Born and bred Cook Islander Dr Janet Matenga Taukave says she is pleased to have returned to Rarotonga with her husband, Haikiu, and their two daughters, and to have been able to help out at the hospital.
She has been training at the Fiji School of Medicine, now the Fiji National University and is two years off completing nine years of study to gain a Master’s degree in obstetrics and gynaecology. During her break from study she has been working, as part of her Ministry of Health contract to relieve current hospital staff over the Christmas break.
Once she has completed her studies she plans to do an attachment in New Zealand to expand her knowledge base and gain experience, before moving back to Rarotonga for good.
As well as studying, Janet has been juggling motherhood. With eight and 15-month-old daughters, “we had children at the most important years of study,” says Janet’s husband Dr Haikiu Taukave, “and both were unplanned”.
He says his wife went into contractions during a psychology exam and delivered that afternoon, missing another exam that day. She sat that exam after the birth – passing both exams and delivering a daughter. “Most people would take time off”, he says, “but she just kept on going”.
Dr Haikiu Taukave was born in Rotuma, the Polynesian island in the Fiji group. Unlike his wife, he says he was forced into the medical field and found it depressing at first, until he made friends “and then I was set on staying”.
It was those friends who introduced him to his future wife when he was into his third year at medical school. “I think the Cook Islands has this plan to send beautiful women across to entice skilled labour back here,” he says.
His nine years of study will see him graduate at the end of this year with a Master’s degree in general surgery.
Long term he is torn between specialising in orthopaedic or general surgery and says it could go either way.
While his wife finishes her last year of study, he hopes to be in Auckland in 2019 gaining experience. “We will be back and forth for a little while, then we both plan to be in New Zealand. It’s important for us to understand how the medical system over there works, because here we follow those same guidelines,” he says.
More than a career in common, the couple found out that both their grandfathers had trained together. “They were actually in the same class at medical school, my grandfather became an obstetrician and gynaecologist, while Jan’s became a GP and a politician,” says Dr Taukave.
With all of Dr Matenga Taukave’s family here, the couple’s long term goal is to settle and bring their family up in Rarotonga.