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Wednesday 7 December 2022 10:52am

Selwyn Te Paa image 1
Selwyn Te Paa.

When Selwyn Te Paa decided to study medicine, he was clear he wanted to improve health outcomes for Māori.

“I have long enjoyed science and its different facets, but when I realised the burden that poor healthcare placed on Māori, medicine was an easy choice,” he says.

This sixth-year Otago medical student, based on the Wellington campus, will graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) on Saturday, 10 December.

Selwyn (Ngāti Whātua), says his schooling at Hato Pāora College, Feilding, instilled in him a sense of duty and “reminded me that I owed my people everything”. 

That commitment has been expressed not only through Selwyn's medical studies, but through a range of other roles and responsibilities he has taken on during his student years, including running te reo Māori classes for medical students on the Wellington campus.

I tipu ake ahau i tōku ao Māori, ka mutu, he nama nui tōku ki a ia. I have been extremely fortunate to be involved in multiple Māori students' associations and the focus of my work has been on helping those along in their cultural journeys.

Selwyn Ta Paa image 2
Selwyn Te Paa presents on Matariki at this year's New Zealand Medical Students' Association conference.

Te reo has been the primary focus as it does so much more than offer a medium of conversation to people and is a necessary tool for doctors moving forward in Aotearoa. Ko te reo te waharoa ki te ao Māori – te reo is the gateway to the Māori world.”

Selwyn says the highlights of the past six years include his time at Studholme College, where he found a community and his kāinga rua (second home).

“Another highlight was being a part of the wider Tū Kahika whānau and meeting the people that would guide me through my degree and the toughest parts of my journey. Mei kore ake ko tō rātou atawhai nui ki tēnei nanakia, kua kore ia e tutuki i tēnei tohu.”

The biggest challenge Selwyn faced as a busy medical student was finding time to be with whānau and return to the North Island. He hopes his career will eventually take him back there, although in the meantime his first job will be as a house officer in Wellington.

“I hope to focus on my clinical work and some Māori health research on the side. However, the primary aim will be spending more time with friends and whānau.”

That intention will be off to a good start with his graduation celebrations, where he will be supported in Dunedin by both sides of his whānau and joined by friends from the University and Hato Pāora College.

-  Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications

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