Jennifer Khalik hopes to inspire more Pacific Islanders to follow in her footsteps after she became the first Fijian medical trainer to deliver the World Rugby Level 2 Immediate Care in Rugby (ICIR) course.

Khalik was signed off as a course director having impressed World Rugby Medical Education Manager, Isabel Grondin and Oceania Rugby Regional Training Manager, Talemo Waqa last year.

The Fiji Rugby Union employee delivered her first ICIR course in the country’s northern region in March, becoming both the first Pacific Islander and physiotherapist to do so.

Plans for Khalik to deliver the course in Fiji’s central and western regions were subsequently put on hold due to measures put in place to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It felt really good to be signed off, particularly being the first medical person from Fiji. It was a very big moment,” she told World Rugby.

“I’ve always run courses with support from [officials from] either Australia or New Zealand or with Isabel and this was the first time for me to run one on my own. 

“It was a really big confidence booster. I was really happy to know that I could do it.”

’She’s a smart lady'

Waqa is confident that Khalik can motivate women, Pacific Islanders and fellow physios to consider becoming ICIR course directors and the Fijian concurs with that.

“I didn’t think I could do this but I was mentored with the help of Isabel, Talemo and Warren [MacDonald, World Rugby Medical Trainer]. If I can do it, definitely they can do it,” Khalik said.

“The first time I did the course I was terrified, it was completely different from what we normally do as physiotherapists. But, you know, doing the course has given me more confidence.”

Khalik’s path to becoming a course director has been a long one. It was four years ago that Waqa, who hired the physio at Fiji Rugby, first had the idea to train her up to deliver ICIR courses.

The benefits of having local medical trainers and course directors are huge in the Pacific Islands as it means that Waqa is not reliant on people travelling from Australia and New Zealand.

Khalik had shown her aptitude for medical matters when she took part in the first ICIR course to be delivered in the Pacific, in Tonga in 2016.

The Fijian had been told that she had got a few questions wrong in the exam portion of the course but having asked World Rugby consultant Andy Smith what she needed to work on, successfully argued that she had in fact given the correct answers.

“She actually is one of the first people to get 100 per cent in the multiple choice exam,” Waqa told World Rugby.

“She has got good ethics, good work ethics, she has got very good discipline, she prepares well, articulates well, she’s a smart lady.”

Ambition plans

Khalik subsequently attended an ICIR course in London, where her name was put forward for a trainers and educators workshop.

On her return Waqa ensured that she kept working towards the goal of becoming the first Fijian to deliver a course.

“Once I came out of Fiji Rugby and was in World Rugby I kept nudging her [towards] her role as an educator and a trainer,” he added. 

“She’s smart enough to do that. While she’s very timid in nature, humble, we kept on pushing her and right now she is full on and she’s getting her rhythm.”

And once life in Fiji returns to normal and she is able to focus again on that work as a trainer and educator, Khalik is very ambitious about what she can achieve.

“Right now my goal is, along with Fiji Rugby, just to try and train up as many medical personnel as we can, particularly at community level,” she said. 

“Because we’ve only been training medics who work at the elite level and now with me being able to deliver solo it’s a huge opportunity for Fiji Rugby to get those who are working with community-level rugby trained, so that the service that we deliver at the higher level is the same as at the community level, there’s a standard. 

“And also it benefits our players. I think now Fiji Rugby’s stepping up and saying we’ll take responsibility and we’re going to start training people to ensure that our players are looked after. 

“Also I think it’s important, if the other unions in the Pacific wish, to get their medical personnel trained and I’d be more than happy to go and to be involved in that.”

Photo: Fiji Rugby Union