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Mahu Anderson

Mahu (Tuvaluan) moved from Fiji to New Zealand as a teen, then studied medicine at the University of Otago before becoming a General Practitioner in Australia.

Mahu AndersonWhat do you do on an average work day?

I usually get up early and make the kids lunches for school and then leave for work by 7am the latest. My work is about an hour’s drive from where I live.

I start work at 8.30 and usually finish by 3.30-4pm where I see up to 30+ patients in slots.

What did you study at school? And after high school?

In forms 1-4, I was in Fiji and I studied generic subjects: English, maths, social science, basic science and accounting. Then from fifth and sixth form I did English, maths, chemistry, physics and biology. 

I then came to NZ when I was in seventh form (Year 13) and took English, calculus, physics, biology and chemistry.

After that I got into Otago University in Dunedin, did Health Science and got into Medicine the year after.

Was your study directly related to what you do now? 

Yes it was. Having a basic knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology helped me with health science in university.

The subject I struggled with at university was Statistics, as I never did anything like it in high school. In hindsight, I would take Statistics before university rather than Calculus.

Mahu with her family

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

If your heart is set on one career and you are passionate about it, go for it!

However, remember life is about adapting and if your dream job turns out to be not what you expected, or if your circumstances change, be willing to adapt.

I live by Martin Luther King’s quote: “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Mahu with her children

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Getting accepted into medicine! Graduating was a big highlight. I did not pass, twice, in my fifth year due to medical and personal reasons - and I thought I would never finish. My father was my motivator to keep asking for another chance to repeat. I was given two chances and I finally succeeded and graduated in 2009.

Another is completing my postgraduate diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 2013, with 3 children under 2 and a full time job.

Landing and loving a job in General Practice without experience in GP is another highlight for me, as well as landing a job in GP in Australia 2 years ago.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

Because these subjects are used in our everyday lives and in our own personal developments. They are practical, precise and valuable. They provide answers to our pathway into the future. An example is how a breakthrough with science, technology, engineering and medicine now is sooo different to what it was just 5 years ago.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Why not?! Gender equality is the key to success, not only for a nation but for humankind to move forward. So if men can do it, why can’t we?!

If I was to be picky about women, however, I would say that we have the maternal instincts that are the point of difference in working in these STEM fields.

Mahu with her family in front of the beach

Mahu Tipu Anderson works as a General Practitioner in NSW, Australia. She was born and raised in Tuvalu, educated in Fiji and New Zealand, and is now married to a NZ/Tuvaluan man. They have four children.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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