Michael Burling, Doctor

I am a second-year house surgeon, working in the Emergency Department at Gisborne Hospital. I was born and raised in Tonga. At high school, I really enjoyed biology, chemistry and physics but didn't think I was intelligent enough to study medicine. A friend's father, a doctor, encouraged me to just give it a go. So I applied to Auckland Medical School, and was accepted under its MAPAS scheme (an alternative entry scheme for Maori and Pacific students).

Medical school was hard work but in my fourth year of study when we began working in the hospital, I knew I'd made the right career choice. I learned that less than 20 percent of your day involves use of your clinical knowledge. 80 percent of your time involves communication with people. You have a few minutes to gain someone's trust so they will share intimate details with you that they maybe haven't even shared with their partner or close family. I enjoy people. My parents run a surf camp and I have always met lots of people and enjoyed chatting to them.

Coming from the Pacific, I feel motivated to make a difference to the health statistics. For just about every disease, the highest prevalence will be among Maori or Pacific peoples. I realise too that I can be a role model for others so that they might aspire to the same level.

I really enjoy my work. Yes, it's high stress at times but when you're dealing with people involved in car crashes or acutely unwell patients, it can be exhilarating. It's a very rewarding job.

I chose Gisborne Hospital for the quality of training here and for the lifestyle. That's the beauty of medicine. You can choose where you want to go, and have a very good lifestyle as part of that. I'm a surfer and on my days off I enjoy surfing and golf.

Next year, I hope to take some time off and travel, see the world. But I plan to do some more training. The five specialties I'm looking at are surgery, urology, obstetrics and gynaecology, emergency medicine, and anaesthetics. That's the thing with medicine; there are so many specialties! It comes down to your choice of lifestyle. There's something there for everybody.

New Zealand is one of the safest places in the world in which to practise medicine. There is a wonderful working environment in New Zealand. It's an amazing place to learn medicine too.


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