Hutt Valley DHB Logo

(04) 566 6999

Published Wednesday 4 Aug 2021

Dr Ailsa Wilson talks about her unconventional path to medicine and Cook Islands Language Week.


Born and raised in Tokoroa, known as the sixteenth star of the Cook Islands due to its large Cook Island community, Dr Ailsa Wilson initially pursued studies in performance piano and sports science, before becoming inspired by a career in medicine through the Pacific and Māori medical students she was living with at the time.

"I was inspired by their passion and drive to improve Māori and Pacific health, and seeing the effect that they could have on the health outcomes of their own people," she says.

Now based in Hutt Hospital, she is one of three senior trainees on the orthopaedic surgical training scheme and deals with a range of patients, from those who present with traumatic injuries to those who have arthritis and require hip or knee joint replacements. As a registrar she accompanies patients through their healthcare journey from making decisions on treating their injury or problem, performing surgery on these patients, and following them up at clinics.

"Surgery gives me instant gratification, patients come in with a problem and it's up to us to fix them," says Ailsa. "The best thing about my job is not one thing, but the whole the process, I am very lucky to be doing a job that I love."

She also is very proud to say she is of both Māori and Cook Island descent. "When I have a Māori or Pacific patient, I often get the feeling that I'm walking in to see one of my family members. You instantly see patients faces brighten up when they know you are from the same village, island, iwi, or hapu as you. That really touches me – knowing that kind of rapport could lead to a better experience and outcome for our patients. As a Māori and Pacific Island doctor, I am fully aware of the health inequities that exist, and constantly advocate for our patients in any way I can to get them the best care they need."

She would love to see more Māori and Pacific People join the medical profession – but she is already inspiring others, starting with her younger sister, who is now a house officer and was recently accepted onto the rural training programme. "She copied me with a lot of things growing up, so she decided to copy me in medicine as well," jokes. Ailsa, who has also now begun mentoring Pacific and Māori students.

Of Cook Islands Language Week, she says it's about more than the language. "It's about learning from our metua's or elders and embracing our culture, our history, where we come from, and encouraging our young ones to learn this too."