Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

The late Dr Joseph Williams remembered for his lifetime of service

The Pacific community lost one of its most prominent doctors and community leaders last week. Dr Joe Williams, or Papa Joe as he’s affectionately known, passed away in Auckland after contracting coronavirus. He is remembered by many for his lifetime of service to the Cook Islands community and his dedication to the health of Pacific people.

Outside Dr Joe Williams’ Mt Wellington practice, tributes are displayed for a leader who will be sorely missed.

“We’re absolutely gutted. It’s been extremely hard,” says Clinical Director Dr Minnie Strickland.

“To work with a man that has so much mana, so much love for his patients, so much love for us individually for our children, for our families, it’s such a great loss.”

Even in his 80s, Dr Williams could be found at the Mt Wellington Integrated Family Health Centre, which he established and worked in as the medical director and GP.

He was well known for his treatment of eczema, and people would travel from around the country just to see him.

“In our family, Dr Williams is nothing but a hero. He saved our son, you know, from a lifetime of agony and pain,” says one of Dr Williams’ patients, Te Kou o Rehua.

His medical career spans 50 years of practice in public health, health management, and medical research both in New Zealand and in the Cook Islands.

In New Zealand, he became one of the most influential and well respected health leaders for Pacific people, especially in his role as patron of the Pasifika Medical Association.

“I think we’ll reflect on Uncle Joe, or Papa Joe, as we call him, as a gift who has travelled and guided us and touched a lot of us throughout our lives,” says family spokesperson and Pasifika Medical Association President Dr Kiki Maoate.

Watch the full tribute above.


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