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One of the first donors to the Rotorua Girls High School Alumni Fund is former student Dr Marie Bismark (was van Wyk when at school).

The public health physician and health lawyer, who leads the Law and Public Health Group at the University of Melbourne, attended Rotorua Girls High School from 1987 to 1991. She was Dux in 1991.

Marie has previously worked as a doctor in a number of New Zealand hospitals, served as a legal adviser to the Health and Disability Commissioner, and been a Senior Associate with law firm Buddle Findlay. In 2004-2005 she completed a Harkness Fellowship in Health Care Policy at Harvard University.

Her research at the University of Melbourne focuses on the role of patient voice in improving the quality and safety of healthcare. In addition to her academic role, Marie serves as a non-executive director on the boards of a number of health sector companies, including Summerset retirement villages, GMHBA Health Insurance, and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre. She has published widely on patient safety and healthcare complaints resolution. Marie and her husband Matthew have three children.

Marie’s parents Dr Margriet Theron and Louw van Wyk still reside in Rotorua.

A bit more about Marie in her own words.

Tell us a bit more about what you do now?
After I left Rotorua Girls High I spent six years at Otago University where I studied law and medicine. These days, I live in Melbourne with my husband and three beautiful children, Finn (14), Stella (13) and Zoe (11). I work part-time at the University of Melbourne as the head of the Law and Public Health Unit and I contribute to four other health sector companies, including Summerset retirement villages and Family Planning, as a non-executive director.

Why did you decide to donate to the Rotorua Girls High School Alumni Fund?
I’ve been so blessed in life with a wonderful family, a great education, a strong community, and the opportunity to do a job that I love. I wanted to give something back to Girls’ High to say thank you, and to support other girls coming through the school. The Alumni Fund seemed like a great way to do that, as I know that the money will be used wisely and well.

How did attending Rotorua Girls High School help you get to where you are today?
Some of the most important lessons I learned at Rotorua Girls’ High were the importance of friendships, the joy of learning, and the difference that a caring and interested adult can make in a young person’s life. It’s been more than 20 years since I left Rotorua Girls’ High and I still remember all the times that a teacher went out of their way to help and support me – whether it was Mrs West offering additional scholarship tutorials in the evenings, Mr Foughy treating the French class to croissants on a Friday morning, or the wonderful Mrs Burbidge inspiring all of us to be the best young women we could be. I guess we never truly know how we touch people’s lives with simple acts of kindness and words of encouragement.

What was your proudest memory of Rotorua Girls High School?
My proudest memory of being at school was seeing my mum and dad’s smiles in the audience when I was awarded Dux at the seventh form graduation. Being the parent of a teenager isn’t always easy and at that moment I felt as though I had given something back to them for all their love and support through my school years. (If only they know then how many more years of education were still to come!) Even though I live in Melbourne now, I still come home to Rotorua with my children every year and love catching up with my family and school friends.

How would you encourage other people to donate to the Rotorua Girls High School Alumni Fund?
The Alumni Fund is a wonderful way for former students, parents and teachers to give a little back to Girls’ High and make a difference in another young person’s life.

Dr Marie Bismark can be contacted in Australia if you need any more information, ph 0061488044032


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