Latest News 29 October 2019 |Teei Kaiaruna is on a mission to ensure more Pacific and Maaori people become pharmacists.
The key to achieving this is to expose young people to the vast career options within pharmacy, Ms Kaiaruna, a Clinical Pharmacist at Middlemore, says.
“A lot of students think pharmacy is just counting pills, which isn’t the case at all,” she says.
Ms Kaiaruna identifies as both Maaori and Cook Island Maaori and is a member of both the Maaori and Pacific Pharmacy Association. She works very closely with the Auckland University of Auckland School of Pharmacy to help recruit more Maaori and Pacific into the profession, including mentoring students who are studying for a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Auckland..
“You just sort of help them out with their journey. The University will contact me and tell me ‘I think this person will benefit from having a chat with you, or coming and shadowing you.’”
Shadowing usually includes students observing pharmacists in action in the dispensary or on the ward.
Cultural support is also a huge part of mentoring, she says, adding this means ensuring students know where to find support.
“I can’t emphasize enough that culture is a significant strength. Culture has a huge influence on health.”
Ms Kaiaruna has lost count of the number of students she has mentored over the years.
“It is part of giving back to those who helped me on my journey and I always encourage students to do the same.”
On other occasions, she has been asked to talk to students not yet decided on their career path.
Of these, one is about to finish their studies and become an intern pharmacist, another is in the final year of their PhD research.
“I feel pretty good about that actually,” she says.
Ms Kaiaruna has also filmed a video showing how pharmacists support patients and other health professionals. She says it is essential to have Maaori and Pacific pharmacists working in Counties Manukau to better reflect the population. This will help to foster greater levels of trust and better health she says.
“The disease burden within the Maaori and Pacific demographic is very high. Medication is one of the mainstays of treatment so it is very important that people actually understand why they are taking it and how to take it correctly.”
She says Pacific and Maaori pharmacists also have a special role to play in supporting patients who choose to use indigenous medicines with more mainstream medicine.
“I believe that my role in particular, and the role of any Maaori or Pacific pharmacist, is to make sure we blend those two together safely.”
Recently, Ms Kaiaruna co-hosted Maaori and Pacific Island (MAPAS) students on a tour of Pharmacy at Middlemore to learn about different health jobs. She was amazed by their potential and enthusiasm.
“For Maaori and Pacific students, it is not just about showing them what pharmacy does in a traditional sense. I also want them to see how their culture adds value to the practice and what Maaori and Pacific leadership looks like. You want them to aspire to be leaders so that one day they’re sitting in a space that makes decisions about our people.”