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Senior Health Researcher – University of Hawaii Medical School


Dr. Mataira is of Maori descent from Aotearoa New Zealand and has lived and worked in Hawaii since 2002. He is a senior health researcher at the University of Hawaii Medical School and serves on a number of indigenous health, education, economic and research development boards and committees. He has worked with indigenous communities in Canada, Alaska, the United States, Australia, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands.

Dr. Mataira’s specialty interests are in Design Thinking, health and economic literacy, non-profit/non-government sector entrepreneurship, ethics, and indigenous research and evaluation. He holds a PhD in social policy and entrepreneurial leadership and an M.Phil degree in ethnographic sociology both from Massey University (NZ). His undergraduate degree was in social work specializing in youth development and behavioral mental health. Dr. Mataira taught at the University of Hawaii’s Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, served as the school’s first Director of Indigenous Affairs and was responsible for planning and hosting the first ever International Indigenous Social Work Conference in Hawaii in 2007. He has taught community work, knowledge development, welfare economics, indigenous practice, cultural competence and research classes, as well as guest lectured in non-profit business development, organizational leadership and entrepreneurship.

Dr. Mataira has extensive clinical health and community work experience as a substance abuse educator and counselor, health advocate, policy analyst, grant writer, and business consultant. Over the past 15 years he has been advising non-profit/non-government agencies as well as small business entrepreneurs on how to leverage assets, mitigate risk, write start-up and scaling business plans, design and conduct social impact studies and become investment ready. Dr. Mataira attributes his keen sense of social business to both his parents who over the years developed nine family start-up companies. Forty years on seven of these businesses continue to thrive as profitable stand-alone companies. He recalls writing his first business plan as a young naïve social work student for his father’s waste management and recycling company in the early 1980s. That business, three decades on, has scaled and replicated to become a highly lauded energy efficient, clean, green local bio-tech social enterprise. Entrepreneurship runs deep in the Mataira household and while Dr. Mataira’s siblings chose traditional business paths, he navigated towards applying his learning to the fields of social work and education. He describes himself as a resilient advocate for social entrepreneur activism.

Dr. Mataira learned important values of manaakitanga (caring, oversight and sacrifice), tikanga (truth, and adherence to correct practices), matauranga (utilizing science and technology and deciphering secular knowledge), hinengaro (emotional intelligence) and whakapono (being ethical, respectful and responsible) through observing his parents as they overcame enormous barriers, attending to, and raising, their eight children, while actively pursuing financial independence and life dreams. He has published widely in areas social entrepreneurship, indigenous research methods, masculinity, resiliency, and adaptive leadership. Dr. Mataira enjoys running, reading, music, tennis, rugby, travel, and being with family and is currently working on his first book on “Indigenous Entrepreneurship” which he plans to complete in 2016.

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