Mātai News

On their way up

The Gisborne Herald, 8 October 2022

Following their dreams in medical science. Gisborne’s medical research institute Mātai is again helping promote careers for local students with the return of its annual scholarships programme. The Gisborne Herald finds out who the recipients are and what they hope to achieve . . .
2023 Scholarship Students (Photo Paul Rickard, Gisborne Herald): From left: Imogen Amor-Bendall, William Batten, King Maxwell, Oliver Gillies, Holly Flyer, Kyle McVey.

Inspiring Tairāwhiti young people into medical careers is the aim of Mātai Medical Research Institute’s annual scholarship programme. This year, Mātai Medical Research Institute has been able to offer the community seven scholarships for local rangatahi, thanks to support from Turanga Health, Dame Bronwen Holdsworth, and Pultron Composites Ltd. “It is a rich and rewarding experience to be part of a process to grow and foster rangatahi talent within Tairāwhiti,” said Turanga Health chief executive and Mātai board of trustees member Reweti Ropiha.


“The respective endeavours of the students to engage in medical, MRI, and engineering/bioengineering schools of study for both vocational aspiration and a desire to make a difference, speaks volumes about our up-and- coming rangatahi leadership. We celebrate and applaud their collective success.” Dame Bronwen Holdsworth, chair of Pultron, Mātai board of trustees, and sponsor of the Mātai-Holdsworth Māori/Pasifika Scholarship and the Mātai Pultron Scholarship, said: “We are proud to be part of the journey of these wonderful young people, who all have a passion for returning home and supporting our community, and who have held various leadership and mentorship roles within their schools or community”.


The scholarship students will each receive $7000 and will also receive mentorship and ongoing opportunities to come home for summer internships.


The scholarships aim to help inspire Tairāwhiti students to aspire to careers in medicine, medical physics, medical sciences, medical imaging or bioengineering.

The Mātai Holdsworth Māori and/or Pasifika scholarship was founded by Dame Bronwen and Dr Peter Holdsworth, parents of Mātai director Dr Samantha Holdsworth. It is an acknowledgement of the friendship between Samantha’s grandfather, Jim Holdsworth, and his neighbour, Hetekia Te Kani-a-Takirau Kerekere Tuhoe te Ua (Te Kani te Ua) — who taught Jim te reo Māori. It also acknowledges the long-standing friendship of Samantha’s maternal grandmother Ngara Pearson and Lady Lorna (Mete-kingi) Ngata, founded in their college days in Wellington.


The scholarship is supported by Pultron Composites Ltd, a manufacturer of new materials technology products founded by the Holdsworths.


The Mātai institute has thanked the Holdsworth family and Pultron for their support, and said they would love to sponsor more local students to help inspire and grow local talent.


The establishment of Mātai, a non-profit medical imaging research and innovation centre, was made possible through Provincial Growth Fund seed funding administered by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, with additional support from Trust Tairāwhiti, the University of Auckland, JN Williams Memorial Trust, HB Williams Turanga Trust, Pultron Composites, Dame Bronwen and Dr Peter Holdsworth Trust, Fred Lewis Enterprise Foundation and many others.


This year’s recipients are:


  • William Batten 

Te Mata Mātai Hura Scholarship

William is a student at Gisborne Boys High School and is planning on studying for a Bachelor of Health Sciences/Bachelor of Sciences – Biological Sciences degree at the University of Auckland.

“The brain has always fascinated me,” he says. “It is one of the things we understand the least, with so much more to be discovered. Factors in my personal life have led me to be intrigued by the way the brain works. Addiction, Alzheimer’s, dementia and aneurysms have all affected my family members.

“My passion is to further understand this amazing and complex organ that controls our thought, memory, emotion, reasoning, motor skills, and every bodily process. The brain is just soft tissue — grey matter, white matter, nerve cells and blood vessels but it is the most complex and intriguing organ in the body, with 100 billion nerves communicating trillions of connections travelling 268 miles per hour, yet so much we are yet to discover.”


  • Kyle McVey 

Mātai-Turanga Health Scholarship

Kyle is head boy at Lytton High School. He is planning to study for a Bachelor of Engineering at the University of Auckland.

“Improving human health is one of the biggest challenges I see coming in the future, particularly brain-chip interfaces,” he says. “Already there have been massive advances in this area, and I would love to be among those who help make New Zealand a leader in this field.

“Not only can brain-chip interfaces allow communication between the brain’s electrical activity and an external device, but they are also likely to become a useful tool for managing depression which impacts our community”.

This year, Kyle led a fundraiser for the Cancer Society, and is about to do another for Gumboot Friday (mental health).


  • King Maxwell 

Mātai-Turanga Health Scholarship

King (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi) is deputy head prefect at Gisborne Boys’ High School.

He is planning to study for his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, with the goal of becoming a doctor, potentially specialising in orthopaedic surgery. He will do this at either the University of Auckland or University of Otago.

“Being a rugby player I’ve had several injuries which have slowed my progress in achieving better results in the sport,” he said.

“Putting myself in a position to help other people like me to achieve success would be a huge achievement for me and is largely why I want to pursue my chosen career, and bring my skills home.

“Having had first-hand experience with multiple orthopaedic surgeons has really inspired me to undertake a similar career path. They have helped me immensely with returning to playing rugby and volleyball.” King was also involved in the Mātai concussion study, which he said helped inspire him to pursue a career in medicine.


  • Holly Flyger 

Mātai-Turanga Health Scholarship

Holly is at Gisborne Girls’ High School and is going to study for her Bachelor of Engineering, followed by Biomedical Engineering at the University of Auckland.

“I cherish the idea of being able to come up with new ways to help others or coming up with new technologies,” she said.

“I hope to work in a role where I can put my love of science, maths and problem- solving together to improve people’s lives.

“I am also very interested in the brain, and I have been in the school’s Metacognition club for the past three years, where we learn and discuss a range of things from philosophy and psychology to how the brain works.”


  • Imogen Amor-Bendall 

Mātai-Turanga Health Scholarship

A student at Campion College, Imogen is going to Dunedin and the University of Otago, for her first year in health science on the way to a degree in medicine.

“I have been interested in how things work for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“During my final years of school, I have become intrigued by how the human body works, particularly how the brain works.

“My dad passed away from bowel cancer at the start of this year. Over the past seven years, I have been in and out of hospitals, going with my dad to radiation, and chemotherapy treatments, check-ups, and staying with him after his surgeries.

“I have seen and experienced first-hand the impact medicine can have on patients and their whānau. I have become passionate about being able to help others.

“Because of these qualities and experiences, I want to pursue a career in medicine and then return home to work in the local health sector and give back to the community I grew up in”.


  • Oliver Gillies 

Mātai-Pultron Scholarship

Oliver (Rongowhakaata) is deputy head prefect at Gisborne Boys´ High School.

He is bound for either Christchurch or Auckland to study for an honours degree in engineering. at the University of Canterbury, or Auckland University.

“Bioengineering appeals to me as there is a human element that involves providing solutions to help people in everyday situations,” he said.

“I am hoping to eventually come back to Te Tairāwhiti and explore my options as an engineer to improve the wellbeing of the community, and design solutions to real world problems, not just locally but globally.”


  • Tyla Parkinson 

Mātai-Holdsworth Scholarship 

Tyla (Ngai Tāmanuhiri) is at Gisborne Girls’ High School. She is planning to study towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Science, followed by a Bachelor of Medical Imaging (Hons) at the University of Auckland.

“I have always been drawn to a career in the health industry as the idea of helping, supporting, and giving back to people and communities has always stood out to me,” she said.

“I settled on the idea of becoming a medical imaging technologist (radiographer) after I broke my wrist and sprained my ankle in 2021 and spent a lot of time in the Radiology Department, giving me the chance to talk to radiographers in our hospital.

“I have also just finished a Gateway work placement programme with Te Whatu Ora Tairāwhiti, where I was given the opportunity to work alongside radiographers in not only general radiography, but also with MRI and CT technologists in MRI/CT, and sonographers in ultrasound.”

Tyla also has a passion for boxing and hopes to one day represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games or Olympic Games.