A career inspired by a life saved – Dr Bruce Su’a

Dr Bruce Su’a, MBChB

When Dr Bruce Su’a, MBChb, was growing up in Samoa, he would see the huge scar across his grandfather’s chest and hear stories of its origin – the result of lifesaving surgery to treat bowel cancer.

Years later, Dr Su’a, not only followed his dream of becoming a doctor but also completed his PhD research focused on the bowel.

“Every time I would see my grandfather’s scar, I would ask him about his treatment and operation. Hearing about his experience, and the fact that the operation saved his life, made me want to become a surgeon.”

Dr Su’a  will be one of the guest speakers at the Pasifika Health Power Webinar, presented by the Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) and supported by the University of Otago and University of Auckland.

He will share with the PMA members his journey on becoming a doctor and his current pathway to becoming a surgeon. Other guest speakers include breast surgeon Dr Ineke Meredith, MBChb FRACS, and Pacific Health Researcher Tolotea Lanumata.

Dr Su’a came to New Zealand after he completed high school in Samoa and received a scholarship to study medicine at Otago University. Dr Su’a always had a love for research and in 2016, he received the inaugural Pacific clinical research training fellowship from the Health Research Council. His research was on solutions to complications surrounding bowel and colon surgery.

“It’s just like plumbing. We cut out a section of the bowel and re-join it together, just like what a plumber would do to re-join pipes.”

This procedure can sometimes cause leakages and is one of the worst complications a patient can have following bowel or colon cancer surgery.  His research explored the development of an earlier, effective treatment for these types of leakages.

He says that the two years he spent researching the topic was a rewarding experience and encourages students to take up any research fellow opportunities during or after their studies.

“Research is very important and is a gift that keeps on giving. Research helps us to inform policies, like in government and clinical trials. It allows you to better look after patients under your care and in governance can help you inform and influence public health policies.”

He says that more Pacific health professionals are needed just for the simple fact of having doctors who can pronounce Pacific names properly and be able to speak to patients in their own language.

“My Samoan last name is only three letters but it’s always getting mispronounced. We can provide a unique perspective of how to manage and care for our Pacific patients.

When I was based in Middlemore Hospital, I was speaking Samoan to everyone who would come into the ward which was nearly every second day, and it made a huge difference.”

The Pasifika Health Power Webinar Series starts next week on Wednesday 14 April from 5pm – 6pm and the guest speakers will present from the various locations with zoom facilities allowing many others to tune in from around the country and overseas.

To register, please visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/pacifichealthpowerwebinar

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Date: Friday 09 April 2021