Born in Hawera, South Taranaki, to parents who had immigrated from Sri Lanka, Dr Anu Anandaraja dreamed of one day planting her feet on the African continent.
Convinced that medicine was her ticket to get there, she embarked on a medical degree at the University of Auckland and upon graduating, headed to the United States' most prestigious medical school to train in paediatrics - New York's Mount Sinai.
Anu says in her more than a decade and a half in the system, she met "the best and the worst of people".
The tipping point came while she was director of Public Health, and in 2019, Anu and several colleagues filed a lawsuit against Mount Sinai alleging age, sex, and race discrimination.
It spurred hundreds of other healthcare professionals at Mount Sinai, and across the United States, to reveal similar experiences.
In 2020, Anu left the institution for good, but the lawsuit drags on, with Mount Sinai denying all allegations.
Meanwhile Anu, this year's Kea World Class New Zealand Award winner, is dedicating her time to Women Together Global - the organisation she founded seven years ago to help empower women and girls to achieve economic independence - and had just returned from a trip to Malawi when she spoke to Kathryn.