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Breaking down barriers

West Auckland born-and-raised Dr Alisi Keppler is passionate about women’s health and about improving health outcomes for Pacific people. So when she decided to become a GP (general practitioner) Alisi says The Fono was the perfect place for her to be.

“That’s why I’m here, it’s close to home and I’m working with high needs Pacific which is perfect,” says the 29-year-old of Tongan and German descent.

However Alisi admits that she didn’t quite know what she wanted to do growing up.

“I didn’t think I was smart enough to do medicine, but I tried anyway.”

Alisi applied for everything, and got accepted into everything, before moving forward with a qualification in health.

After completing a health science certificate after high school, Alisi decided to go into medicine and upon completion of her sixth year gained a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, as well as an

Obstetrics and Gynaecology Diploma.

The young doctor worked in hospitals for three years, mostly at Northshore Hospital but also at Auckland Hospital, before joining The Fono over a year ago, initially as part of the general practice education programme (GPEP) programme.

After completing GPEP under the guidance of The Fono’s clinical leadership team, she signed on as a permanent general practitioner.

Alisi enjoys the opportunity she has to work with Pacific people and improve Pacific health outcomes.

“I would like to break down barriers that PI face in the hospital but also work on preventing bad health habits with education.”

It’s what drives her, being able to improve on health outcomes for her Pacific people.

“Seeing that little explanations and changes can actually make a difference is encouraging.”

And being half Tongan is a huge help, even if her language skills are not as strong.

“I can understand when people are having conversations and I can say words. My mum tried to teach me Tongan, my dad tried to teach me German and everyone tried to teach me English and I was bad at all of them,” she jokes.

However the language barrier is but another barrier Alisi has begun to break down, as patients feel comfortable to open up to her because of her Pacific background.

It’s an area she hopes to help patients with in the way that no one did for her mum while she and her siblings were growing up.

“My younger brother has Down Syndrome and he was in the hospital quite a lot with heart problems.

“I’ve seen the barriers created when a doctor would not speak to people in laymen’s terms,” making it difficult for families (especially Pacific families) to understand.

However Alisi’s on her own mission to change this, and being part of The Fono family is a huge step in the right direction.

“I like how everyone at The Fono is really happy to help, they all really want to help their patients and they go over and above what they’re called to do.

“Not only do they just look out for their patients, they also look out for each other, which is really nice.”

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Dr Alisi Keppler 

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