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BOOK REVIEW: The Good Doctor

This is prescribed reading at its best.

By Kerre McIvor
Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s extraordinary biography begins in a secondary school staff room. One of the teachers is struck by a memory of a former pupil.
“Whatever happened to that O’Sullivan boy?” she asks. “I supposed he’s in jail by now.”
A friend of the O’Sullivans overhears the conversation and can’t resist. “You mean Lance?” she replies. “Lance is at medical school.” Cue stunned silence.
To be fair, as he tells it, Lance could have gone either way. Raised by a solo mum, he grew up feeling like he didn’t belong. He wasn’t Pakeha, but he wasn’t Maori enough for his dad’s relatives. He hungered for a real dad, but his father was an alcoholic and unreliable.
Lance was expelled from a number of schools and it was only when he was accepted as a boarder at Hato Petera College that he started to come right.
He embraced his Maori heritage and began to thrive academically. When he happened to hear a Maori doctor give an address on his aunty’s marae, he understood that it was possible to be Maori and a doctor, and set his heart on medical school.
Even then, it wasn’t an easy path. His first application was rejected and by the time he applied again, he was a young dad with a young wife.
Now a father of seven, Lance has become a powerful force for good in the Far North. He became a GP because he saw that as the best way to help his people, and he’s determined to turn around the appalling Maori health statistics. Both Maori and Pakeha number crunchers have been challenged and found wanting by Dr O’Sullivan.
Lance has won numerous leadership awards – most recently he was named the 2014 New Zealander of the Year – and spends a great deal of time speaking to young people, hoping to inspire them to aim high. He has worked hard for his success and values his achievements as a father and husband as highly as he rates his professional milestones. His story should be required reading in every New Zealand school. It’s terrific.