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Emotional farewell for familiar face in Tairawhiti public health sector

LAUGHTER, fondness and respect were in abundance yesterday as Hauora Tairawhiti staff past and present farewelled Hiki Pihema into her retirement.

The dietitian and Hauora Tairawhiti board member said her farewell was very emotional.

She appreciated the presence of former colleagues, board members past and present, and her family.

“There are so many colleagues from over the years,” she said.

“There are so many memories.”

Her career started with graduation from Otago University in the mid-1970s followed by another year of training at Wellington Hospital.

There were stints working at Dunedin Hospital and Waikato Hospital before the native of Tokomaru Bay decided in 1986 it was time to come home.

The new Gisborne Hospital had only been in operation for 14 weeks, she said.

Mrs Pihema laughed as she looked back at the early days of her career, an era of no computers, no mobile phones or Zoom-type technology.

There was no nutrition workforce in the hospital sector.

Today there are 47 Maori nutritionists within the public hospital system.

In yesteryear there were no Maori health providers and the Treaty of Waitangi was “quite invisible''.

Mrs Pihema won't be resting easy in retirement.

“I want to keep my brain turned on.”

She plans to work part time with Interprofessional Education (IPE) through Otago University by supporting the education of Tairawhiti health professionals.

Mrs Pihema wil also be advising Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

Her husband was a firefighter for 35 years so “they are like family”.

Mrs Pihema wil remain a board member of Hauora Tairawhiti until the country's 20 health boards are replaced by Health New Zealand in mid-2022.

A more detailed article looking back at Mrs Pihema's career will feature in next Saturday's Weekender.

MANY CHANGES: Popular dietitian Hiki Pihema has been a noticeable and familiar face in the Tairawhiti public health sector for 35 years. She retired yesterday. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell