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Makayla Ripeka Kahi

Medical science student

Medical student Makayla Ripeka Kahi is researching a natural alternative to beta blockers as medicine to reduce blood pressure

 – Makayla Kahi with Amokura Panoho

Ko Ruahine te pae maunga — Ruahine is my mountain
Ko Ōroua te awa — Ōroua is my river
Ko Tainui te waka — Tainui is my canoe
Ko Ngāti Kauwhata me — Ngāpuhi ngā iwi Ngāti Kauwhata and Ngāpuhi are my tribes
Ko Hinepare te hapū — Hinepare is my subtribe
Ko Kauwhata te Marae — Kauwhata is my marae
Ko Makayla Kahi tōku ingoa — Makayla Kahi is my name
No Kawakawa au — I hail from Kawakawa.

Until the Pūhoro STEMM Academy came to my school in Fielding, I didn’t like the sciences.

But seeing all the different aspects of science and its connection to matauranga Māori made me want to step into the STEMM world. I went on a trip to Houston with Pūhoro STEMM Academy which included a visit to NASA and from there I signed up to check out all the different opportunities available via the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme.

None of my whānau had gone to university and it was a big step when I decided to choose a pathway that would lead to medicine. Medicine wasn’t always the goal. But I thought ‘reach really far and see what other opportunities emerge’. 

You know, go for the moon, and fall on the stars but I’ve learned that the moon is closer than the stars!  

During this summer, I have worked with some scientists on a plant not native to Aotearoa that supposedly has antihypertensive properties, testing it on rats using a probe. There is not a lot of research on hypertension in Māori. The only way we can pick up hypertension in our whānau is by going to the doctors or when there’s a complication like a stroke, or heart attack.  

Presently we use beta blockers as medicine to reduce blood pressure but they can have side effects and so our people stop taking them.

From our tests we have found this plant and new technology can help us monitor hypertension more effectively in a way that is accessible to Māori. 

The concept of Tauutuutu is to emphasise balance, reciprocity, and the symbiosis in our social and environmental relationships. I really only understand it in the context of this research project I worked on. I’d love to see us go back to the ways of our tupuna where we can grow it in our backyard, make a smoothie from it and it will reduce cardiovascular diseases in our people. 

Makayla’s tips

  • Connection to Matauranga Māori and science
  • Reach for the stars
  • Be curious
  • Be enthusiastic to maximise opportunities

Makayla’s pathway

  • Pūhoro Tutor Lead – Tāmaki Makaurau, Pūhoro STEMM Academy
  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, The University of Auckland
  • Summer research intern, ūtahi Manawa Healthy Hearts Aotearoa New Zealand 

A version of this profile also appears in our upcoming issue of Careers with STEM: Indigenous. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on its launch date.

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