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Virtues in Paradise: Bold, brave and brilliant

Saturday 16 September 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Virtues in Paradise

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Virtues in Paradise: Bold, brave and brilliant
“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 Australia.

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 health.

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 “precision medicine.”

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 medical problem.

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 exploring.

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 destinies.

They will live up or down to our expectations.

It is essential to dwell on their positive virtues and talents rather than their deficits.

When your words are weighty, weigh your words.

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.