Obituary Dr. Toa (Dr Toakase Panisi Pele Fakakovikaetau’)

The Pacific Paediatrics honours the passing of a beloved mentor, trailblazer and colleague, Dr Toakase Panisi Pele Fakakovikaetau’ affectionally known as “Dr Toa”.

We remember Dr Toa as amongst many other professional achievements, was one of the Paediatricians who formed the Pacific Paediatric Association in 2016.

Dr Toa was born on the 19th of August 1962, in Niu’ui Ha’apai and passed away on the 28th of July 2023, a few days before her 61st birthday.. Dr Toa was the youngest of 11 children and grew up in Holopeka, Ha’apai. She completed her school education in Tonga before completing her medical degree at the Fiji School of Medicine. Dr Toa was the gold medallist for the graduating class of 1987. She later completed a Master of Community of Paediatrics from University of New South Wales, Australia in 1996.

Dr Toa was a pioneer for change in improving Child health in her beloved Tonga and has been a tireless advocate for child health throughout the Pacific region and internationally. Dr Toa returned to work in Viola Hospital, Tonga after graduating from medical school and remained there for most of her career.  She began her Paediatric career there before some time overseas in Adelaide before returning back in 2000. She became the first female to lead the Paediatric unit in Tonga as well as supporting the Tonga Child Cancer Foundation and Tonga National Women and Children Centre.. She was also the Tongan Medical Association President between 2007 – 2009.

Dr Toa spent a few years working as the Paediatric specialist in Vila Central hospital, Vanuatu.

Dr Toa was one of the founders for the Mafu Sai Programme in 2008 as part of the efforts to screen for Rheumatic heart disease in Tonga. She received a heart cure award for the heart screening program in the neighboring in Niue, Tokelau and Vanuatu as well in 2008 and in 2009, she received a New Zealand Prime Minister Coronation Fellow award. Dr Toa then with the assistance of the Pasifika Medical Association formed the PPA.

Dr Toa is survived by her husband and 4 children. She is remembered by them as being committed to remaining in Tonga to serve. She saw her skills would be best utilised in Tonga and the region. Dr Toa was also always willing to assist families in need, her relatives and the community.

She will be sorely missed for her clinical and administrative skills, tenacity and advocacy and will always be remembered by her Paediatric family in Tonga, the Pacific and internationally. Malo au pito Vuniwai.