UH Med Now
Free ‘mini-med school’ for kupuna continues at JABSOM, with life-long benefits
Community members filled up the Sullivan Conference Center as the inaugural cohort of the John A. Burns School of Medicine Dr. Rosita Leong Mini-Medical School of Healthy Aging, more commonly known as “Mini-Med School”. That first gathering happened in the spring of 2014.
Eight years following that first cohort, the Mini-Med School is back in session for the fall semester.
The five-week curriculum includes relevant medical topics tailored to kupuna in the community. Dr. Virginia Hinshaw, professor emeritus of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Microbiology and Pharmacology, initially opened this invitation to donors of the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation as a gift of gratitude toward their support to JABSOM.
Now, thanks to word-of-mouth, more than 200 people are in attendance each semester.
The sessions take place every Saturday per semester, with physicians and community experts sharing their knowledge on various topics, from retirement to aging to gout. A Q&A session is included at the end of every session for speakers to answer any questions related to their respective topics. Incorporating the interactive aspect of the mini-med school, participants also have a say in the topics that are discussed.
“Even though our audience are not physicians, they’re incredibly educated, intelligent people and well read,” said Dr. Kamal Masaki, chair of the Department of Geriatric Medicine at JABSOM. “They’re wonderful and so interactive and so eager. They do miss the social interaction.”
Masaki is one of the speakers at the Mini-Med School each year, providing knowledge on various topics pertaining to geriatric health.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mini-Med School shifted its sessions to Zoom. During that time, UH Foundation and Mini-Med School staff set up along Ilalo Street for participants to pick up binders, which contained course material for each session, as well as practical activities that served as “homework” for each individual.
Chang Kim, administrator of the Mini-Med School, had to conduct Zoom tutorials for those adapting virtually. A video recording was made available for those who missed any sessions, which Masaki says helped with avoiding technical problems when the sessions are live.
At the end of the program, the Mini-Med School hosts a graduation ceremony luncheon for participants, which now has been scaled down to a drive by pickup that includes bento lunches, graduation certificates, and a small gift.
Through this experience, however, friendships were forged and the need to connect during the pandemic grew stronger. Masaki mentioned that last year’s graduates gathered in a park to eat the bentos, which stemmed from the friendships they’ve made over the years of attending Mini-Med School. The staff hopes to resume the Zoom sessions for kupuna safety, but include opportunities for participants to socialize.
“In Hawaiʻi, community is so important,” she added. “Family is so important. Kupuna are important. These are our folks. These are our families. We need to provide them with good information so that they can grow old gracefully, be as independent as possible, and have as good a quality of life as possible. Many of these folks are retired and this gives them something to look forward to.”
To make a contribution to the Mini-Med School, please click here.
By Vina Cristobal, JABSOM Communications Coordinator