Another doctor and nurse in the whare

Press Release – University of Auckland

When brother and sister Eruera and Tumanako Bidois are back home at their marae, Tarimano, Rotorua, they’re getting used to having their aunties, uncles, and kaumātua asking them for medical advice.

Eruera, 25, and Tumanako, 22 (Te Arawa, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Tahu, NgātiWhāoa), graduated from the Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau/University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences late last year, Eruera with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree (a medical degree), and Tumanako with a Bachelor of Nursing degree.

They are two of the 83 students who came through the faculty’s MAPAS (Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme) and graduated with health and medical qualifications last year.

Eruera has now started working as a registered medical officer (junior doctor) with Lakes DHB at Rotorua Hospital, while Tumanako is returning to the University of Auckland to do a medical degree – her long-held dream.

The siblings say the difference Māori health workers make is mostly within the communities with which they interact everyday – on the marae, with whānau at kainga, and especially with tamariki. “We serve as an informal knowledge base, where we can explain medications or disease to our whānau and be a bridge between them and the medical world. We can encourage them and engage with them in their/our realm,” says Eruera.

“At the same time, our increasing presence in the hospitals make a new norm of Māori as doctors, nurses, and carers. When it is commonplace to go to hospital and see a Māori doctor, with a mouth that speaks Te Reo, then our tamariki see this and think ‘I can do that’.”
Turning points

As a kōtiro Tumanako had wanted to be a vet, only to discover she was allergic to most animals. Her focus turned towards people, and a visit to her kura kaupapa (Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Koutu) by the faculty’s student recruitment programme Whakapiki Ake crystallised her ambitions.
A few years earlier, a visit by the recruiters had also been pivotal for her brother. “Without Whakapiki Ake and MAPAS, my medical journey wouldn’t exist,” says Eruera, who was all set to move to Wellington and train as an engineer. “From the visit, I learnt of the massive need for Māori medical practitioners who understand the Māori mindset from a very personal level.”
Both siblings completed the one-year bridging programme, the Hikitia Te Ora.

It was a huge transition, moving from a world where everyone spoke Te Reo Māori to one where he had to actively seek out people with whom to kōrero freely, he says. When his little sister moved up to join him, “she was an anchor for me in my Māoritanga”, and helped him retain his reo.

Tumanako hoped to pursue a degree in medicine, “however, my life had different plans”, she says. She found her first year in Biomedical Sciences (the ‘pre-med’ year) very challenging with studies and the Bidois whānau losing three members in just nine months. She wasn’t accepted into Medical School and so switched to nursing.

She says that nursing has not only taught her many skills, it’s made her a better person. “The core values in nursing are empathy and compassion. I believe my journey in understanding these values has contributed to who I am today. Also, I find it very humbling that we get to work alongside whānau during a very personal time for them. It is a unique position and I draw passion from knowing that I am able to make a positive impact on their journey.”

Support and resilience

Their whānau are deeply proud and supportive of the pair, who are the first in their whānau to work in the health sector. “This support has enabled us to chase our goals without ever feeling pressured,” says Tumanako. Their pāpā, Ngahihi o te Rā Bidois, was last year elected to the Lakes DHB.

The siblings have advice for others contemplating careers in health.

Tumanako: “Don’t lose hope if things do not quite work out. There are many opportunities out there to make a positive difference in health.”

Eruera: “If you’re keen on medicine and you’re Māori, there’s a fantastic team at Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau who are there and ready to help you along your journey. Hoia tō waka!”

And choose your friends well, he adds. “Mā te kahukura, ka rere te manu. Your whānau and friends will be your feathers to allow you to fly! Make sure you look after them and pick the right friends to help with your journey!”

Eruera graduated at a ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall on Friday 15 November. Tumanako graduated at a ceremony at the same venue on Friday 29 November.

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