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After a hectic 2013, in which the University of Otago languages student achieved a double major (bachelor of arts and a diploma in language, in Japanese), the 24-year-old received challenging news when she was diagnosed with cancer.
But her prognosis is good and after winning a $6000 New Zealand Freemason Scholarship this month she will continue her study in July by starting an honours degree in French and politics at Otago.
She will explore the rights of Algerian immigrants in France and compare French policies with New Zealand's policies and provisions for Maori.
She then intends to study for a masters in public health, spurred by Health Minister Tony Ryall's recently released report on adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survival rates.
Miss Hoek-Sims and fellow Otago students Lucy Sulzberger, Jennifer Walker and Gareth Rees were among 30 New Zealand university students who received a slice of $208,000 from Freemasons New Zealand during a ceremony in Parliament's Legislative Council Chamber.
The scholarships were presented by pharmaceutical scientist, inventor and social entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery.
Mr Rees (50), who received $10,000, has begun a PhD at the University of Otago's department of preventive and social medicine.
He is researching the future configuration and opportunities for New Zealand's health workforce, and hopes to produce research aimed at helping New Zealand effectively manage health sector resources in an environment facing funding constraints.
Ms Sulzberger (21) received $6000 so she can complete her bachelor of medical science honours degree at the University of Otago (Wellington), where she is working with the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute on cancer treatment research.
She is focusing on some of the factors affecting infantile haemangioma, a vascular tumour and the most common tumour of infancy.
It is hoped a greater understanding of this tumour will lead to a shift in how cancer is understood and treated.
Ms Walker (25) also received $6000. She is in her final year of a bachelor of medicine at Otago.
As an intern, she is taking advantage of the opportunity to travel and practise medicine overseas for three months, and is working at the Good Shepherd Hospital in Swaziland.
In June, she will spend five weeks at Charing Cross Hospital in London, working with the infectious diseases team, and after graduating, she intends to apply for a house surgeon role at Wellington Hospital.