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Bianca Koenig

Bianca Koenig image

Ngāti Maniapoto

Studying for a Bachelor of Pharmacy

Current Timuaki (President) of Te Puna Kaitaka (Māori Pharmacy Students’ Association).

During secondary school, I was determined to be an accountant, therefore I did not take any science subjects at NCEA Level 2 and 3. Towards the end of 2016, I was employed part-time after school at a pharmacy to help greet patients, take prescriptions and do retail transactions. When I accepted this job I had no interest in medicines and had no idea what a pharmacist did. The more I worked in the pharmacy, the more my curiosity for medication grew and I knew that this was the profession for me.

I applied for Health Sciences First Year at Otago, not having done science at secondary school. I miraculously managed to pass the year and got accepted into He Rau Kawakawa / the School of Pharmacy. Although science is not my strong suit (especially chemistry), I quickly learnt that pharmacy is more than just dispensing medicines. It is about understanding the whakawhanaungatanga that people have with their whakapapa, whenua and whānau, and how these influence their overall health and wellbeing.

I am from the heart of the North Island – Taupō – so when deciding which university to attend, I knew I would have to move away from home. This was hard to come to terms with as I am a homebody and love being with my whānau. I had to take into consideration that there are only two universities in New Zealand that offer a Pharmacy degree – Auckland and Dunedin. Ultimately it came down to practical things like accommodation costs and transport. Dunedin has more first-year residential halls, cheaper accommodation costs for flatting and it’s easier to get around the city.

My journey at He Rau Kawakawa has given me incredible memories and friends that have made a huge difference to my enjoyment of my studies. One of my greatest highlights was being accepted into He Rau Kawakawa and receiving my white coat, as it made my dream real. I am enjoying the new curriculum – having a more clinical approach and a bigger focus on holistic patient-centred care.

I’m also enjoying being a part of Te Puna Kaitaka / the Māori Students’ Pharmacy Association as it gives me the opportunity to engage with like-minded people and makes me feel like I am part of a wider whānau.

I was elected to be tūmuaki/president of Te Puna Kaitaka in late 2020, so I am still new to the role and being on an executive team. I am loving my role so far – the engagement, especially from our P2 tauria has been awesome. As tūmuaki, I help to represent the rōpū and encourage academic achievement, organise events, promote whakawhaungatanga within our rōpū and between other rōpū.

Every year, the Auckland and Otago Māori Pharmacy tauria get together for a hui in order to have whakawhaungatanga between the two schools. Where the hui is held alternates between Otago and Auckland. This year the hui is being held here in Dunedin. As tūmuaki, I organise this event alongside my executive team and Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Puna Rongoā o Aotearoa / the Māori Pharmacists’ Association.

I am currently in the middle of completing my final year at He Rau Kawakawa. I have secured an internship in my hometown of Taupō, so I’ll be heading home at the end of 2021 to start my internship in 2022. I am excited to get out into the workforce, use my clinical knowledge and give back to my local community.