“Te ‘Akirata ‘Ou – The New Dawn", was the theme for the Pasifika Medical Association conference held in the Cook Islands this week. MELINA ETCHES / 23090610
Virtues was front and centre at the Pasifika Medical Association Conference held in Aitutaki on September 11, writes Linda Kavelin-Popov.
The virtues of boldness, bravery,
brilliance, innovation, and excellence (best practices) were featured in
presentations on the hopeful theme of Te ‘Akirata ‘Ou – The New Dawn.
This conference held on Rarotonga, Aitutaki
and Aitu, co-sponsored by PMA and Te Marae Ora, is the largest gathering of
Pacific health workers and professionals in the region.
The sports hall in Vaipea was packed with
locals as well as delegates and presenters from Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, and
Minister of Health, Honorable Vainetutai
Rose Toki Brown, President of PMA Dr Kiki Maoate, and Secretary of Te Maera Ora
Bob Williams were among those presenting.
A highlight for me and my psychologist
husband Dr Dan Popov was the powerful presentation by Rarotonga psychologist,
Dr Evangeline Daniela Wong, who spoke about a holistic approach to mental
We all need to be “mentally, spiritually,
physically and relationally well – body, mind and soul.”
Interestingly, Dr Wong pointed out that
more than half of those seeking psychosocial help in the Cook Islands are men.
Dr Wong also pointed out that one of our
biggest challenges -- dementia -- cannot be cured but it can be held off and
prevented by several practices: Keep moving; ingest less salt, fat, and
alcohol; socialize, and learn something new.
“If it’s good for your heart, it will be
good for your mind,” she said.
Dr Minnie Strickland gave similar keys to
health: “Listen to your body. Take your meds – don’t be a ‘scientist’ and think
you can stop taking them. Keep moving and be happy. Enjoy life.”
It was thrilling to hear of the bold,
innovative work of several young Cook Islands and other Pacific Islands women
physicians and scientists doing research in traditional medicines, discovering
potential cures for cancer in marine life, and focusing on the importance of
Eighty-six percent of genetic data for
diabetes is based on Europeans.
A whole other approach needs to be made for
Pacific Islanders, for whom non-communicable diseases are the number one
One of the most meaningful highlights for
me was seeing Dr Ella Nicholas, the granddaughter of our longtime friend and
neighbour at Aretai Villas on Aitutaki, Mama Tu Tai Nicholas, who strongly encouraged
her children and grandchildren to enter the medical field.
She herself had little education, yet she
had great aspirations for her children and worked tirelessly to see them move
on to higher education.
Dr Ella, now carrying her own child, spoke
passionately about her role as a surgical registrar and innovations she is
Every one of the young Pacific Islands
women physicians or research pioneers said that their parents simply expected
them to enter medicine.
Parents have a huge impact on our children’s
They will live up or down to our
It is essential to dwell on their positive virtues
and talents rather than their deficits.
When your words are weighty, weigh your
If a child hears words like “dumb,” “stupid,”
or “useless,” it becomes their identity.
If you use words such as “Be helpful,” “You’re
bright and you can do it.” “I expect excellence from you,” “You can become a
doctor/lawyer/researcher/scientist,” that is who they will see when they look
in the mirror.
Children’s ears perk up when we talk about
them to others as well.
Expect the best from them and they will meet
their God-given potential.