Budding doctor aims for higher Pacific representation
(Picture caption: James Penfold accepts the STEM Award at the 2016 PMPYA.)
Doors have opened for budding Pacific doctor James Penfold he had no idea about when he was presented with the Ako Aotearoa STEM Award in 2016.
A category in the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA), it recognises a young person for significant academic achievement in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, and who has a track record of supporting the learning of others.
From Nuku’alofa, Tonga and born in Auckland, James has led an interesting life to date.
Raised in Auckland until he turned 12, his family then moved to Doha, Qatar where James attended The American School of Doha.
“I graduated from there and we relocated back to New Zealand,” the 21-year-old explains.
“I am studying a Bachelors of Medicine and Surgery, along with a Bachelors of Medical Science (Hons) at the University of Auckland.”
Since winning the STEM award, James has been presented with many opportunities, which he has grasped hold of wholeheartedly to continue evolving and extending himself.
“Doors have opened which I did not know existed, including networking with others who have similar interests to me which has provided contacts to further my ventures as a young developing Pacific Doctor.
“I was also given the opportunity to undertake an internship with Ako Aotearoa where we created a Prototype App looking at supporting the further involvement of Pasifika in STEM subjects at high school,” James adds.
Since receiving a PMPYA, James has also been invited to be the Chair of an external advisory group for New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), advising on National Strategies to ensure the long term goal of bringing more Pasifika into STEM.
This work aligns with one of his aspirations, to see the number of Pasifika students attending University and completing a tertiary education in STEM increase.
“I hope to continue with my career in medicine while also completing academic research on the side.
“It is still quite early in my career for me to say what are of medicine I would like to settle down in, but it is safe to say I am thoroughly enjoying my time in Medical School and cannot wait until I graduate and can work as a Pacific doctor.”
Showing members of the community what is possible, along with being recognised for your achievements is important, James says, and he highly recommends Pacific youth to apply for the upcoming 2018 PMPYA.
“It provides an excellent platform to continue as a Pacific role model … the recognition it provides is not short-lived as it also flows over into the community and inspires others to see anything is possible.
“Additionally, the support and rich guidance provided to the winners of these awards can help create a wealth of knowledge that will help you later on in life.”
Aimed to recognise excellence and outstanding achievement by Pacific youth in NZ in various categories, the PMPYA are geared towards giving Pacific youth the opportunity to boost their future potential even higher.
Applications for the 2018 awards close on February 6, and an awards ceremony will be staged soon after (date TBC).