Niuean PhD student explores role of pharmacists in achieving heart health equity for Pacific peoples
Updates / News, 21 Dec 23
A pharmacist by background, Niuean PhD student, Jess Lagaluga-Hutchings, recognised the lack of visibility and representation of Pacific peoples within her field, prompting her to explore the contribution of pharmacists in the area of heart health. Ms Lagaluga-Hutchings is the recipient of the inaugural PMA Knowledge Hub Doctoral Scholarship and shares her motivations and aspirations as she pursues her PhD qualification.

One of few registered Pacific pharmacists, Ms Lagaluga-Hutchings saw it as a responsibility to pursue research for the betterment of Pacific health. 

"I'd never felt like a minority until my undergrad studies in the school of pharmacy. I was the only student in a room full of 90 that identified as Pacific, and that sparked my interest in asking the question of why and how this is happening because I didn't really understand why I was the only one. 

"That led me down the path of research and why I want to focus on the Pacific pharmacy space, particularly regarding heart health as it's an area quite close to my family. On both sides of my family there's heart disease, so statistically and genetically, my siblings, nieces and nephews, we're more likely to develop heart disease. 

"So my research is looking at the contribution of pharmacists to achieving heart health equity for Pacific people and focusing on the relationship that exists and the role that pharmacists have with Pacific communities." 

Ms Lagaluga-Hutchings is currently in the final phase of her research and looks forward to playing her part in further developing the research space for Pacific pharmacists. 

"As there aren't many Pacific pharmacists, a big part of this work is laying the foundation of literature, evidence and research to be built upon either by me or others.  

"I also want this research to be as translatable and readable to any kind of audience because I want to make sure that what I write and what I do is actually beneficial to everyone, not just a select group of people that have been afforded the privilege to go to academic institutes and to undertake research of their own." 

As the recipient of a PMA Knowledge Hub Scholarship, Ms Lagaluga-Hutchings is grateful for the support it has given her as she undertakes her doctoral studies. 

"People talk about how doing a PhD can be very lonely so when I first started I didn’t realise how isolating it will be, and so one of the things I've gained from the PMA Knowledge Hub is that they enabled me to make connections and meet people who were in similar pathways as me. 

"It has been a really important space in helping bring Pacific PhD students together and meant that I've been able to seek advice and support from others on the same journey." 

The PMA Knowledge Hub Masters Scholarship is currently open for applications and will close 10 January 2024. Click here for more information.