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Tuesday 19 July 2022 8:54am

maplemainMaple Goh's ultimate goal is to help create a multidisciplinary facility in Aotearoa New Zealand that embodies a holistic approach towards refugee resettlement. Photo credit: Arthur Hon Photography

Otago medical alumna Maple Goh has received a prestigious William Georgetti Scholarship and will be travelling to the United States in the fall term to take up her studies at Harvard University.

Studying for a Master of Public Health, Maple’s thesis will focus on healthcare delivery inequities for refugees. Maple is of Chinese-Malaysian heritage and migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand at the age of 13.

Graduating from the University of Otago in 2018 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, she is currently completing a distance-taught Postgraduate Diploma in Travel Medicine through the University of Otago, Wellington, specialising in refugee and migrant medicine. She is also working as an urgent care registrar at Kenepuru Community Hospital in Porirua.

"I come from a migrant family with few means, and with extended whānau whose lives are still marked by deprivation. This scholarship has allowed me to pursue dreams that would not have been possible without their financial support."

Maple is founder and host of Doctor NOS (Doctor Not Otherwise Specified), a not-for-profit podcast to aid networking, improve accessibility and increase diversity and representation in medicine. She is also an accomplished violinist and keen scuba diver.

Her ultimate goal is to help create a multidisciplinary facility in Aotearoa New Zealand that embodies a holistic approach towards refugee resettlement.

The Georgetti scholarships were established from the Estate of William Georgetti, a Hawke’s Bay farmer, who died in 1943. They encourage postgraduate study and research important to the social, cultural or economic development of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Q: What does receiving the Georgetti Scholarship mean to you?

I felt an immense gratitude and privilege to be a recipient of the Georgetti Scholarship. I come from a migrant family with few means, and with extended whānau whose lives are still marked by deprivation. This scholarship has allowed me to pursue dreams that would not have been possible without their financial support. I will be eternally grateful to the panellists who have granted me this scholarship.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in your study at Harvard?

I am pursuing a Master of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with the intention to subspecialise in global health.  I have worked with former refugees in a variety of settings – through the Red Cross in their refugee resettlement programme; founding my own non-profit during medical school and fundraising for the Syrian Refugee Crisis; working in hospitals serving refugee populations; and as a general practitioner at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

These experiences have been an immense privilege and have given me an insight into the systemic struggles and barriers faced by former refugees trying to resettle. I hope that my studies at Harvard will help to reveal urgent solutions as to how we can remove these barriers and set up a more supportive ecosystem for our resettled former refugees, as well as how we can uphold the mana of our tangata whenua in the process. 

Q: Will you have time for the violin and scuba diving?

Violin and scuba diving are some of the many hobbies I hold to keep my sanity in this dynamic pandemic. I try to keep some healthy work-life boundaries in order to make time for these hobbies, and of course, for the people that I love in my life. It’s strange that while I have spent most of my career serving people, I find the most peace and tranquility when I’m deep underwater, surrounded by the grace of our fish!

Q: What motivates you in your work to tackle inequities for refugees?

My work in tackling inequities for refugees comes from my own background as a migrant marked by trauma. My life prior to Aotearoa was marred by violence and marginalisation both due to my race and gender. As someone who can resonate with some of the traumatic experiences of former refugees, I want to be able to use my privilege to create better ecosystems of support for them. 

Q: Why did you start your ‘Doctor NOS’ podcast?

I started my Dr NOS podcast in 2021. It was borne out of my own experiences of seeing a lack of diversity and representation in medicine. I realised that many of our collective experiences of racism, sexism, marginalisation, and all the other -isms, could potentially be addressed and combatted if we had more diverse physicians sharing their experiences and solutions.

I set out to interview doctors from different backgrounds – ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, Māori and Pasifika – in their various subspecialisations of medicine, in an effort to change the status quo of the standard Pākehā male. My aim is to empower minority groups, whether aspiring or currently training, so that they can truly shatter glass ceilings and pursue any career of their choice. 

Q: What are the highlights from your time at Otago?

One of my major highlights of Otago was meeting lifelong friends. My closest friends now are people who I have met from Otago – either through Carrington College, the Otago Malaysian Students’ Association, non-profit work or through medical school itself. All these friends are incredible wāhine toa who have gone on to empower other minority and marginalised groups. As human beings, we don't exist in a vacuum and we need our community to hold us up. Everything I have achieved so far has only been made possible by the whānau surrounding me, so it is a great privilege of mine to be able to call these people my friends, and I am forever indebted to them. 

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