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Hawaiʻi Gets First Primary Care Progress Chapter

Date: May 30th, 2015 in Care, JABSOM News, Student Life    Print or PDF

The Primary Care group

Primary Care Progress recently welcomed its 49th chapter: the University of Hawaiʻi. John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) MD Class of 2017 member Nash Witten wrote this story for the organization’s publication about the University of Hawaiʻi joining the PCP.

By Nash Witten, MD Candidate, Class of 2017
I went to great lengths to try to attend Primary Care Progress’s leadership summit in San Francisco last January. But attending medical school in Hawaiʻi makes financing and scheduling a Sunday afternoon conference in San Francisco impossible.

Though I was disappointed I couldn’t make the conference, one thing was clear: we needed a Primary Care Progress chapter in Hawaiʻi. Within a week of sending an email to medical students at the University of Hawaiʻi (Hawaiʻi) John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) about starting a chapter, I heard from 10 students, which included voices from each year in medical school. I was ecstatic. We held our first meeting to develop a mission statement, a long-term goal, and some short-term goals for our fledgling chapter.

Our mission is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration, mentorship and community outreach in primary care throughout the Hawaiian Islands. In doing so, we hope to strengthen the primary care network across the Hawaiian Islands. In the short-term, we plan to designate an ambassador for each health care school; build our membership to 50 people; organize and hold a kickoff event; and have at least four events during the 2015-2016 school year.

Nash Witten helped make a PCP Chapter for Hawaiʻi happen. Nash Witten helped make a PCP Chapter for Hawaiʻi happen.

Hawaiʻi Chapter Kickoff
As we began to organize a kickoff event, we looked at what other chapters had done in the past and decided on a town hall format with the prompt “What is keeping health care students from going into primary care?” Dr. John Houk, a Honolulu-based internist, held the event at his home, which created an environment for informal networking and camaraderie. We invited medical students, residency programs, public health programs, social work programs and community physicians and drew 28 attendees, with representatives from each group. Each gave feedback about the role of our new chapter and how to alleviate obstacles for students.

After the kickoff event, we had determined five reasons why it may be that students chose not enter primary care:

  • Lack of understanding about primary care physician reimbursement and a view that going into primary care requires an income sacrifice.
  • A view that primary care providers are overworked and under-appreciated.
  • Lack of enthusiastic primary care mentors.
  • Educational emphasis on tertiary care, not primary care.
  • Lack of education concerning the diverse opportunities in primary care.

  • We also noted a long list of suggestions for how our Primary Care Progress chapter could address these obstacles, including three main ideas:

  • Develop a primary care mentorship network.
  • Sponsor opportunities for education on primary care provider lifestyles and finances.
  • Hold regular informal meetings in which chapter members can network with primary care students and providers.

  • This feedback has given us direction and actionable steps to strengthen the primary care network throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

    Although our first event had a good mix of health care students and primary care providers, our goal is to achieve greater involvement of residency programs, the social work school and the nursing schools. Our leadership team is excited to get our chapter off the ground and looks forward to creating an active network of health care students and providers who are passionate about primary care.

    Nash Witten is a second-year medical student at the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu. He hopes to become a family physician and return to rural Hawaiʻi to provide primary care.

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