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At the age of 15, Martin Mikaere was reading at the level of a 10-year-old. Because he struggled with reading, he openly avoided it and played up in class to avoid the work.
That could have been his future – but today, Martin Mikaere, affectionately dubbed “Doc Martin” is a much-loved GP at Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki Paeroa’s Whānau Health Centre, and proof that no matter what obstacles a person may face, if they are passionate enough, they can still follow their dreams to reach their goals.
Doc Martin was this month awarded the Royal New Zealand College of Practitioners Peter Anyon Memorial, in memory of Dr Peter Anyon, for his contribution to the vocational education of general practitioners.
His struggle with reading was eventually diagnosed as dyslexia. Lucky to have the support of his parents, he was referred to a private tutor, but he says his real breakthrough came when he was introduced to fantasy writing with a book called “The Pawn of Prophecy” by David Eddings.
“My mum sorted it for me by getting me this book and encouraging me to read it,” he says.
“I stayed with the book and finished all 300 pages over the next two to three months.”
Captivated, he went on to read the whole series, which he says got his reading speed up but did not help his spelling.
“To date I’m still a horrible speller and my use of punctuation is terrible. I rely on my wife for these things these days.”
Dr Mikaere’s struggles didn’t end there though. While he loved his books, he says he and his twin brother, Sam, who also had dyslexia, were disruptive and ended up attending three different high schools.
“Let’s just say that by the end of our schooling no one really expected much from either one of us. We were outspoken and disruptive in the classroom – classic class clowns -- and we both struggled with our dyslexia.”
He failed School Certificate maths two years in a row scoring 28% the first-time round and then 26% the next year.
“So with a whole year of extra study I somehow managed to do worse,” he says.
He went into nursing training straight after high school, a pathway he chose because his mum was a nurse and he thought it would be a good job to travel with.
“I liked people and thought it might be a good match for me.”
But he failed dismally, admitting that he was really there to play rugby and party.
“I failed all but one paper in the first semester and I got halfway through the second semester and thought, ‘this is not for me’. That again was like my reading. I was struggling with it. So I guess I walked away.“
But, he says, this left him with a nagging sensation of failure.
“I had never openly failed so bad before. I was embarrassed and wanted to just hide from the world.
“But I could not let it go. It really bothered me that I had that scratch against my name.”
So, after working in jobs he says he hated, he worked up the courage to give nursing another go.
“They were very weary of me at first, but I got into foundation studies for nursing, finished that and then went on to finish the nursing degree.”
From there, he flourished, working in Emergency Departments in New Zealand, Australia and America before returning to NZ to start medicine, eventually working 80-100 hour working weeks in his orthopaedic role at Whangarei Hospital.
Dr Mikaere’s career took a new turn when he took some rare time off from his job to take his two tamariki to the beach. He had so much fun with them, he realised what he was missing out on, and that night, told his wife Anna that he was going to become a GP.
“There’s no way I was going to live my life like this anymore,” he says.
Now in the third year of a General Practice Education Programme (GPEP), Dr Mikaere is thoroughly enjoying work at the Te Korowai practice in Paeroa, which has about 1700 patients, 70% of whom are Māori.
He says he was humbled to receive the award.
“I had no idea that I had even been put forward for this. It was a real shock but I have to say it is pretty cool to be recognised like this.”
In closing his acceptance speech, Dr Mikaere called on a whakatauki that he lives by:
“Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
“Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain”
He says he has found in his life that people (rightly or wrongly) will give their opinion on what they think you should do.
“But my finding here is that it is the best approximation that they have of themselves and as such is limited. They won’t advise anything that they themselves could not do as it’s outside either their knowledge box or their estimation of your abilities.”
His advice to young people is that if they want to be builder, a nurse a doctor or an astronaut - then go and do it.
“Nothing is easy in life but it is all achievable if you want it. Certain things are easier if you have natural talent, but I had no talent for academia and still finished an academic-heavy programme.
“So to the young people I say dream big and if it fails. Get back up and go again.”
“This whakatauki is my life motto. Better to try and fail because even in that failure you will find clarity and direction. But never if you don’t try.”
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Amputated limbs, blindness, erectile dysfunction, stroke, kidney and heart disease are just a few complications of a condition suffered by over 200,000 New Zealanders.
Diabetes is a sometimes life-threatening disease that affects three times as many Māori and Pacific Islanders as it does other cultures.
And Ministry of Health figures suggest that another 100,000 New Zealanders could have the condition without realising it.
Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki dietictian Claire Cannon says once a person gets over the initial shock of a diabetes diagnosis they can focus on implementing positive changes to improve their health.
“I have seen people make a real positive difference to their health by improving their diet, becoming more active and reducing stress,” she says.
Diabetes occurs when the hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, doesn’t do its job properly. Insulin is needed to balance our blood sugars, which increase when we consume carbohydrates and sugary foods.
There are three types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where the body attacks the cells that produce insulin. Without insulin blood levels in the body remain high resulting in damage to the vessels that supply blood to vital organs. Type 1 Diabetes cannot be prevented but it can be managed through a combination of medication, healthy food choices and exercise. People with Type 1 diabetes need to manage their blood sugar levels with insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and can be helped by maintaining a healthy weight and through making dietary changes and lifestyle changes.
Gestational Diabetes affects some women during pregnancy when they can’t produce enough insulin to meet the demands of a growing foetus – sometimes up to three times that of normal needs. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after pregnancy, however the woman’s risk of developing risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 50-60% in the future, so Diabetes NZ advises yearly blood tests.
The main symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, abnormal weight loss, increased fatigue, irritability, recurrent infections, blurry vision and erectile dysfunction in men.
Claire says some people may not be aware they have diabetes, so if they recognise any or all of the symptoms above, they should see their GP, who can arrange blood tests.
World Diabetes Day is November 14.
Forward-thinking rangatahi leadership group Te Mata Rangatira (TMR), received the national Public Health AssociationTu Rangatira Mo Te Ora Awardon October 11 for exemplary commitment.
A representative group of 21 whānau from Hauraki attended the Parnell, Auckland ceremony as support.
The award is given annually to those who have shown exemplary commitment to making a difference locally, regionally and nationally.
Nominated by TCDC Councillor Sally Christie and Former Green MP Catherine Delahunty, the award was recognition for Te Mata Rangatira’s focus on empowering rangatahi leadership and action.
President of the Public Health Association of New Zealand Lee Tutuki Te Wharau says Te Mata Rangatira’s work was meaningful, successful and unique in challenging rangatahi to be initiators of activities inspiring other young people and the communities around them.
"You have been an instrument of change, and an inspiration or others to continue contributing to the future of rangatahi and their whānau,” she said
She acknowledged and praised TMR’s work, which included developing and sustaining the Hauraki Rangatahi Summit in August this year; bringing whakapapa into the 21st Century and creating whakapapa trails in their local maunga; developing and launching ‘Ko Koe’ - an anti-bullying campaign and working with organisations nationally to change their approach and perspective on rangatahi potential.
Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki Iwi Health Promoters and TMR co-facilitators Frank Thorne and Carrie Taipari-Thorne say the award and the group’s acknowledgement is evidence of a philosophy they work by, ‘mahia te mahia’ - do what needs to be done, and reap the collective rewards.
“If anything, it has reminded them of their potential and has simply inspired them to think bigger and work harder for their community.”
Every day, two New Zealand tane will lose their lives to prostate cancer. They could be your father, brother, uncle, grandfather, husband or your mate.
Early diagnosis is critical - if detected and treated early, 600 lives a year could be saved.
This month is Blue September and the Prostate Cancer Foundation is raising awareness and funds through initiating ‘Blue Do’ events, where the community can organise fundraisers such as an office morning tea, a baking sale or fishing trip - anything to get a team together to raise vital funds to fight prostate cancer and spread the message for men to look after their health and get checked.
The prostate is a gland located behind a man’s bladder. Part of the reproductive system, it is regulated by the male sex hormone testosterone and is responsible for producing the majority of fluid that makes up semen.
The size of the prostate changes with age, growing rapidly during puberty - fuelled by an increase in hormones - but in an adult it should be the size of a walnut.
Many men begin to have problems with their prostate as they get older. The Prostate Cancer Foundation says most can be caused by simple enlargement of the prostate, but a few are caused by cancer.
Regular prostate PSA tests are recommended for men over the age of 40 if there is a family history of prostate cancer; or who are between the ages of 50 and 70. PSA is a small protein released into the blood by the prostate and if levels in the blood are high it is an indicator that there may be abnormalities in the prostate gland.
Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki Clinical Services Manager Taima Campbell says prostate cancer may not exhibit symptoms in the early stages so it is important for men to be vigilant in noticing any changes and to have regular check-ups.
“Men having any problems such as pain, fever, swelling, blood and pus in the urine or problems passing urine should consult their doctor without delay,” she says.
For more information, go to www.prostate.org.nz
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