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Ohotu Marae, left: Deep Bedekar, Liam Davis, Aileen Zhou, Laura Makker, Alice Yu, Siska Falconer, Anna-Marie Rohs, Milka Thuo, Danika Tangi

Anna-Marie Rohs participated in Block 4 of the Rural Health Interprofessional Programme (RHIP) as part of her Part V externship this year. RHIP takes place in Whakatāne, and is an initiative of the Eastern Bay of Plenty DHB to motivate health professionals in training to consider living and working rurally, particularly in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

RHIP embraces ‘holistic’ learning and community integration, so alongside the 3-4 days a week that Anna-Marie was in clinic for her externship, she participated in other activities such as learning about Whakatāne, Māori health issues, smoking cessation and family violence workshops as well as visiting local marae, talks with the Regional Māori Health team and visiting the New Zealand Mānuka Group in Ōpōtiki. One highlight of the 5 week course was the Noho Marae in Rūātoki where Anna-Marie learned about the cultural and social history of the Tuhoe tribe from local iwi. Not being from the area herself, she found it invaluable to learn the history of the area from their perspective.

Accommodation is provided for the duration of the programme, and Anna-Marie was lucky enough to be placed at a house along Ōhope beach. Eight other students from the disciplines of pharmacy, medicine, paramedicine and speech and language therapy were on Block 4 which enabled Anna-Marie to learn more about what goes on in their professions, and for them to learn about optometry and our scope of practice. Anna-Marie enjoyed this social aspect of the programme and her flat managed to fit in some beach runs and pub quizzes.

Anna-Marie was hosted by Visique Whakatāne for the clinical side of her externship where she witnessed many interesting pathology cases including uveitis, papilledema, acute angle closure crisis, suspected intracranial tumour, and foreign body cases. Patients ranged in age from babies only a few months old, through to the very elderly making it was a great opportunity to gain more exposure to these groups of patients.

Anna-Marie recommends the RHIP programme to anyone interested in learning about Māori health and working outside of a city.