Same faculty, different degrees - identical twins graduate
2 December 2019
After six years of study at the University of Auckland, identical twins and first-generation students Chiara and Norina Gasteiger have both graduated with masters degrees in medical fields.
The sisters graduated from the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at a ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall on Friday November 29, Chiara with a Master of Health Psychology and Norina with a Master of Public Health.
Previously they both completed a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Health Sciences conjoint at the University of Auckland, before branching into different specialisations.
For her masters degree Chiara studied the effects of framing information related to switching from a biologic medicine to a biosimilar – her study was recently published in Arthritis Care and Research. For her PhD she is investigating social factors related to a patient’s decision-making process, such as the role of support people.
Norina’s masters thesis explored extending a patient portal into a mental health service, to make accessing mental healthcare as easy as seeing a doctor. She is also a teaching assistant in the School of Population Health, is working on two innovative studies on health robots and is developing a PhD proposal.
The twins were inspired to pursue their research interests by merging their undergraduate majors. For Norina this meant her media studies and population health majors and for Chiara - health sciences (population health) and psychology.
“After witnessing our mother’s experience with a terminal illness I also realised there was a significant scope for improvement in the health system, to make positive changes for other families” Chiara adds.
The twins’ mother passed away from cancer when they were in their final undergraduate year.
It has been extremely useful to have one another. We often studied together, discussed topics and even now still proofread for one another.
While the twins maintain distinct research areas, they recently decided to co-author a paper, a literature review exploring oral health. Completed in the School of Population Health, their review explores barriers to oral healthcare experienced by children and adolescents in New Zealand who are entitled to publicly funded care. The paper is currently being considered for publication by a journal.
“It has been extremely useful to have one another. We often studied together, discussed topics and even now still proofread for one another. Having slightly different academic backgrounds has been invaluable in broadening our understandings, making connections across disciplines and thinking outside of the box,” Norina says.
Although their parents moved back to Europe in 2013, the twins decided to complete their studies in Auckland and are thankful for their support.
“Our mother really encouraged us and pushed us to pursue higher education, so our achievements are really a reflection of her dedication, as well as our father's support. Sadly mum is unable to see us graduate, but we’re thankful that dad can be here today.”
The twins look so alike that even after many years of study at the University they are still sometimes mixed up.
“Staff and other students have always confused us, and we often forget to mention that we are twins. We have had many awkward conversations with those who are unaware that there are two of us,” Chiara says.
“It’s never nice to interrupt someone and have to tell them that you don’t know who they are and have no idea what they’re talking about,” Norina laughs.
The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences has its graduation ceremonies in November to allow graduates to enter the health workforce immediately rather than waiting until May, when students from other faculties graduate. This year, 883 students graduated with qualifications in medicine, nursing, optometry, health science and pharmacy.
Danelle Clayton | Media Adviser
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