JABSOM Welcomes Dean Sam Shomaker

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Today, the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine welcomed Dr. Sam Shomaker as the sixth dean of the medical school.

Dr. Shomaker, a 1986 graduate and former vice dean from 2000-2005 and interim dean from 2005-2006, returns to JABSOM following leading the Austin campus for the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

"This is a special place," Dean Shomaker said. "It trains the healthcare workforce for this state and for the whole Pacific region, so it's a crucial piece of the healthcare system of the state, and it's very gratifying and a great honor for me to have been asked to come back and assume the deanship."

Dean Shomaker met the JABSOM community during a coffee hour at Cafe Waiola. The event started in the Medical Education Lobby, as members of JABSOM's Department of Native Hawaiian Health welcomed Dr. Shomaker with two traditional Oli. The first was composed collectively by members of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

"This Oli speaks to this place we're at in Ka‘ākaukukui," Dr. Keawe Kaholokula, chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health, explained. "For Hawaiians, the place has a history, and that history connects us to this place. It's a way for us to bring to life that history in the present."

The second was composed by Dr. Kaholokula, specifically for Dean Shomaker.


"This Oli was regarding his journey back home," Dr. Kaholokula said. "I was a junior faculty member when he was here as an associate dean under Dean Cadman and then later as interim dean. It spoke of the great work done here at JABSOM and the great foundation that has already been set. Dean Shomaker returns home to help us further that mission to help build, but it also reminds him that there is a solid foundation he can build on."

shomaker and horvath

Afterward, dozens from JABSOM and beyond greeted Dr. Shomaker.

"Despite all the pomp and circumstance and how many people he met before that, he was attentive and listening, so it looks like he is ready to take it all on. We're looking forward to working with him too actively," said Violet Horvath, PhD and Director of the Pacific Disabilities Center (PDC).

Rising MS2 student Ryan Shontell met Dean Shomaker and was impressed by the swell of support he saw.

"The showing of force from UH faculty, both on the medical education side and all the research faculty, was super interesting. I wasn't expecting the Oli Dr. Kaholokula did initially to introduce him; that was pretty special," Shontell said.

In the coming weeks, Dr. Shomaker will outline his goals for JABSOM to become the leading medical school in the Asia-Pacific region and the leading Indigenous-serving medical school in the world.  

"The welcome I've received has been fantastic," Dean Shomaker said. "I've reconnected with so many old colleagues and friends, and I'm really looking forward to the work and the challenge, and I know I'll have great help from the talented faculty, staff, and students here at JABSOM."

Dean Shomaker succeeds Dean Jerris Hedges who retired last year. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, MD served as interim dean and will still have a prominent role in our campus as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

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