“I never stopped loving where I lived and what I was doing,” Colleen shares. “But last year, my family and I decided that we were ready for a new adventure – something that would take us away from the stresses and tensions our nation was experiencing and provide us the chance to give back to people who really struggle in other parts of the world.” She smiles, “Plus, with our kids being young and our parents being in good health, it just seemed like a good time to step out and go.”
Inspired by a family friend who was practicing medicine in New Zealand, Colleen teamed up with her sister (also a physician) to explore opportunities of serving there. “My sister and I worked with a recruiting agency so we could be placed together,” Colleen explains. “Our recruiter helped assign us to a community clinic, and off we went!”
For the next year, Colleen, her sister, and their families lived and worked alongside the Māori indigenous people of New Zealand – treating patients, learning local traditions, and being inspired by the beautiful, meaningful existence around them.
“New Zealanders have a wonderful dedication to work-life balance,” says Colleen. “For them, it’s all about whānau, or family. They don’t strive for every single dollar or sacrifice time with the ones they love.” She grins as she recalls her time with the Māori. “They’re these big, tattooed, fierce, loving people who use humor, spirituality, community, and time with family to maintain joy – despite living with levels of poverty.”
While her New Zealand adventure may not have been complete without beachside living, surfing, and sunset walks, in the end, it was the tangible warmth of the amazing Māori people that impacted Colleen the most.
“The biggest thing I learned is to be less fearful,” she shares. “There are so many things that can instill fearfulness in us, but the Māori showed me that love and joyfulness are the greatest weapons against that.”
Since returning to Northern Colorado and AFM, Colleen has been making a determined effort to carry this lesson throughout her work, relationships, and life. By living with courage and intentionality, she’s able to break down barriers with her patients, put family first, pursue new adventures, and appreciate the beauty of everyday simplicity.
“It’s been so great to see everyone and be welcomed back to beautiful Northern Colorado!” Colleen exclaims. “I’m excited to share pieces of my experience with my patients and team at AFM and continue embracing a full, balanced life!”