CNZM George Ngaei
For services to health and the Pacific community
GEORGE Ngaei says the most rewarding part of his job is being in the privileged position of having an impact on people’s lives.
He has been able to achieve this in both his motherland, the Cook Islands, and New Zealand, where he grew up.
His father was also a doctor and from a young age Mr Ngaei had always wanted to follow in his footsteps but it was only after beginning a career in agriculture he changed tack to follow a path into medicine.
“I milked cows, I did all those things for almost two years until they allowed me to study subjects related to what I really wanted.”
Mr Ngaei has been involved in improving Maori and Pacific health as a practising general surgeon in Invercargill. He also travelled to Rarotonga every year to provide his expertise on medical issues for those living there.
“It doesn’t matter where I go [there], I will have someone asking for advice,” he said with a laugh.
Among his achievements, Mr Ngaei has been chairman of the South Island Pacific Providers Collective since 2014 and was a committee member of the Auckland-based Cook Islands Health Network Association.
In 2002 he established a Pacific Island Specialist Nursing Service and has been chairman of Pacific Island Advisory and Cultural Trust since 2007.
He was also a representative for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons on the Southland Medical Foundation.
“Honestly, I never thought I would be anything else in my career. Medicine is a vocation and I feel honoured.”
Mr Ngaei was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and was one of five Southland recipients whose contributions were acknowledged in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.