Health science academy gave me a head start

Five years ago Otahuhu College co-launched a health science academy in conjunction with Pasifika Medical Association to help Pacific Island students to work towards a future career in health.

The students were selected from Year 11 & 12, and were closely monitored and provided full access to a range of health science programme and practical work experience.

Tracy PatoFast track to date, one of the students involved in the programme and former deputy head girl of Otahuhu College, Siopea Tracy Pato, 20, is still chasing her dream.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” she says.

“The programme provided a platform to prepare ourselves on the “practice” of health science.”

“The learning objectives addressed in the programme have enabled myself to develop the basic skills in community health improvement and disease prevention,” says Siopea.

“The programme was really inspiring and led me to have a passion for health science.”

To date, Siopea is a second year student at the University of Auckland studying a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biological science and chemical science.

“I am lucky to be part of the health science academy and I am thankful that I was part of the first cohort in 2011.”

Siopea says she has always wanted to get into a Medical School. “I’m in my second year of my degree and I’m learning a lot. There’s always pressure to perform well and it’s not an easy road but I know it will be rewarding when I get there.”

“PMA has been very supportive. The networks, the resources, the real life experience at hospitals that I’ve been exposed to before going into tertiary studies really came in handy.”

The health academy programme is aimed at Pacific students, to arm them with knowledge and enable them to gain qualifications in a sector where Pacific Islanders are under-represented.

“The programme provided us more choices of what we want to do. It makes you feel inspired, and more determined to achieve and chase that dream. I’m still chasing mine.”

“My advice to students wanting to take health science as a career; look out for opportunities like the health science programme, follow your passion and never give up.”

“The more skills you learn and practise, the more confidence you’ll build – look out for those opportunities,” says Siopea.

Participating in a health programme increases students’ chances of being accepted into a health programme.

The Pasifika Medical Association has a keen interest in following the progress of the first cohort of students enrolled in the health science academy.