Innovation and diversity on agenda for new NAC Chair

12 July 2019

The College’s National Advisory Council has a new Chair in Northland GP Dr Aniva Lawrence (pictured to the left of the flowers), who will be bringing her experience as a PHO Clinical Director, Pacific Chapter representative, and practice owner.

The Council is comprised of GP representatives from College Chapters and local Faculties. It serves as a listening post, and relays critical opinions regarding policy issues and priorities to the Board. 

As Chair of the Council, Aniva will become an ex-officio member of the Board. She says she is excited about bringing new perspectives, innovation and diversity to the group.

“My hopes for NAC is that we become more out-facing for our membership. I want to utilise technology to communicate with our members more readily around Aotearoa.”

“NAC is reflective of the membership across the regions – it’s an opportunity for members to table issues and find resolution to things that affect their work, life, and training.”

Originally a South Auckland local, Aniva is of Sāmoan and Kiwi descent. She graduated from Auckland Medical School, completed her House officer years at Middlemore Hospital, and began GP training in Otara. 

“When you experience social deprivation and displacement, it can be hard to feel as though you can achieve the things you want in life.”

The move to Northland came after Aniva attended a conference, where she got talking to the legendary Erima Henare. Unsurprisingly, the late Māori leader and advocate put his persuasive skills to good use, and it wasn’t much longer until Aniva and her husband had made the move north.

“You’re part of a great lifestyle up here. The work is collaborative in nature, and there’s a lot of collegiality. Since I moved I’ve had many mentors that helped me on my journey,” says Aniva.

Aniva and her husband Leroy, a Māori physiotherapist, are kept busy by their three teenage sons and two GP practices: one in rural Bay of Islands, and one in Whangarei. 

“Without the passionate GPs, nurses, pharamacists, admin staff, social workers and healthcare assistants we work with, I wouldnt not have been able to pursue leadership roles,” says Aniva.  

She says the Whangarei practice in particular serves an area experiencing GP shortages and high levels of deprivation, with an enrolled population of 78% Māori and estimated Pacific population of 10 percent.

 “Our values are about empowering the community, and making them feel at home in our practice. We walk alongside our patients,” says Aniva.

“There’s such joy in our community despite the deprivation and health challenges: the cultural, whanau relationships, and faith aspects. Coming from a Polynesian background, these are second nature to me.”

As Deputy Chair of the College’s Pacific Chapter, it’s no surprise that health equity is close to Aniva’s heart.

“I’m passionate about ensuring our people are thriving, and letting people know that we can be healthy,” she says. 

“When you experience social deprivation and displacement, it can be hard to feel as though you can achieve the things you want in life.”

“My hopes for NAC is that we become more out-facing for our membership. I want to utilise technology to communicate with our members more readily around Aotearoa.”

“When I was younger, I didn’t know I had the ability [to go into medicine]. It was a hard journey, but it has been a really fulfilling career.” 

Inspiring and empowering younger generations is a large part of her work as Clinical Director, initially with Manaia PHO and now with Te Kaupapa Mahitahi Hauora – Papa O Te Raki Trust, a primary care collaboration between Northland PHOs and local iwi.

As one of the organisation’s Clinical Directors, Aniva is involved with adolescent health and advocating for youth health services.

“I completed a Leadership in Youth Health Fellowship some time ago. That’s what sparked my interest in leadership development for clinicians and robust training programmes,” says Aniva.

Aniva takes over from retiring Chair Dr Chris Reid, who was thanked by the Council at its last meeting on Thursday 30 May 2019 for his leadership and service.