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History and Background of JABSOM
John A. Burns
In Hawai'i roots are important. People here have a special need to remember, and pay homage to the past and to those who went before us. We also look to the future for hope.

Few could guess back in the late 1960's that Le'ahi Hospital would become the genesis for a major medical school. One who did, and was instrumental in its founding was Hawai‘i's Governor John A. Burns. The Board of Regents named the school "The John A. Burns School of Medicine of the University of Hawai'i" in tribute to him. The goals and philosophy of JABSOM epitomize the public career of the late Governor Burns and his vision for Hawai'i.
The School opened in 1965 as a two-year program of basic medical sciences, and became a four-year degree granting program in 1973.

The Hawai'i State Legislature’s commitment to a medical school for the people of Hawai'i was strengthened when lawmakers approved use of tobacco "Master Settlement Agreement" funds to build and help operate the Kaka'ako oceanfront campus of the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). The campus, a site chosen by Governor Ben Cayetano, opened in 2005. We proudly educate our students and the people of Hawai'i about the dangers of smoking and we treat those suffering from tobacco-related disease.

Many prestigious private foundations as well as the U.S. and foreign governments have provided generous grants and funding over the years. This distinguished list includes the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Commonwealth Fund, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Pew Memorial Trust, and the Queen Emma Foundation, just to name a few.

In 1992, a Harvard University study of the nature and scope of medical education reforms in the United States and Canada identified the John A. Burns School of Medicine as one of ten "... leaders in the reform and improvement of medical education."


JABSOM is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Council on Medical Education of the American Medical Association.

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JABSOM's Mission & Distinctive Features

The School's basic mission is to teach and train high-quality physicians, biomedical scientists, and allied health workers for Hawai'i and the Pacific. Its major purpose is to provide an opportunity for a medical education previously unavailable to residents of Hawai'i and other Pacific nations. Our vision is ALOHA: to Attain Lasting Optimal Health for All.

Some unique features of the School's M.D. program include its Problem-Based Learning curriculum (PBL; see Medical Education), and community-based medicine program. In addition, clinical instruction is accomplished in affiliated community hospitals and clinics. The benefits of this approach are several: it is more economical; students from the start are thrust into the real world of day-to-day clinical activity; and working directly within the community involves extensive participation of community physicians and other health professionals in the training of future physicians.

Our mid-Pacific location, ties the Pacific island nations and Southeast Asia, and the State's multi-ethnic, multi-cultural population all combine to give the School its distinctive flavor and opportunities. JABSOM is the most culturally and ethnically diverse medical school in the country, and its student body mirrors the rich diversity of the State's population. The School has always and will continue to play a historical role in expanding opportunities for women, minorities, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Programs such as Imi Ho'ola ("Those who seek to heal", see Programs-Imi Ho'ola) and the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence have dramatically increased the number of under-represented minorities and disadvantaged physicians in the community.

Advanced medical and biomedical research at JABSOM has received international recognition for pioneering work in human fertility, human heredity, comparative genetics, evolution theory, infectious disease, pharmacology, and cross cultural Psychiatry, among other fields. Its work on the better understanding of Hansen's Disease is part of Hawai'i's legacy to the world. More recently, it has made contributions in AIDS, in Kawasaki's Disease, and the epidemiology of heart disease. It is also affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's Cancer Research Center. In 1998, JABSOM researcher Dr. Ryuzo Yanagimachi and his team of scientists made history with the announcement of the Honolulu Technique for cloning mice. The School's primary investigative focus over the decades has been in those areas for which it is ideally qualified by geography and population.

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John A. Burns School of Medicine • University of Hawai`i at Manoa
651 Ilalo Street • Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
© 2008