UH Med Now
UH to ask State Legislature to fund year-round JABSOM training of future doctors on Maui
Pictured: Members of the MD Class of 2023 recite the Oath of Hippocrates at their White Coat Ceremony in July 2019. Deborah Manog Dimaya and Joshua Dimaya photo.
The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) could begin training future physicians year-round on Maui if lawmakers support a supplemental budget request that was approved last week by the University of Hawaii (UH) Board of Regents (BOR).
The BOR’s 2020 budget request asks for $1.4 million to create a medical doctor cohort on Maui. The funds would allow UH JABSOM to hire eight full time faculty and staff to create a fully developed program to train a cohort of approximately five to six students each, through all four years of medical school training.
Dr. Vassilis Syrmos, UH Vice President for Research and Innovation, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this weekend that the proposed Maui program “would go from the beginning of medical school all the way through the residency program,” adding that, “if this is successful, then we can replicate it at Hilo and also use some of the pharmacy facilities there.” He continued, telling the newspaper, “The shortage of physicians on Maui and the Big Island is extremely severe. Not only the primary care doctors but also specialty positions are pretty much nonexistent on the outer islands.”
The medical school believes that given a full complement of neighbor island faculty members, the extension of Oahu-based residency programs to the neighbor islands can be initiated within three years if necessary support is provided through fiscal collaborations with its Hawaii health system partners, health insurance providers, federal and state agencies, local practitioners and private donors.
Under the leadership of Dean Jerris Hedges, JABSOM, the University of Hawaii medical school, has increased admission in every incoming class since 2010, expanding the entering class from 62 students to 77 without adding faculty or new classrooms. Dr. Hedges asked the UH leadership to consider the Maui and Hawaii Island cohorts as data from the Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment continued to show a decline in our state’s supply of doctors.
The latest preliminary data presented in September 2019 was startling, especially when analyzing gaps in specialty care on our neighbor islands, which mean that in emergencies patients must travel to another island, usually Oahu, for care. On Kauai, the data showed no island-based specialists in infectious disease, critical care, neonatal-perinatal care, neurological surgery, geriatrics, allergy/immunology, rheumatology, endocrinology, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. Maui lacked colorectal surgeons; Hawaii Island had no island-based neonatal-perinatal care doctors, nor any in infectious disease or colorectal surgery. On Oahu, it is getting more difficult than ever to find a general and family practice doctor — with a 46% shortage of those physicians based on need according to the population of the City and County of Honolulu. Other high shortage specialties in Honolulu are infectious disease, pulmonology and pathology.