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From Fiji Times Online (24 September 2017)

A doctor's [Dr Faga Panapasa]

By Siteri Sauvakacolo 

Dr. Faga Panapasa

A YOUNG Rotuman boy who left his Noatau home in Rotuma 82 yearsago in search of better education opportunities celebrated his life's most significant achievement over the weekend — his 90th birthday.

Hundreds of relatives and family members from Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the country gathered to celebrate the life of retired medical doctor, Dr Faga Titifanua Panapasa, a man described by many of his relatives to be loving, kind and caring.

Emotions overflowed, family bonds rekindled and many family members got the opportunity to meet and acknowledged the achievements they have set so far at the event, which was held at Nadi's Tanoa International Hotel last Sunday.

In 1927, Jotama and Kiji Panapasa of Noatau welcomed a healthy young boy into their family, who was the fifth of seven siblings.

Faga was educated at Rotuma's Malhaha Primary School during his early primary school years before moving over to Suva to enrol in Class Three. Because he had very little knowledge of English at the time, he was put back to Class One. He then completed Class 1-7 at the then Suva Toorak Boys School.

At the celebrations, his son, Fatiaki Panapasa, a manager quality assurance with Air Terminal Services shared a piece of history about his father and his journey to success.

"World War II and its threat to Fiji in 1942 was real so preparations for war required urban schools to be evacuated and relocated to facilitate the accommodation of soldiers and support services," Mr Panapasa shared.

"Toorak Boys closed and its missionary teacher and principal, a Mr William Earnest Donnelly, then asked for volunteers from the senior classes who wished to continue their schooling, to accompany him in a shift to Davuilevu.

"Fifty students moved and met up with the principal on March 3, 1943 at the new site and the two master bedrooms in the Davuilevu Technical School principal's residence became their classrooms."

There were only two classes and two teachers — Dr Faga was one of those students and the teachers were Mr Donnelly and Semesa Sikivou.

The Methodist Church conference of 1943 gave Mr Donnelly the permission to expand the school and together with the students built three large bure. Following a directive that was also given during the conference, this new complex was named Lelean Memorial School, the largest Methodist school in the country.

Dr Faga was one of the pioneering students of Lelean where he then made his way up to successfully pass his Senior Cambridge exams at Form Four.

While he was schooling at Davuilevu, another prominent person was teaching at the Davuilevu Teachers College, his uncle who famously became known as Rotuma's first senator Wilson Inia.

Dr Faga then went on to successfully attain his medical qualification as a doctor where he was awarded the gold medal for surgery at his graduation.

The retired doctor, who has nine children, has been posted to various parts of the country during his tenure with the Health Ministry and he remained at the PJ Twomey Hospital until his retirement in 1987.

He was also given many awards during his career as a doctor, an achievement in itself that gave his children and family members the drive to do better and achieve the best in life. Upon his request, he was reposted to Ahau Medical Centre on Rotuma for 20 more years before his 80th birthday celebration 10 years ago.

On February 12, 1959, Dr Faga appeared on the front page of The Fiji Times with three winning entries in a poster competition organised by the National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis. He was one of the judges for the competition and his participation was a reflection of a man who continued to dedicate his life to the community.

A niece of Dr Faga, Ofa Dewes, came all the way from New Zealand to be part of this significant celebration. She remembers her childhood days at her Nabua home in Suva where Uncle Faga was always their family doctor.

"We have fond memories of families sharing food together, meeting each other during those happy times and attending to birthdays and weddings together," Mrs Dewes said.

"When I was a child, I had fallen off a terrace at home and so they took me to CWM Hospital and the first person to visit me was Uncle Faga so it was always memories of him always being there for us when we were unwell and that caring side of him which I see in the family.

"He was a very important connection for us and this is why I came especially for this occasion."

Another family member and retired teacher, Susana Tevita, said Dr Faga was someone who always had time to meet with family members even through his busy schedule.

"He never had excuses despite being a doctor. He is so caring and he always reaches out to people and makes time for them.

"He is a life-mentor to all of us who are related to him and we have a close relationship (with him). His parents were lay preachers on Rotuma and he grew up in a family centred on Christ," Mrs Tevita said.

If there was any advice Dr Faga would like to offer to those pursuing a career in medicine, it would be to "know your body!"

Tribute to Dr. Panapasa by Susana Tevita

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