By Adel Fruean

Papalii Dr. Viopapa Atherton, 79, 

A mother of two

Married to Dr. John Atherton,

The daughter of Sina Nelson and Edward Annandale 

In May 1963 I became the first Samoan woman to become a doctor and recently I discovered that I am also the first woman from the pacific islands to graduate from New Zealand from Otago University.

I chose medicine because I was a little distressed  as a Samoan scholarship student being a female I was only offered a choice of studying nursing or teaching and I discussed it with my mother and she thought I should become a doctor.

Well I said that boys were 

I studied medicine in Otago University for five years 

I went to Scotland after I graduated Edinburgh Scotland After qualifying, Viopapa did make it to Edinburgh, working as a house surgeon at the Royal Infirmary, and finding herself eye-to-eye with her great-grandfather.

It was quite an interesting experience for me, here I am a polynesian girl going all the way to Scotland and there is a man's picture on the wall who is my great-grandfather

I was only there for a year and then moved to England where I did a number of other jobs married a lovely man, Dr.John Atherton which I met in Edinburgh who was English and had two wonderful sons Malvern and James came back in Samoa and worked in the Ministry of Health at Moto'otua Hospital both me and my husband for three years and went back to England and back again.

This has been a wonderful life for me, I was able to travel and come back to Samoa.

We moved here permanently in the end of 1993 and we set up a general medical practice called Soifua Manuia clinic where I looked after the women and children's health and my husband took over everything else.

It was hard being a mother and working at the same time, when we lived in the United Kingdom, I had to do part time medical work for about four years, I did not want anyone else to be involved with raising my sons, it put me back a bit with my career in medicine but eventually coming back home was different you have your families and friends to help look after your kids which enabled me to do full time work

I think what made my journey as a mother less stressful is having a partner that is very supportive and shares in all the responsibilities and I certainly had that from my husband, we both shared the upbringing of the children especially because my second son was born 11 months after my first born.

I think it is important for mothers to have a supportive family if you live oversees it is more like a nuclear family whereas living in Samoa you rely on your family members.

The mother's role as a caring and supportive person 

To be able to plan together with your partner how you are going to perceive with the day and not forgetting your children's education and help them make decisions for their future.

I was very blessed to have been awarded a New Zealand scholarship and 

Parents should treat their children equally, value them equally because 

I recently took part in the professional programme for aspiring directors and I think this is a great opportunity for women to learn more and we certainly have from this five-day course: it gives you confidence, and information which is why I encourage any woman to apply for this course.

I am 79 and you are never too old to learn, don't give up and it is very important to be healthy, mothers should bring up their kids to have a healthy eating and living 

By Adel Fruean

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