Paralysis no barrier to academic success

Johnny Bourke graduated yesterday from the University of Canterbury with a PhD. He is pictured with Rhonda Brown (stepmother), Kim Eggleston (mother), Corrin (wife), Rex (father) with twin sons Oliver and Leonardo. Photo: University of Canterbury
Johnny Bourke graduated yesterday from the University of Canterbury with a PhD. He is pictured with Rhonda Brown (stepmother), Kim Eggleston (mother), Corrin (wife), Rex (father) with twin sons Oliver and Leonardo. Photo: University of Canterbury

A Greymouth man paralysed in a surfing accident 12 years ago graduated from the University of Canterbury yesterday with a doctorate.

Attending Johnny Bourke's graduation were his family including his father Rex, wife and his five-year-old twins.

He currently teaches at CPIT and marks papers for Massey.

Dr Bourke already has a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) from Massey University and a Masters in Health Science from the University of Otago.

Taking academia further, he wrote his PhD on rebuilding following the Canterbury earthquakes: Are wheelchair users remembered?

He is now a doctor of philosophy.

"My personal experience of having a spinal cord injury combined with my academic study has allowed me to see disability and rehabilitation services as both a consumer and from the perspective of how services are developed and delivered."

Dr Bourke is the former editor of the Spinal Network News, a quarterly magazine published by the New Zealand Spinal Trust.

He has enough movement in his shoulders to allow him to type his thesis.

Professor Philip Schulter said he had overseen almost 20 PhD students and Dr Bourke rated as one of the best.

"He is not only a great thinker; he has got an amazing ability to communicate."

Dr Bourke was externally assessed in America where they would not have known he had a disability.

"There are many things that are remarkable. I think he has a great future ahead."

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