Toloa Tertiary Scholar Johanna Setefano (pictured) believes successful health outcomes for Pacific Aotearoa can best be achieved by Pacific people championing their own communities.
The 21-year-old of Samoan heritage adds it is a straightforward solution to a complex issue.
“It’s simple – by Pacific for Pacific.
“The best people to assist Pacific people are our very own especially when it comes to health.
“There are so many health-related factors and barriers our Pacific elders and people face and this can be minimised with having more and more Pacific doctors, nurses and health professionals in this space.”
Johanna recently received confirmation she will be graduating from the University of Otago at the end of 2022, following three years of studying a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Anatomy and minoring in Pacific Studies.
A Toloa Tertiary Scholarship presented to Johanna by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples earlier this year, has assisted her financially and has opened many doors for the determined student.
“It has been a roller coaster for my family since the pandemic and I am sure it is the same for many other Pacific people,” she says.
“Having this scholarship took away the financial burden from my parents and for that, I am so grateful.
“This scholarship has allowed me to focus solely on my studies and my results, which wouldn’t have been possible without it.”
The Toloa programme is one of MPP’s flagship initiative, which supports Pacific peoples in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) pathways, over a whole of life approach.
Toloa Tertiary Scholarships aim to inspire and support Pacific students in their engagement with STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), and includes tertiary tuition fees and compulsory course related fees up to $10,000, for one year of fulltime study in STEAM-related courses.
Looking ahead, Johanna wants to continue studying, and has applied for Heath Professional programmes at university, and is awaiting acceptance.
“I am eager to gain more knowledge and understanding of the human body while also helping breakdown any stereotypes towards our Pacific people within the health sectors in New Zealand as well as globally,” she says.
“I want to bring change to the way Pacific people are portrayed within the health sectors and to fight towards a better change for our people, and remove barriers they may face while in hospital, visiting the doctor and educating them on health diseases prevalent within the Pacific community.”
Reflecting on 2022, Johanna adds it has been a challenging year but one full of lessons.
“I have learnt God gives his hardest obstacles to his greatest warriors and he would not have done that if he did not think I could get through it.
“This has kept me grounded and motivated me to keep pushing through all the tribulations and to pick myself up after receiving a bad grade on a test or an assignment and doing even better the next time.”
Visit the MPP website for more information on Toloa.