Young doctor keen to contribute to Māori health

28 November 2017
Associate Papaarangi Reid from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and her son and two daughters
Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid, Kahu Piripi, Tahi Piripi and Ngahuia Piripi.

Tahi Piripi is not the first person in his family to become a doctor, his sister is one as well.

The difference is she plays Dr Esther Samuels on Shortland Street, while he’s now a first year house officer in Whāngarei Hospital.

Tahi (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) has just graduated from the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MCBhB) with sister, actress Ngahuia Piripi, in the audience for support. “She even jokes that she could probably do my job now that she's been acting it for so long,” says Tahi.

“One of the best feelings from graduation day was the pride that was reflected back at me by my whānau. As I crossed the stage I looked at my sisters upstairs and across to my mum, who was seated on stage. The word overwhelming doesn't do justice to the emotions I was feeling. It signalled the end of so much hard work, shared with so many amazing people. I wouldn't have made it without my whānau supporting me throughout the whole journey, they got me through to the finish line.”

His mother, Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid, is the medical faculty’s Tumuaki and Head of Department of Māori Health. Papaarangi said it was a joyous occasion.

“I was always concerned I had been one of those ’pushy mothers’, but Tahi has assured me that he loves medicine. Like most whānau, after someone completes a long degree, we are happy, proud and keen to see what the future brings.”  

The 23-year-old had wanted to become a doctor since he was a boy.

“I have always been interested in science, my mum’s a doctor and I would always ask her questions about her work. Having a doctor for a parent was so inspirational, it kept me interested in what she was doing. I would want to know what the cream would do, why she gave me that kind of medicine. Sometimes there would be a queue of inquiries at the Marae that she would look after, while we were practising kapa haka.”

After growing up in Wellington and attending Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna, he moved to Auckland and started Kings College just as he turned 12 years old.

The culture shock was real. Learning in English was a change for him but he managed, passing all of his year 13 exams. Because he was still so young, he decided to take a year to expand his world views spending some time in Europe before returning to come back for his first year of Biomedical science.

“I had great whānau support, and also support from MAPAS, which in a way is a whānau itself. They’re really good at supporting students through the course and always there to help you when you’re studying.”

Tahi has not yet decided on his specialisation but is keen to contribute to improving Māori health.