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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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Prime Minister Jacinda Adern made a whistlestop visit to Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki yesterday, spending time with kaimahi and management in the wharehui, before heading off around the complex for a meet and greet. Super relaxed and friendly, the Prime Minister happily chatted and posed for photos with kaimahi before being whizzed away to her next appointment armed with a kete full of goodies, including a wee gift for daughter Neve.
Ko Moehau ki waho, Ko Te Aroha ki uta.
Ko Waihou, ko Piako me ko Ohinemuri ngā awa.
Ko Tīkapakapa te moana
Ko Ngāti Maru, ko Ngāti Tamaterā ngā iwi.
Ko Matai Whetu, ko Te Pai o Hauraki ngā marae. Ko Tainui te waka.
Ko Hoturoa te tangata.
Ko Jo Shelford tōku ingoa.
Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou katoa e te whānau whānui o Hauraki.
Nō reira e te whānau Turou Hawaiki
nā Io ki a koutou katoa
Call and make an appointment. Freephone 0508 835 676
Winter can bring its share of sniffles and colds, but it can also unleash more serious illnesses such as the flu.
While a cold virus will likely last a few days, the flu, if left untreated, can lead to dangerous complications such as pneumonia and can even be fatal.
Those most susceptible tend to be the elderly, pregnant women and those with an ongoing medical condition such as diabetes or heart or lung condition, but it can affect anyone, no matter how fit and healthy they are.
Immunising against the flu helps prepare your immune system to fight the flu and can lessen the chance of someone not only getting it, but of spreading it around family, work colleagues, older relatives, or someone with a medical condition.
It takes two weeks to develop immunity once a person has the vaccine.
Pregnant women are at greater risk of complications from the flu and they can be vaccinated at any time during their pregnancy.
The vaccine can also pass immunity to the baby which can protect them in their first six weeks when they are too young to be vaccinated.
The flu is an airborne disease and very contagious, so if someone has the flu they should stay home from work to reduce spreading it around. Symptoms include a cough, headache, fever or chills, body aches and pains, fatigue and generally feeling miserable.
The flu is a severe respiratory illness which is different to a cold, so if people think they have a flu they need to seek medical treatment immediately.
The Flu vaccination is free for all Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki enrolled clients who are pregnant; 65 years and over; have longterm health conditions such as severe asthma, cancer and diabetes; and for children four years and under who have a history of respiratory illness.
Other enrolled clients are $20; unregistered $40.