After seeing the health demands of the Pacific community in New Zealand far outweighed the number of doctors and medical practitioners required to meet their needs, Yeomans Vaamainuu decided to do something about it.
The 23-year-old from South Auckland is currently interning at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), as part of the Tupu Tai Pasifika Public Sector Summer Internship Programme.
Facilitated by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Tupu Tai programme is a paid 11-week summer internship offered to Pasifika tertiary students and recent graduates interested in a career in the public sector.
It is an opportunity for students to gain policy experience, build professional networks, and prepare them to enter employment after they complete their studies.
For Yeomans, her internship at MPP is an opportunity to engage with Pacific communities, and gain insight into policy.
“The focus of my medical studies is science-based and one on one engagement, rather than a community approach,” Yeomans says.
“I believe MPP is a great agency to do my internship – and particularly the Auckland branch, as it is working with the target population.”
One of three children and of Samoan descent, Yeomans grew up in Otahuhu, and attended Otahuhu College.
She is about to enter her fourth year of her Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Otago, having already completed a Health Science degree in Population Health.
“While I was doing Health Science, it really highlighted the inequalities within the health system,” she says.
Perhaps more confronting has been seeing her grandmother and mother suffer from chronic illnesses, and watching her grandfather die from melanoma.
“This has inspired me to go into General Practice and help level the curve, by trying to provide everyone with the same opportunities.”
Yeomans adds she is eager to do her elective year in Samoa to connect with her family in Upolu.
So far, Yeomans is enjoying her work at MPP, which she says is challenging and all new to her, including processing needs assessments and funding applications among other things.
She will finish at MPP at the end of January, before returning to university.
“The big goal for me I guess, is to work for the Ministry of Health – policy is a big driver of how care is laid out.”
It is an area, Yeomans believes she can create a positive change in.