When Jonathan Carino was a Pearl City High School student, he never thought he’d end up walking the halls of the John A. Burns School of Medicine as a first-year student.
“Growing up, the health care I was used to was traditional and plant-based from my grandma,” Carino remembers. “When we got sick, grandma would make us something. She would make us something to drink or something to put on our stomachs, so that was the medicine I grew up with.”
A career counselor or an academic advisor didn’t plant the idea of a medical career in Carino. It sparked when he saw his father go through a health emergency.
“When I was in high school, my dad had a heart attack. That was really my first experience with health care. It was right in front of me. That was my initial pull toward medicine. I wanted to be a doctor, just like the guy who saved my dad’s life,” he said.
After that, Carino decided to forge a path in medicine and began his JABSOM journey.
“I never thought I would find myself on this path, so to be walking in JABSOM, every single day, it’s really a privilege, and I’m really happy to be here,” he said.
To combat the state’s physician shortage, JABSOM welcomes the opportunity to train homegrown students like Carino and, on March 3rd, 2023, held its first Huakaʻi, or “Voyage.”
The event is an organized, streamlined way to establish more connections with Hawaiʻi students like Carino.
“Really, it’s just planting these seeds of ideas that it is a possibility,” said Dr. Jaimie Tom, Associate Director of Admissions at JABSOM. “What goes from being a dream, then becomes a goal, then you have a plan and you have people around you to support you, encourage you to really guide you. It’s really about exploration.”
Dr. Tom assembled the interactive symposium. More than 100 academic advisors and career counselors from middle schools and high schools across Hawaiʻi, including several neighbor islands, made the huakaʻi to Kakaʻako to learn more about how they can plant the seed of a potential career in medicine in their students.
“I think this is a perfect time to re-engage with our community partners and increase the opportunities for our students to have experiences to explore careers in medicine and science,” said Dr. Tom.
The Huakaʻi is something Carino wished existed when he was in high school.
“When I was growing up, the message was out there, but I didn’t hear it. I think that’s the case for many people on this island who don’t have the resources or support. They just don’t know,” Carino said. “Programs and events like these to help outreach to people who otherwise won’t know, this is perfect for them.”
“The value of that is to just get them to think about the possibilities because you don’t know what you don’t know,” Dr. Tom said.
Counselors and administrators got an up-close, hands-on look at various JABSOM programs and departments, including Pre-Health Advising Center, Rural Health, Native Hawaiian Health, and Anatomy.
“These are all departments housed in JABSOM that are doing wonderful things to outreach to the community, so it’s really about showcasing all of our talents here,” said Dr. Tom. “Our former dean, Jerris Hedges, was really about community and reaching out into the community and reaching out to rural areas. I think this perpetuates his legacy and his vision for what this school is meant to be.”
Governor Josh Green, UH President David Lassner, and Board of Education Superintendent Keith Hayashi showed their concerted support by attending and speaking at the JABSOM Huakaʻi.
“The fact that they all took time out of their busy schedules to make this a priority speaks volumes to how important this is to everyone in the state. This is about community. It’s about building relationships, partnering and working together, learning to think outside the box, and figuring out ways to collaborate,” said Dr. Tom.
More than 100 education administrators have a better understanding of JABSOM’s programs and departments. The hope is that they will spread the message and start planting the seeds of curiosity and hope in their schools and beyond.
“They can create relationships amongst each other,” Dr. Tom said. “Different schools will now think of ways to partner in the community, and now multiple networks are being built with this. Hopefully, through this Huakaʻi initiative, we can create a virtual hub and be a resource to connect everyone. There’s an endless amount of possibilities for that.”
Browse through our Flickr album, with photos by Janell Agcaoili and Matthew Campbell: