Author(s): Lance O'Sullivan
Lance O'Sullivan is a man on a mission.
Raised in Auckland by a solo mother, he had a modest upbringing typical of the time, if one chequered with difficulties. After being expelled from two schools, Lance could have gone off the rails. Instead, he found his way at Hato Petera College, connecting with his Maori ancestry, and going on to study medicine. After a brief but outstanding career working as a GP in the public health system, Lance and his wife Tracy quit their day jobs to set up a ground-breaking practice in the Far North that offers free healthcare to the many who can't afford it.
For his work, Lance has been acknowledged as a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader, Public Health Champion, Maori of the Year and, most recently, Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.
Passionate, brave and free-thinking, Lance stood up when no one else would. The Good Doctorcharts his inspirational, one-of-a-kind life story, while relaying an overarching hope for a better New Zealand.
Lance O’Sullivan, Kiwibank’s New Zealander of the Year 2014, a Sir Peter Bake Emerging Leader, Maori of the Year and public health champion, entered his teens as a rebellious youth who didn’t know where he belonged. Honky to his Maori cousins and called a Nigger by a carload of ‘hoons’ he realised as a teen that he was going nowhere. His early life makes interesting reading as he moved between a middle-class white lifestyle and Maori poverty. Falling into trouble and failing at high school, O’Sullivan’s mother Marlene approached Hato Petera College and Lance O’Sullivan’s life was transformed. The life-changing years at Hato Petera were followed by a few jobs and then medical school, marriage and children. Lance O’Sullivan’s initial years as a GP prepared him to be a person who effects change. After working in Rotorua he had the opportunity to work in Kaitáia: “a job in the area my own family had come from, near where my grandmother was born, in a district where Maori made up half the population and had high, unmet needs”. I won’t go into details of what O’Sullivan and his wife Tracy have achieved in Kaitáia – I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the initiatives they have instigated. His work (and his words, thanks to the invisible co-author Margie Thomson) need to be read first-hand. Lance O’Sullivan is that rare thing – a person who actually affects change. The O’Sullivans are both health professionals with a vital ingredient - inside knowledge. For example, they realise that trips to see the nearest specialist may not possible due to lack of transport, that drugs may be prescribed but due to fear may not be taken etc, and this knowledge allows them to shape their delivery of care to fit the patient, rather than trying to squeeze a patient into a model prescribed by someone who has little appreciation of the social and medical problems of Kaitáia. Lance O’Sullivan does not talk about problems – he tackles them. He is not afraid to break away and try new ways to deliver appropriate care. I cannot recommend this book enough: it is one which should be widely read, and when you do read it, be prepared to be startled by the statistics, because they are disturbing and, quite frankly, shameful. O’Sullivan’s success has not been achieved alone - his wife Tracy, a Registered Nurse, has encouraged him on the journey from medical school to Kaitáia. His mother lives with the family and runs the household so family life functions smoothly. The O’Sullivans are a formidable team working towards the same goal – better health and social outcomes for their community. - Marie
Dr Lance O'Sullivan (Te Rarawa, Ngati Hau, Ngati Maru) is a GP based in Kaitaia, Northland. Born and raised in Auckland, he was educated at Hato Petera College before studying medicine at the University of Auckland. For his trail-blazing work in healthcare delivery, O'Sullivan has been acknowledged as a Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader, Public Health Association Public Health Champion, Maori of the Year and, most recently, Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year. In 2014, he was also named the second-most trusted New Zealander by Readers Digest.