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The Queen’s Health Systems and The Queen’s Medical Center make multi-million dollar investment in health education for Native Hawaiians

Date: January 30th, 2016 in Care, Giving, JABSOM News    Print or PDF

The Queen’s Health Systems (QHS) is investing nearly $3 million dollars over the next five years for education and community programs to improve the health of Native Hawaiians.

The $2.8 million recently pledged brings the total QHS investment in the University of Hawaiʻi Native Hawaiian Health programs to $10 million since 2002. QHS support has allowed the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) to leverage state and federal funds and establish a nationally recognized research division focused on reducing the disproportionately high levels of illness suffered by Native Hawaiians.

The funds also have strengthened JABSOM’s efforts to recruit more medical students of Native Hawaiian ancestry and other backgrounds that are underrepresented in medicine and additional health-related fields. The latest investment expands on those efforts with a new initiative to support third-year medical students while they train on Hawaiʻi Island and Molokaʻi.

“Having students begin their clinical training in health care sites on Hawaiʻi Island and Molokaʻi will allow them to see first-hand the need for physicians in those communities, and to experience the rewards that come along with providing care where it is so desperately needed,” said Jerris Hedges, MD, JABSOM Dean.

Among the MD students already learning beside neighbor island physicians is Nash Witten, of Haleiwa. “The entire state is at least 20% short of physicians, with our rural and neighbor island communities facing the most acute shortage,” said Witten. “The ideal fix to this shortage is to recruit and train kids in medicine from these rural communities, and to have them return home to work after training,” he said.

QHS has provided educational stipends that support aspiring doctors in the JABSOM ʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program. Now in its 42nd year, ʻImi is one of the most successful programs in the country to recruit and retain physicians from underserved communities or disadvantaged backgrounds. Its outstanding record includes these facts:

• 40% of Native Hawaiians who graduated from JABSOM enrolled in medical school after completing the challenging year-long preparatory course offered by ‘Imi Hoʻōla

• 67% of the students who begin ʻImi Hoʻōla go on to complete the program, earning entrance to JABSOM. Once in medical school at JABSOM, 98% of the former ʻImi students are successfully enrolled or have graduated as MDs

• 30% of ʻImi students are of Native Hawaiian ancestry

• 34% are of other Pacific Island heritage

• Nearly a quarter of the students are from neighbor islands

• 63% of the graduates choose to specialize in primary care

QHS investment also led to the development of several notable Native Hawaiian scholars whose research is aimed at improving Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health. One scholar, Maile Taualii PhD, MPH, went on to establish the Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health program in the Office of Public Health Studies at UH Mānoa. The other, Alika Maunakea, PhD, is a National Institutes of Health funded investigator applying the science of epigenetics to improving Native Hawaiian health while exposing Native Hawaiian students to this emerging science.

QHS also has supported over 30 distinct community-based and community led projects across Hawaiʻi promoting health, which included many of the federally qualified community health centers, Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems, and grassroots communities, such as on Hawaiian homesteads.

QHS investment also made possible an extensive report produced in 2013, on the health status of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, a landmark document which has helped to inform Hawaiʻi policy makers and others about the health needs of the population and the types of interventions most likely to succeed.

Photo: Third-year medical student Nash Witten, right, shown enjoying his neighbor island clerkship training, supported by The Queen’s Health Systems. Also pictured at Waikoloa Medical Arts (L-R): Linda Robertson, Dr. Stewart Lawrence and Chris Tom.

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