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Rhodes Scholar honour ‘surreal’

§ September 1st, 2012 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on Rhodes Scholar honour ‘surreal’

A TARANAKI man has won one of the world’s most prestigious academic scholarships. 

New Plymouth’s Tom Hills has been selected as a Rhodes Scholar – the pinnacle of achievement for university graduates.

Dr Hills, a former Francis Douglas Memorial College student, is a recent graduate of Otago University where he was studying medicine.

The scholarship enables the young doctor to pursue postgraduate study at Oxford University in England

‘‘I am over the moon, it was a very surreal 24 hours,’’ Dr Hills said last night. ‘‘I’m just a boy from Taranaki.’’

Dr Hills joined Alice Irving, of Hastings, and Richard Stebbing, of Auckland, as Rhodes Scholars following a selection meeting at Government House in Auckland on Wednesday. Only three New Zealanders are chosen each year.

Dr Hills said it was difficult to describe what he was feeling during the selection meeting.

‘‘It seemed unreal, there were seven of us standing in a room, they name the recipients and suddenly there were only three of us left. It took a long time to sink in,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m really lucky with the medical school who have been so supportive over the years, a lot of it is a reflection on them.

‘‘I had some great mentors both from Taranaki and through Otago and I was lucky that Taranaki Base Hospital gave me some summer positions . . . ’’

The announcement is a great end to a year that could have been so different. While on his overseas elective placement, Dr Hills became seriously ill and had to be airlifted from Budapest, Hungary. He spent several weeks in a London hospital recovering.

Dr Hills starts at Taranaki Base Hospital as a house surgeon on Monday and will stay for most of next year until he heads off to Oxford University in September.

At Oxford, he intends studying for an MSc in Integrated Immunology leading to his eventual goal, a DPhil programme.

Once his studies are complete, Dr Hills plans to return to New Zealand to train as a specialist.