International Women's Day 2024: Dr Amama Thornley
International Women’s Day (IWD) is fast approaching and Etu Pasifika Canterbury (EPC) is fortunate to have a team of hard working, inspiring and unique women within the organisation.

Dr Amama Thornley has been practising medicine as a general practitioner (GP) for fifty-four years and is still currently registered. Her role is to mentor our in-house GP’s and guide them through their personal and professional journeys within the industry.  

“I support them with discussing cases, role-playing tricky situations, and talking about the art of medicine, history of medicine and sometimes living with the practice of medicine under difficult personal circumstances.” 

Dr Thornley has shared her peaks about being a woman in the industry, correlating to both gender and motherhood.  

“I don’t consider my vocation as a female doctor of medicine much different to being a man. 
However, becoming a mother did alter my understanding of women who work full time and juggle family life. I am ethnically Indian with a mixed race family.  

"It has been a privilege to contribute to medicine with my insights as a mother, grandmother and a mixed-race family." 

We asked Dr Thornley if she had experienced trials and challenges when it came to being a female in her industry. 

Having practised for fifty-four years, Dr Thornley’s education occurred at a time where gender and education were viewed differently in comparison to today. 

“In 1965 when I entered medical school, most universities accepted only fifteen to twenty percent of women.  

"We were considered to deprive a man of a place in medicine, as a woman would waste her education by getting married, having children and not working. We had to prove our worth at medical school by being just a little better than men. 

"Getting work in our desired specialties at a consultant level was difficult. Now times have changed. Fifty to sixty percent of the intake at medical schools are women and all specialties are accessible to women.  

"Women are considered an asset in many fields of medicine, such as family medicine.” 

She is one of two Dr Thornley's in New Zealand; the other being her husband. Peter and Amama Thornley met abroad in the United Kingdom (UK), married and then became well-known practitioners in Canterbury.  

“My husband, Peter Thornley, was a specialist Consultant Respiratory Physician at Christchurch hospital (Canterbury Health) from 1979-2016. He is retired now.” 

We also asked Dr Thornley what she was most passionate about within the medical industry.  

“One could say equity and accessibility to good care.  

"Personally, as a family doctor, when a patient comes to see me, I want to understand their medical problems, their sorrows and their way of living. Only then can I deliver appropriate care.” 

EPC is grateful for Dr Thornley as part of their workforce. She has worked an inspiring career, taking her to work on board ships in remote places such as the Arctic and Antarctic, working in the Pacific region and now at EPC where she mentors the doctors and medical students who come through the clinic. 

Dr Thornley is a great example of a strong woman who has worked on an international platform and we’re happy to be sharing a small part of her life. She shared with us that each day she receives a quote to her phone that often leaves her inspired and ready for the day:  

Human connections are deeply nurtured in the field of shared story - Jean Houston  

To have a friend you must be one. 

Happy International Women’s Day to all our women and thank you to Dr Amama Thornley for sharing her story with us.  


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