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was meant to become a doctor, having never considered it in the past.”
That determination has driven Simone ever since, despite the many sacrifices it has meant, including having to leave their two grown daughters behind when she and her husband moved to Aotearoa New Zealand.
“I’ve made significant sacrifices to be here, but it’s where I need to be and I’m able to do it because of the amazing support of my husband and whānau.”
She urges others who have a strong calling to stick at it despite pressures and obstacles.
“Once you know what you’re meant to do, pursue it relentlessly. Back yourself and don’t let self-doubt inhibit you in any way.”
When initially applying to study medicine in Australia didn’t work out, Simone looked further afield. One of the key attractions of the Otago Medical School was the Hauora Māori curriculum. Of Māori descent, Simone had never lived in New Zealand and going to Otago has given her an opportunity to reconnect with Te Ao Māori.
Simone is Vice President of Te Oranga ki Ōtākou (TOKŌ), the student-run association for Māori medical students within the Otago Medical School and has served as the Otago University Medical Students’ Association’s representative on the national body.
Although Simone has still to decide what field of medicine she wants to pursue, she knows she wants to help address the health disparities for Māori and First Nations Australians. And she’s very keen to see more Māori take up medicine.
“I believe representation in the medical workforce, particularly for Māori, will help improve inequitable health outcomes across the board.”
Simone, who has a Master of Business Administration, didn’t have a sciences background but her advice is not to let that deter people.
“Medicine can be an option for anyone, whether you’re an older student, never studied sciences or are from a low socio-economic background – Otago provides a lot of help and support for its students.”
Simone, who is 41, says there are advantages to coming to medicine with some life experience.
“I know who I am, my strengths and weaknesses, and my values.
“I’ve sacrificed everything to be here, so I’ll put everything into it.”
- Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications