UH Med Now
One student’s voice: What Art Ushijima’s leadership has brought to us, the aspiring Native Hawaiian doctors at JABSOM
Pictured: A montage of some of the people honoring Art Ushijima during a festive evening in his honor at UH JABSOM. Photos by Deborah Manog Dimaya.
Dr. Joy Andrade was among those asked to speak about Art Ushijima, the retiring longtime President and CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems (QHS), during a ceremony hosted by Dean Jerris Hedges for him at the John A. Burns School of Medicine last month. Dr. Andrade offered a unique perspective as a recent JABSOM graduate, who entered the UH medical school through the ʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program, receiving monthly stipends provided by donations by QHS. Those are just some of the ways Hawaiʻi‘s largest health care system has supported Native Hawaiian Health at JABSOM — to the tune of over $10 million — during Ushijima’s nearly 30 years leading Queen’s.
When I was asked to speak for the ʻImi Hoʻōla program, I was honored but I thought, “how do I capture in words — in a limited amount of time — the profound impact Mr. Ushijima as the CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems has made in the lives of all the ʻImi Hoʻōla graduates past, current, future and also convey the immense gratitude we have for him?” I pondered this question and thought perhaps the answer is not through words but what I represent. I am a Native Hawaiian, Thai and Portugese woman from Kona on the Big Island whose parents and family come from humble beginnings. And I had a dream of becoming a doctor. My background is not unique among Imi students. In fact, ʻImi Hoʻōla was created for folks like me who are underrepresented in Medicine.
Looking back at the start of my journey, Queen’s was there from the beginning. Queen’s provided a grant to the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at the University of Hawaiʻi medical school. A crucial program that this grant funds are the monthly stipends that every Imi student has received since 2002. These stipends were not just monetary gifts. They are life saving because they allow students to focus on their studies instead of how they are going to support themselves with part-time jobs, loans, and receiving help from their families, who often don’t have the financial resources to help them with tuition, books, supplies and living expenses.
The Queen’s Medical Center support didn’t stop after Imi but continued through residency training in UH JABSOM-Hawaiʻi Residency Programs and continues to this day with its support of the JABSOM Department of Psychiatry where I am a faculty member and practicing adult and child psychiatrist within the UH JABSOM faculty practice plan working within The Queen’s Medical Center emergency room, inpatient psychiatry units, and outpatient counseling.
And, again, I’m not alone because a lot of graduates are both Queen’s physicians and JABSOM faculty. More importantly they are local, national and international leaders in their field of study. To name a few: Dr. Gerard Akaka (JABSOM MD 1989), a Queen’s executive and expert in primary care for Native Hawaiians; Dr. Clayton Chong (JABSOM MD 1980) in Oncology, particularly among indigenous peoples; and my aunt, Dr. Naleen Andrade (JABSOM MD 1982) who inspires me daily in Native Hawaiian Health and indigenous cultural psychiatry. What I learned from my aunt, and from the work that Drs. Akaka and Chong do, is that they are passionate about serving Queen’s and upholding the mission and vision of Queen Emma and King Kamehameha IV. Since its founding, ʻImi Hoʻōla has produced nearly 300 physicians, of which 30% are Native Hawaiian, 23% are Filipino; and 18% are Pacific Islanders—Samoans, Chamorro, and Micronesian. Eighty percent of these Imi physicians are practicing primary care physicians. It’s not an overstatement to say that Queen’s played a major role in the continuation and success of the ʻImi Hoʻōla program in changing Hawaiʻi medicine and health care for the better.
So, getting back to answering my original question about how to convey the profound impact and immense gratitude to Mr. Ushijima for his visionary leadership. Art, a singular area in which your work to uphold the Kamehameha legacy to make their people and nation gain health and wellbeing is represented by all the Imi and JABSOM graduates, residents and fellows past, current and future. These physicians are the embodiment of the vision of our Queen and King and they fulfill the mission of QMC by the work they do daily to provide in perpetuity quality health care services to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiian and all the people of Hawaiʻi .
You inspire us Art, to put our patients at the center of all we do, and to bring to life the unfolding legacy of our great Queen Emma who dedicated her life to bring her King’s vision for their people through our work as professors at JABSOM and as clinicians, educators and scholars at the hospitals, clinics and centers within The Queen’s Health Systems.