Cook Islands Fellowship in General Practice awarded
13 March 2023
Category: College and members
Image above: The five Cook Island Fellowship recipients (L-R): Dr Teariki Puni, Dr Mareta Jacob, Dr Nini Wynn, Dr Koko Lwin, Dr Teariki Faireka
The newest recipient of the Cook Islands Fellowship in General Practice says the programme has had a significant national impact on the small Pacific nation.
Dr TeAriki Faireka, who celebrated his award at a ceremony in Rarotonga this February, can already see the benefits of the investment in the five previous fellowship recipients (pictured above), and looks forward to contributing to the progress the programme has enabled.
“Already the Fellowship has helped immensely with my own practical skills and has broadened my knowledge on many aspects of medical practices in New Zealand - bringing this to our people in the Cook Islands and applying it into our context will hopefully benefit the nation,” TeAriki says.
“We are a tight-knit medical community and always ask opinions from each other, and I asked the previous Fellows what to expect from this programme before applying and they encouraged me to do it.”
The Cook Islands Fellowship in General Practice was developed by Te Marae Ora, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health, in partnership with University of Otago and The Royal New Zealand of College of General Practitioners.
The programme combines the same distance academic papers required for the College’s Rural Hospital Medicine Training Programme. It also includes a 12-month clinical attachment – joining the GPEP year 1 trainees in Northland and completing placements at host practices Coast-to-Coast Health in Wellsford and at Hauora Hokianga. The academic component allows the doctors to continue living and working at home in the Cook Islands – an important factor for TeAriki.
“I did my undergraduate medical and post-graduate training in ophthalmology in Fiji, and then placements in Wellsford at Coast to Coast in early 2021, and at Hauora Hokianga in late 2021, so being able to finish the remainder of the Post-Graduate Diploma in Rural Health with University of Otago remotely supports me to continue in my role as Director of Primary Health for Te Marae Ora (Cook Islands Ministry of Health).”
Dr Kati Blattner of host practice Hokianga Health supports the delivery of the Fellowship programme and says its flexibility is a major reason why it has been such a success.
“The scope of the Fellowship programme is broad, which fits very well with the nature and demands of practice in the Cook Islands. This means the skills fellows are gaining supports what is essentially a small island nation workforce working across GP, emergency, medical wards and outer island services,” Kati says.
“We look forward to continuing and strengthening the Fellowship Programme and welcome any opportunities to support the fellows in the Cook Islands with their continuing professional development.”
While there are challenges facing TeAriki and other members of the Cook Islands healthcare workforce, he says the Fellowship programme is helping to overcome barriers.
“The gulf in resources between us and New Zealand is a challenge, but something I learned from rural practice placements in New Zealand is that inequity is a challenge there too, and so while we don’t have the financial resources to fund certain medical therapies and procedures in the Cook Islands, there are other alternatives that rural practices in places like Northland are using that are just as good.”
TeAriki says he relishes the opportunity to serve his people and be among them.
“I live with them, I play with them, I have instant feedback If I’ve done something good and if I haven’t, and I regularly ask them how I can do things better.”
Te Ariki says this sense of connectedness carries through into how the Fellowship programme is run, which is why it has been so successful.
“I’m so grateful for all those people who have helped me along the way, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them. This includes The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, University of Otago, the New Zealand Medical Council, Dr Neil Anderson, Dr Tim Malloy, Nancy Malloy at Coast-to-Coast Health, Margareth Broodkoorn, Dr Mark Lankshear, Dr Clare Ward, Dr Kati Blattner and Sophie Titore at Hokianga Health, and finally Te Marae Ora (Cook Islands Ministry of Health) who supported me to undergo this Fellowship and also supported those that went before me and those that are yet to come.”