Regional | Health

Mātai medical research building opens in Te Tairāwhiti

The Mātai Medical Research Institute has opened its doors of its new home in Te Tai Rāwhiti.

Mātai specialises in medical imagery using advanced technology and expertise. And for the community it is a welcome initiative for whānau Māori.

Mātai was established in 2020 and is a not-for-profit research and innovation centre.

Chief operating officer Leigh Potter says the opening of the new building is a dream come true.

“A couple of us had a passion to make this happen. Unfortunately, with Covid-19 hitting, we had to have some humble beginnings, so we had a simple module in Gisborne Hospital and we had a small facility in Gisborne City. Today is a dream come true where we bring two smaller facilities into one.”

Mātai works in collaboration with Māori-led organisations, researchers, scientists, clinicians and more to improve outcomes in healthcare, education and economy.

Research coordinator Tuterangi Nepe-Apatu says through this mahi they are able to provide an area for rangatahi who are interested in the field.

“Ki ahau nei ko te mea nui mā tēnei mahi i konei, hei whai mahi mā ā tātou rangatahi ki Tūranganui a Kiwa, mēnā ka pīrangi rātou ki te hoki mai ki te kāinga ka noho i konei, ka ako i konei, ka mahi i konei i roto i tēnei ao hurihuri.”

(For me the big thing is our rangatahi in Gisborne, who are wanting to return home and study and work here, can.)

Ministry of Health statistics show Māori people between the ages of five and 34 are more likely than others to be hospitalised from asthma.

Potter says Mātai wants to find solutions to Māori health struggles.

“Our other one is around predictive and preventive models of care, with our Tairāwhiti study, where we’re recruiting our children here. We scan them from head to toe, looking at their organs and how the systems interact with one another. The idea there is that we’ll come up with some predictive models that will help us pick up changes early,” she says.

“After two decades on the frontline, my hope is that we will uplift health and well-being through good research that we can translate into clinical practice. And the other is to continue to grow that STEM pipeline with our tamariki and our rangatahi, so we can have representation in areas that are really underrepresented,” Potter says.