A GISBORNE student has won a $17,000 scholarship to help pursue her dream to major in pharmacology.
“Receiving a Māori entrance scholarship from Otago University is quite special to me,” said Erana Hogarth, former deputy head girl at Lytton High. Getting the scholarship has reinforced her belief that Māori rangatahi who aspire to go to university have the ability and support “to achieve those goals and reach for the stars”.
From a young age, Erana felt the need to pursue a career in medicine and health. She wanted to study medicine in the hope of developing and researching new medication and cures for neurological diseases and conditions, as her family were susceptible to developing dementia. “My mum’s father was diagnosed with dementia when I was about eight years old,” she said.
Erana remembers spending time with her grandfather and seeing him slowly deteriorate until he passed away some years later. “As the years went on he forgot who I was . . . it was really tragic to watch it unfold right in front of me,” she said. As the same pattern continued with her grandfather’s siblings (great aunt and uncle), Erana felt driven to help people who suffered from “the horrible disease” and give reassurance to their families who had to see their loved ones suffer.
“That’s what kick-started my drive and passion to pursue health and medicine,” she said.
After missing out on university scholarships due to financial reasons this year, Erana made the difficult decision to delay her university studies for a year.
“Being the oldest daughter in a family of seven has had its challenges. I knew that financing me through med school was going to be difficult on my parents and siblings. But having this scholarship will allow me to pursue my dreams,” she said.
In April this year, Erana joined Mātai — the not-for-profit research centre based in Gisborne — for a two-week internship. Now she works there full time as an office and research assistant.
“It’s a very funny story,” she says.
She had applied for a scholarship offered by Matai, but by the time she was shortlisted, she had already decided to do a “working year”.
It was then Matai’s chief executive officer and director of research Samantha Holdsworth stepped in and said she would “love to meet her, regardless.”
She was offered a two-week internship and has been working full-time ever since.
“For someone like me with plans to work in health and specialise in supporting the Māori community, having a gap year to work with Mātai has immensely contributed to that dream of mine,” she said.
Erana is now assisting with some of Mātai’s leading research into concussion, and the Tairawhiti child wellbeing study. She is also supporting Mātai outreach activities, and assisting with tours of their kaupapa.
Erana says the scholarship will help pay for her accommodation and other living expenses for university and she is eager to start her first year in health science.
She says this new start would help her get a better understanding on how she plans to pursue her career in medicine.
“I think my story is different, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.”