Working in health at the core is about understanding and caring for people

“Talofa lava, o lo’u igoa o Jessee Tanu Fia’Ali’i. I was born and raised in Māngere with my four siblings. My parents are from the villages of Fogāsavai'i in Savai'i and Afega in Upolu."

Jessee is a Health Psychologist for Te Whatu Ora Counties Manukau Chronic Pain Service, proud to represent his Samoan heritage.

"Like many Sāmoan people, there's a strong sense of service and 'giving back' to the communities we grew up in. South Auckland is that community for me.

"It's where I feel the most like I belong, with the people I'm the most passionate about helping," says Jessee.

After experiencing family members being admitted to the hospital, Jessee saw their struggle to cope with a prolonged inpatient stay and as a result, he opted to pursue a career in health psychology.

"The most rewarding part of my role is the support I give alongside my team, helping patients get their sense of mana back to live a meaningful life despite their pain. It makes the hard yards that come with the job worth it.

"I'm part of an amazing multidisciplinary team of pain specialists, nurses, physiotherapists, and health psychologists that make up the Pain Services here."

While studying, Jessee saw the extent of mental health issues faced within the Pasifika community and recognised the importance of having a workforce that represents them.

"I think for indigenous clinicians, there's extra pressure to do better for our people on top of the work we're trained to do. So, I keep this in my heart and mind as my 'why' for doing what I do."

For Jessee being a Samoan is all about connecting and caring for those connections (tausi vā).

"I always try to build connections with my patients, asking about their families, where they come from, the schools they went to, to their favourite places to eat. Then I share a bit about myself and see where we can relate."

Caring for those connections includes sharing laughter and joy, a constant in Samoan communities. Whenever he's with Pasifika people, this is something Jessee tries to always have in his interactions.

"Someone once mentioned they were surprised to hear laughter from my consult room, but it's part of being human and Samoan, so why not embrace it in a healthcare setting!"

When asked what you would share with a young Pacific person interested in health, his answer was this:

"Working in health at the core is about understanding and caring for people, something we already do in our families.

"Bring all of who you are. Bring the lessons you learn from your families and friends. They add so much value to you as a healthcare worker and your ability to engage with people."

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