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Triple graduation celebrations for PhD graduate

Dr Carole Fernandez.


For some the thought of studying for 15 years would be a nightmare, but for Carole Fernandez the journey has been one she will never forget.

Today Ms Fernandez becomes Dr Fernandez. The 59-year-old graduates with a PhD after starting her studies with Massey in 2000. And next month two of her six children graduate with degrees in music - Ethnomusicology and Sound Engineering – from the University of Otago.

Her doctoral journey began six years ago at Te-Pūtahi-a-Toi – the School of Māori Art, Knowledge and Education. Later she transferred to Te Pūmanawa Hauora - the Maori Health Research Unit at Massey’s School of Public Health - to complete a PhD in Public Health.  

While Dr Fernandez comes from a mixed ethnic make-up - Portuguese, Irish and Javanese - she is connected to Māori through her children who affiliate themselves with Ngāti Whātua and TeĀti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi.

She says studying for so long wasn’t something she had planned. She had already completed her Master of Nursing and a Post Graduate Diploma in Evaluation at Massey’s then-College of Education. But working with an iwi provider in the health sector fuelled her desire to make a positive contribution to health service delivery for Maori.

“It demonstrated the application of tikanga-based principles and values used in collaborative processes when working with Maori and whanau, and also when working at the interface with mainstream service providers. It illustrated a parallel between tikanga-based principles and Treaty principles, and highlighted the model’s capacity for inter-sectoral collaboration towards integrating care.”

Dr Fernandez says the differences between client-centred care and whanau-focused care were evident.  “Together with all those who walked along this PhD journey with me, I discovered that we were creating knowledge with the potential to shift mind-sets from focusing on processes and service delivery systems, to a values-based approach in care.”

She says while there were many high points when undertaking her PhD, there were also many challenges. “There were times when I questioned everything, when I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and felt lost. I was very fortunate to have excellent support from my supervisors who always encouraged me. When I went off track, they were always there to guide me back.

“The support of my co-workers, management, the kaumatua at work and especially my own family, lifted me, making me realise I had something valuable to contribute to the organisation and for those accessing health services.

“It was such a privilege being able to share my views and opinions with other likeminded PhD candidates, and be given the opportunity to present findings at seminars. I also enjoyed the flexibility in terms of being able to work full time, and study part time.”

She says the most rewarding aspect has been the many relationships she has made during her studies. “It has been a life changing experience for me. I continually ask myself ‘If I knew what was ahead, would I have embarked on this doctoral journey? And my answer is definitely, YES!’”

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