Pursuing excellence is nothing new to Dr Julienne Faletau, an analyst for the Pacific Health Development Team.
"It's ingrained in me. Raised in the anga fakatonga way (Tongan way). My culture teaches me how to treat and relate to people and has influenced my work ethic.”
Her father comes from Hala Tu'i Nuku'alofa, and her mother's village is Lakepa, Tongatapu. They migrated to New Zealand, completed their education and gained skills to start their business and raise a family. The oldest of five, Julienne was born here in Middlemore and raised in Otara.
While far from the motherland, her parents instilled Tongan values. For Julienne, it's faith, family, and education, above all.
"Everything I do is about Pacific People and improving their lives.
"Working in the Pacific Health Development Team allows me to use my health science and research skills to help better the health of my people. As an analyst, I'm responsible for intelligence and information gathering for Pacific Health."
Julienne monitors the health status of Pacific patients in Counties Manukau and provides advice for population health.
"I also sit in the Pacific Health Equity team, a position I don't take lightly. I want to help reduce health inequities and collecting Pacific Health data is a crucial part I can contribute to this.
"I know the value of collecting and analysing this data because it can help inform policy, implement solutions and highlight areas we need to focus our efforts on."
She was exposed to Pacific Health research while studying for a Bachelor’s in Health Science. After that, Julienne pushed herself further, embarking on a Master's in Public Health and got the opportunity to return to Tonga, focusing her research on the impact of cataracts on poverty for Tongan people.
"I then got a scholarship for my PhD in Health Sciences exploring risk perception of Tongan people with pre-diabetes and the associated risk communication of primary healthcare professionals.”
Julienne's research is informed using Pacific methodologies. For example, the Kakala methodology is likened to the method of making a flower garland, and she adopted these steps for how she approached her work.
"Using cultural knowledge is a great way to relate to our patients.
"I'm proud of our language. I learned to speak Tongan from attending church and listening to my parents at home, and when I went to uni, I took a paper to write in Tongan."
Her hard work has paid off. Once again, she will cross the stage later this year at the University of Auckland to graduate with her PhD.
Dreaming big for the future, she plans to have her own research centre one day.