Māori surgeon aims to help more rangatahi enter the field

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Dr Jamie-Lee Rahiri (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Whātua, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi) is one of only a few Māori surgeons, and she's working to build a pro-equity and culturally safe surgical workforce.

Her efforts to do this, stem from her own experience in the medical field.

“Through my journey, it’s been a series of ups and downs,” she says.

“[There were] some very confronting experiences of racism within the actual medical health profession and I believe that if we are to tautoko others, rangatahi into surgery we need to to make sure this space is safe."   

Rahiri has recently received a $30,000 health delivery research grant, from the Health Research Council, to start the groundwork for Te Piringa Kōtuku, an independent Māori surgical research and training institute.

The institute aims to encourage more rangatahi to aspire to be surgeons, as Rahiri knows the importance of having mentors and role models to look up to.  

“I was always interested in being a general practitioner, so all the way through my medical school training, that was my aspiration but as a junior doctor.

“I was very fortunate to work with wāhine surgeons who inspired me to stay in this space.”

Rahiri hopes this initial grant will allow them to first speak to the people they want to support.

“Māori students, Māori doctors, junior doctors, even people still choosing their vocation and seeing if we can support them realistically into surgery.”