Dr Lance O’Sullivan receives another award

Dr Lance O’Sullivan, a former pupil of Hato Petera College,  was honoured with a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award at the Auckland Town Hall last week. Earlier this year he was awarded Supreme Maori of the Year by current affairs show Marae Investigates.

Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive Shelley Campbell praises O’Sullivan’s dedication to eradicating child poverty.

“He is a tireless advocate for insulating houses and healthy lifestyle programmes, in addition to training New Zealand medical students across the country in responsive primary and community healthcare,” Ms Campbell said.

O’Sullivan has worked to help communities in Northland, mainly in Kaitaia where he and his wife Tracey have set up a low-cost clinic, Te Kohanga Whakaora.

He said he believes in quality healthcare for all.

“It’s come from my upbringing and my solo mum and seeing what she had to go through. We don’t come from a lot of wealth. My mum, who is a Pakeha, was a cleaner and my dad worked in the freezing works.

“I’m a young Maori dad now and I have a skill – as a doctor – that is very much needed in this community. I’m really honoured to be here doing what I do.”

The 41-year-old grew up in Auckland. He decided to move his family north with the hope of helping Maori. He opened his own practice in November last year, after leaving Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika over disputes about managing patients who cannot pay.

As well as setting up his medical practice O’Sullivan has been instrumental in establishing several programmes aimed at to improving child health. The Manawa Ora Korokoro Ora (Moko) programme, based at Kaitaia Primary School, aims to give medical care to up to 2000 children at 14 primary and intermediate schools.

The Kainga Ora – focuses on fixing cold, run-down homes to make sure all children in the community grow up in a warm and healthy environment.

The golden boy of Maori health, who counts Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia among his allies, hasn’t always had it this good.

He was raised by a solo mum as a part-Maori boy in the mostly Pakeha Auckland suburb of Howick.

“It wasn’t a place that was fully supportive of trying to find out who you are as a young Maori man,” he says.

The young Lance developed a reputation as a trouble-maker and, after being expelled from two schools, his mum packed him off to a boarding college for Maori boys, Hato Petera on Auckland’s North Shore.

It was a turning point for the 15-year-old and his first real exposure to the Maori world.

“As a part-Maori child at school the perception was that you were going to be trouble. After three years at Hato Petera I went from being the kid who got expelled from two schools to being dux, head boy and sports champion.”

O’Sullivan put the change down to an environment that encouraged and recognised his skills. The experience had a profound effect on his beliefs as a doctor.


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