A senior lecturer in AUT’s nursing department, Dr Sandra Thaggard (known as Sandy) is of mixed Fijian and European descent from SavuSavu, the ‘hidden paradise of Fiji’.
“As a Pacific Person, I’m interested in the management of diabetes, violence and abuse, and mental health issues in Pacific Island people,” Sandy says.
It’s a theme that can be seen throughout the research she has been involved in over the years.
In 2004, her Master of Health Science thesis looked at the self-management of Type 2 diabetes in Fijian people living in New Zealand, using a grounded theory methodology to identify their main concerns with managing Type 2 diabetes. Her PhD, completed in 2016, was a hermeneutic interpretation of how women constructed their life and identity after leaving a violent relationship.
Sandy continues to pursue her interest in Pacific communities, and in violence and abuse through her current research projects, which are focused on exploring abuse in older Pacific Island people living in New Zealand communities.
She also has an interest in ‘older adult orphans’, and their specific social and healthcare needs.
Collaborating with other researchers is another key focus of her current work.
“I’m working with a team of researchers from the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing, Western Sydney University and Texas University. We’re interested in exploring nurses’ views on the issues associated with administering psychotropic medication. I’m also part of a team led by researchers from the University of Auckland and funded by the Health Research Council over 36 months to look at reducing the antibiotic usage in people with self-limiting viral illnesses.”
In addition to her own research, Sandy is also supervising a number of postgraduate research students, as well as co-ordinating the mental health course for Master of Science students.
Working with students has always been one of the aspects of her work she has enjoyed the most. In fact, she still fondly remembers her very first role at AUT when she was brought in to offer support and guidance for Pacific nursing students.
“I came to AUT in 1997 as a support lecturer for Pacific students enrolled in the nursing degree. It helped because I knew what it was like to be in their situation, being a Pacific student studying at AUT. It was so satisfying to see them blossom! I was in that role until 2004, and in all that time, I didn’t have one student who failed.”
“As a Pacific Person, I’m interested in the management of diabetes, violence and abuse, and mental health issues in Pacific Island people.”