Meet Rawiri Keenan – Pou Whirinaki, Fellow, medical advisor and family man

Member news
22 March 2016

Rawiri (Te Ati Awa/Taranaki) tells us, “I don’t think it’s that exciting, I just go to work every day. I don’t play the piano or play sports, I’m just a boring doctor.”

This profile is going to show you, and hopefully Rawiri, that this is very far from the truth. Rawiri wears many different hats and is coincidently very modest about these different hats. So many hats that he tells us he hasn’t watched a movie in three years, “I don’t have time for that,” he says not fazed.

Rawiri is based in the Waikato where he practices every week once or twice, is Pou Whirinaki for the College and works as a medical advisor for Midlands PHO.

Dr Rawiri Keenan has been keen on general practice since his early days growing up in Taumarunui.

After graduating he did a three month placement in Tokoroa under the rural GP scheme and that sold it to him. After the placement he finished his time at the hospital and applied for the GPEP programme.

Rawiri is passionate about seeing more Maori doctors in the workforce and teaching the next generation of GPs.

Rawiri tells us, “The education space and politics has kinda become my special interest.” We’re sure the use of the word “kinda” is redundant, but that’s just the kinda guy that Rawiri is.

“My role as Pou Whirinaki and medical advisor are challenging and that’s partly what draws me to it. Being a GP is challenging as well. There’s not ever a day when you don’t learn something new but it’s challenging in a new way.” We tell him that quote’s gold.

“For lots of reasons I’m not back in Taumarunui, one of the rural areas where I might have seen myself 20 years ago. I think maybe if I can do these other roles I can support and get more Maori docs into the GP training programme.”

Rawiri has been the College’s Pou Whirinaki for about 18 months which sees him leading, supporting and advocating for Maori GPs. “There’s kind of a reasonable weight of expectation on all Maori doctors to not only be great doctors for their own people but also contribute to the wider issues of Maori health equity in that same way. It’s good that there’s more of us to come along and do that.”

“You can go head down, bum up and see 30 people a day and get on with it, or hopefully this way, through others, I can help even more,” he adds.

When Rawiri was going through medical school at the University of Otago there was only eight or nine other Maori students, and now he tells us there’s around 40 studying in Otago alone.

“Medical universities have been pushing and they’re getting more numbers through and so hopefully we’ll see more Maori becoming GPs.”

“Although we’ve got a good number of Maori GPs relative to Maori doctors, overall there’s not many Maori doctors compared to around 14-15% of the population.”

On a positive note he adds, “They’re [Maori doctors] definitely coming through university – now we just have to get them through the training programmes and out there into the workforce.”

Rawiri’s passion for teaching began at university where he and his peers set up a training interns teaching programme where last year medical students would deliver tutorials “and stuff” to the fourth year students.

He also took on being the student representative for the curriculum - remember this is on top of intensive study and placements too. Not that Rawiri would allude to that – he brings all of this up so off-the-cuff.

And it never really stopped, “When I finished my GPEP I kept asking about getting involved with teaching and started filling in on some of the small group teaching around Hamilton.”

All of this does keep Rawiri busy and sometimes he does miss full-time practising.

In the weekend you’ll find Rawiri walking his Labrador named Sabbath (which he assures me he did not name), and spending time with his family.

We finish by asking him, “Anything else?” His reply: “Nope that’s far too much!” Point proven by us, we think.

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