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Dr Pat’s legacy lives on

Ngati Porou people are dying before their time.

That was the major concern of one of the most celebrated health professionals of Ngati Porou, the late Dr Paratene Ngata.

Known to many as ‘‘Dr Pat’’, he had hopes and dreams of improving the health and life expectancy of his people, after witnessing many of them afflicted by chronic diseases and disabilities.

Now his aspirations are being realised in a number of initiatives developed through Ngati Porou Hauora, one of the most recent a research centre opened at Te Puia Hospital on Thursday.

The name of the centre is Te Rangawairua o Paratene Ngata, which means the inspiration of Paratene.

Partners in the research centre are Ngati Porou Hauora and the Maurice Wilkins Centre, a New Zealand centre of research excellence that targets serious human disease.

Te Rangawairua o Paratene Ngata will be a research centre of excellence in rural and indigenous health, becoming a flagship training destination in these areas as well as a space for Maori health practitioners to work alongside western medicine.

One of its major focuses will be to look into diseases plaguing Ngati Porou, such as gout and diabetes — ailments that Dr Pat would strive to educate his whanau about.

Dr Pat passed away in 2009 at the age of 62. Before he died, he wrote an affidavit for the East Coast Inquiry to the Waitangi Tribunal.

It was titled Oku Moemoea, Oku Wawata, Oku Tumanako — My dreams, my deep desires, my hope”.

In it, he set out his own dire health prognosis, dying of non-smoking cancer, and said he represented the dire health status of Ngati Porou. He set out his concern about health disparities and the need to ensure that Ngati Porou did not die before their time, but live full, productive and healthy lives.

He hoped the Crown would respond with honour and work with Ngati Porou to develop policies and solutions to restore and improve the health and wellbeing of Ngati Porou — and life expectancy.

He also hoped the Crown would provide sufficient resources and investment in Ngati Porou Hauora to continue to provide sustainable, high-quality health services and programmes.

Many who attended the opening paid tribute to Dr Pat, saying how appropriate it was for the centre to be named after him.

It was a testament to the legacy he left, to inspire others to do great things, said Ngati Porou Hauora chairman Teepa Wawatai.

“These are the things that he left behind to inspire us. Te Rangawairua o Paratene is such an apt name. It represents what he stood for,” he said.

“His hopes and deepest desires have become ours.”

Mr Wawatai acknowledged Dr Pat for establishing relationships with institutions such as The University of Otago to assist in the vision.

“It’s about taking information from institutions and bringing it back to where it’s most needed,” he said.

“It’s about doing things here. This is one of a number of initiatives in our new model of care.”

Peter Shepherd of the Maurice Wilkins Centre said they shared the same vision as Dr Pat.

“We want to change the world by working together. To solve these problems, it needs all of our efforts together.

“We are proud and honoured to be part of this.

“Ngati Porou, you are really unique in the way you have approached this. You move forward, are pro-active and take charge.

“This is your university that can do world-class research.”

Official launch of Ngati Porou's Te Rangawairua o Paratene Ngata Research Centre. BACK: Peter Crampton, Teepa Wawatai, Anaru Ngatu, Lois McCarthy-Robinson, Tony Merriman, Peter Shepherd, Front: Ngaroma Ngata and Rose Kahaki. Pictures by Liam Clayton
THE INSPIRATION: A health research centre named Te Rangawairua o Paratene Ngata, which means, “the inspiration of Paratene” — dedicated to the lifelong work of the late Ngati Porou doctor — was opened at Te Puia this week. His son Anaru and wife Ngaroma (above) were involved in the special ceremony.