PMA Scholar: Pursuing a grandfather’s dream in medicine

Twenty-year-old Lorenzo Havili remembers his grandfather always wanting one of his grandchildren to become a doctor. As the eldest of five siblings and the first person in his family to attend university, he decided it was up to him to pursue the medical dream.

“My grandad is an inspiration for me. Before he passed away, he always told our family that he wanted at least one of his kids or grandchildren to be a doctor. I have always enjoyed science and learning how the body works so, I think he put that burden on to me,” Havili laughs. “My grandad had his own health problems and I think that’s why he really wanted someone in the family to go into medicine and help people like him. That was his dream, which became my dream too.”

Havili is the recipient of the 2019 Pasifika Medical Association’s (PMA) Sorensen Pacific Health Scholarship that is awarded to a Pacific male and female student of the Otahuhu College STEM Programme and worth $5,000 each.

Currently studying a Bachelor of Science and majoring in physiology at Otago University Havili has plans to further his study into medicine next year.

“It’s a career where you can do so much to give back to your community. I’ve been a part of a PMA internship since 2018 and its allowed me see how a career in medicine can not only help people in the hospitals but also beyond that by working for international aid or health organisations as well.”

He says the scholarship has helped him pay for his university fees and relieved some financial strain from his parents who stay in South Auckland.

“Studying away from home can be expensive, especially now having plans to further my study. Having no family around can be challenging too. It’s the first time having independence and it took a while getting used to not having a home full of people. I’m lucky that I live with two other Tongan boys at the moment. One of them is in medical school and the other one is in sciences too so, it’s good to have some familiar faces around me.”

Debbie Sorensen is the Chief Executive of the Pasifika Medical Association, the Chief Executive of Pasifika Futures Whānau Ora Commissioning agency and the Managing Director of Health Specialists Ltd. She is a New Zealand born Tongan who trained as a Psychiatric Nurse. Debbie has dedicated her professional career transforming Pacific health by leading and developing innovative and unique solutions to challenges facing Pacific populations in the South Pacific and around the world. She has worked in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. She is an expert in leading Pacific communities and organisations through health crises and has provided her expertise in international agencies including the World Bank, SPC, AusAID, NZAID and WHO. Debbie currently acts as an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health Tonga and the Minister of Health Fiji. She is an advocate and supporter for developing more skilled Pasifika in health and a mentor in helping them to navigate through their medical careers. In 2019, she was a winner for the NZ Women of Influence Awards in Public Policy.

All 2020 PMA scholarships are now open and applications close on Friday 3 July 2020.

Please see the link to apply:


Date: Monday 15 June 2020