Dr Rachel Mackie – we need to keep building towards equity

11 August 2020

When Dr Rachel Mackie (Ngati Wai, Ngati Hine, Ngati Whatua) was elected as the new Chair of Māori representative group Te Akoranga a Māui she knew what she had to do.

“My goal is to continue the work of the people who’ve gone before us, like Dr Sue Crengle, Dr Lily Fraser, and Dr Melanie Wi Repa to keep building towards healthcare equity,” says Rachel.

“In recent years I’ve noticed a real culture change in the College with more tikanga practiced and valued, and now that needs to extend throughout general practice. General practice needs to focus on indigenous values if we’re going to make progress towards health equity.”

“I love that in general practice I’m using my own skills and trying to solve the problem and fix it myself.”

Dr Mackie was one of the advisors on the College’s recently launched Equity module, which is part of the Cornerstone Bronze accreditation programme. The module demonstrates how practices can work to improve health outcomes for Māori and other underrepresented populations by being more targeted to individual and cultural needs that can make significant differences to patient’s care. By mid-July almost 50 practices had signed up to the Equity module. 

“For me, that embodiment of tikanga and cultural safety needs to extend to our medical educators and the way we teach GPs in training too. We have to teach tikanga if we want to make meaningful change,” she says.

‘Real medicine’ is what general practice felt like to Dr Mackie when she was studying. Like Dr Jason Tuhoe, her deputy chair on Te Akoranga a Māui, she was 14 when she became interested in medicine and told her Dad that she thought she’d like to be a doctor. Her uncle was sick with cancer and she felt helpless; she didn’t know what to do and felt a real sense of frustration. It was then that her family started jokingly calling her ‘Dr Rachel’ and hiding when they smoked their cigarettes.

“My goal is to continue the work of the people who’ve gone before us, like Dr Sue Crengle, Dr Lily Fraser, and Dr Melanie Wi Repa to keep building towards healthcare equity,”

“I didn’t get into med school the first time I applied,” says Rachel. “But I called the medical school and ended up talking to Dr Colin Mantell. I was sitting in my student flat and he was talking to me; a motivating, inspiring speech where at the end he was saying ‘you should apply now’ and I wasn’t sure, but he had me believing in myself enough that I did it.”

Today Dr Mackie who is a clinical project lead working at Waitemata DHB and says, “I love that in general practice I’m using my own skills and trying to solve the problem and fix it myself.”

Whanaungatanga, or relationships, is another part of the appeal of general practice for Rachel. 

“Some of my older patients don’t have many interactions with people during the day,” she says. “And things we take for granted – like touch – is really important to them. I love the human connection with my patients.”