Staverton Kautoke balances study with social life

Staverton Kautoke thought he would be spending all his time buried in jumbo-sized textbooks when he started medical school. But he's managed to work out a good split between study and social life.

“My preconception of medical school was that I would be studying 24/7 but that hasn’t been the case. There is a lot to study, but when you put in a time-management plan, you can make time for fun things like going to the gym and the movies.

“Making time for a social life not only preserves your sanity – good people skills are also at the core of being a good doctor.”

Maturity helps too, says Staverton, who moved from Tonga to Fiji to do a year-long certificate in public health before applying for medical school in New Zealand.

“My year in Fiji was the first time away from home and it set up the foundation for independence.

“I’ve noticed the less stressed students in medical school are those who have been travelling, had work experience, or done another degree before they come in. You can take a year off once you’re in but I think you lose the continuity of information.”

Accessing support networks helps get you through it all

Now in his fourth year of medical school, Staverton says the going is tough. However, looking back it was the initial health science year that was the most challenging. “It was huge competition. You had to work really hard to compete with about 1,000 students for around 200 places.”

Nevertheless, Staverton says having a good support network helps lighten the load. “There are only a small number of Pasifika students at medical school so I get exam practice from the Māori student network and share readings with the international group.

“Being in the minority you do get the inevitable racial prejudice, and I’ve had counselling from my church. But it’s a reality. If I took negative comments to heart it would never get me through medical school. It just makes me want to work hard and prove myself.”

Goal keeps Staverton focused on study

Staverton says a long-term goal helps keep him motivated to study. He aims to help reduce the high incidence of illness and disease among Māori and Pasifika people.

“I work part time for a DHB [district health board] analysing health data – like types of illnesses experienced – from high school students, and this has highlighted the differences between Pākehā, and Māori or Pasifika students. Now I’m inspired to work in public health or primary care prevention and research.”

Updated 12 Sep 2016