For my elective I went to Auckland, New Zealand. I had always wished to visit New Zealand and wanted to learn more about healthcare for their indigenous Māori population and Pacific Islander populations. I am interested in endocrinology and knew these populations had high rates of diabetes and obesity, so I was interested in how these diseases were managed for Māori and Pacific patients. I left for my elective the day after my final exam of fourth year and after the 24-hour journey I made it to Auckland. My placement was based in a South Auckland suburb, in a healthcare centre called Turuki Healthcare. A large percentage of the population in the suburb is Māori and Pacific Islander and from a low socioeconomic status background.
I spent my first week in secondary school clinics across the South Auckland area, run by one of the doctors from Turuki Healthcare. The clinics provided the students with free, easy to access healthcare, which was beneficial to them, as these were schools in poorer areas where the students could either not afford to attend their local GP or their parents could not take time off work to take them to appointments. The doctor had a great rapport with her patients, and she would use her clinics as the opportunity to also educate the students about topics like nutrition and contraception.
During the rest of my placement, I spent time at the healthcare centre itself. Parts of this experience were very similar GP placements in the West Midlands. I saw patients in student surgery and discussed my history taking and examination findings with the doctor supervising me. I sat in on clinics and saw how conditions like type 2 diabetes and hypertension are managed in the community. Even guidelines used at the practice were similar or the same as those used in the UK. However, one major difference was the integration of the Māori and Pacific holistic approach to healthcare. I attended a class on the Māori lunar calendar, a session on mindfulness and meditation and low-carb high-fat diet support group while I was at. Furthermore, the weekly team meetings started with a traditional Māori prayer to provide spiritual goodwill over the healthcare centre for the upcoming week.
During the elective, I stayed in a student house with a group of University of Auckland medical students. It was interesting to see how similar the medical school experience is halfway across the world. On the weekends, we did activities like walking the black sand beaches of Piha, attending a local comedy show and going on a student night out in the city centre. I experienced Auckland’s favourite tourist attractions too such as doing a yoga class in the Sky Tower, hiking up the Rangitoto Island volcano and ziplining though the forests of Waiheke Island. I was also able to travel down to Queenstown in the South Island, where I visited Milford Sound, a fjord famously called the “eighth wonder of the world” by author Rudyard Kipling.