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Pacifika psychiatrist striving for better health outcomesOctober 23, 2018
A passion for unearthing people’s stories resulted in a career in medicine for Dr Jamie Ioane.
The psychiatrist, based in Lower Hutt, is now urging other aspiring Pacifika medicine students to follow suit.
“If you really want to try get into medicine, you’ve just got to give it a really good go. Work hard because you can get there eventually. There will always be people that doubt you because of your last name or the colour of your skin.”
Dr Ioane worked on and off for Tangata Atumotu Trust for a number of years.
While studying towards his medical degree, he helped his Father, former TAT chairman Malo Ioane, with administration and to make information pamphlets on various medical conditions for the client base.
“Before I did medicine, I realised I quite liked people’s stories and that’s why I decided to get into medicine. And the reason why I’ve ended up in Psychiatry is because it’s always been about people’s stories and their journey - to best understand them and then to understand how to help them out.”
A psychiatric geriatric registrar in Lower Hutt, Ioane was tasked with supporting the elderly.
Ioane had faced many obstacles on his road to becoming a Pacifika psychiatrist.
“There are always people that say ‘you don’t look like a doctor’. Now when I turn up to meetings and stuff like that, people ask if I’m a nurse or a social worker.”
“Don’t let other people’s ideas of whether you’ll be a good doctor or not, stop you. Just go for it if you think you’re going to be good at it.”
“Don’t let the cultural stigma of it put you off it. In our culture, we don’t conceptualise mental health like Pakeha or Palangi do. We conceptualise things on more the spiritual or curse basis.”
Ioane had two more years of study to go to become a consultant.
“It’s as far as you can go clinically, before moving into academia,” he said.
Ioane said he had tried to stay away from the Pacific health realm, but had since been drawn in under the influence of mentor, Allister Bush, who researched how to interact with Maori and Pacific patients to get better outcomes.
Ioane said Bush, a leader in his field, had motivated him to want to do more in the Pacific health space.
“I’m very much in it at the moment and am now doing research.”
Dr Ioane said there was a real need for better representation of Pacifika people in medical fields.
“We have the worst - not just the health stats, but mental health stats in the world. We need more people who get us and our culture to actually come up with good interventions for our people because we just get left behind.”
Mission to keep the spirit of Pacifika aliveOctober 8, 2018
One woman is helping to connect generations of Pacifika with language.
Ali'imuamua Asiasiga (Sia) Batcheler has been teaching at Hillmorton High School for the last three years.
She is now taking a break from her Social Science, ESOL and Samoan language classes, to write the year 11 Samoan language curriculum, and translate the English version into Samoan, for Kiwi students of Te Kura - an online learning platform.
Despite the break, Sia returns to Hillmorton High School to teach four periods a week, to continue to support her senior students.
“I didn’t want my students to lose their language while I was gone,” says Sia.
Sia would love to work as a full time language teacher, if there were sufficient hours to allow her to do so.
“Having our young people speak fluent Samoan is helping to strengthen families.”
Sia says it is becoming increasingly hard to find Samoan language teachers and tutors in New Zealand, despite the significance of the role.
“It’s their language. They need to be proud of who they are and confident as people.”
The Hillmorton High teacher says the shortage of Samoan language teachers comes down to the fact many Pacifika people arrive in New Zealand as trained teachers, but are unable to practise until they complete further study.
“This is not realistic as they need to earn money and they need to go to work to pay for the rent and to pay for the kids.”
Sia says it would be beneficial to fast track training for Pacifika to allow them to get back into teaching in New Zealand schools.
As it stands, there is a language barrier affecting families, who are often a mix of generations, either born in Samoa or in New Zealand, she says.
“Parents are speaking in Samoan and then the children answer back in English. The kids can listen, but their written and spoken language is no good,” says Sia.
“My own daughter can speak Samoan because she went to a Samoan preschool and I am so proud to hear her have conversations with family and friends in Samoan.”
“They need to be proud of who they are and then confident in who they are,” says Sia.
Sia says the opportunities are endless when it comes to finding jobs, as a bilingual person.
“Doctors, lawyers, nurses… I tell my students, just think about all the people you want to communicate with when working.”
She knows she has found her calling and enjoys encouraging her students to find theirs too.
The teacher has also been on the Tangata Atumotu Trust board for over seven years.
“My hope is that TAT becomes the main provider for Pacifika in the future for education, social, economics and mental health, and all that stuff. I want TAT to be up there and leading the way.”