Tauranga student, Maioha Haimona-Ngawharau (Ngāti Ranginui) has been awarded the opportunity to travel on a fully funded two-week scholarship to attend the London International Youth Science Forum at the Imperial College in London, England.
She was one of five New Zealand students selected by the Royal Society Te Aparangi. A total of 500 students will be attending the conference, from over 70 different countries.
Haimona- Ngawharau is likely to be the only Māori in attendance.
Currently, serving as the Head Girl of Tauranga Girls College, Haimona-Ngawharau has aspirations to be a doctor of medicine and surgery.
“I don’t just want to be a doctor, I want to be a Māori doctor… I think it's important for Māori to see themselves in this profession, at that taumata,” she says.
At first glance, her choice of profession might seem unrelated to the London forum she'll attend. However, there is a fountain of knowledge that the science world provides to the medical field, and she believes the two are most definitely inter-connected. She is also looking forward to meeting other like-minded people from other countries.
"I am excited to speak to the students from all the various different countries, to see what the similarities and differences are with problems or issues they are facing in their homelands, in terms of the medical field," she says.
Upon her return, Haimona-Ngawarau is more than confident that her experience in London will solidify her decision to follow her chosen career path, and further motivate her to gain the 6-7 years of further education required to accomplish it.
In 1992, The University of Auckland made a vision statement; that by the year 2020, the percentage of Māori in the health workforce will match that of the population of Māori in the country (15% at that time).
It is now 2019, and we are far below that vision, with less than 4% of Māori making up the health workforce in the country.
Although it may seem a little out of reach for now, Haimona-Ngawharau is keen to make this vision a reality and, in doing so, she hopes to motivate other Māori to aspire to this profession within their own communities.
She departs for London on the 23rd of July.