The first-year John A. Burns School of Medicine students in the WISH Program (WISH stands for Wellness Initiative for Seniors in Hawaiʻi) hosted a Valentine's Day-themed celebration at the Kuakini Home, helping the senior citizen residents make lovely, colorful holiday cards and centerpieces.
It's not just on Valentine’s Day that the medical students are making a difference in these seniors’ lives. Each student in the WISH Program is paired with a care home resident to be their one-on-one companion for the entire year. The student and senior spend, on average, two to three hours a week together.
“The seniors adore seeing the students’ young faces, and the medical students learn a lot about the unique health care needs of the elderly by spending time with the kūpuna,” said JABSOM Department of Geriatric Medicine Educational Specialist Misty Yee. “It almost seems like the student and their senior companion are family, they spend so much time together.”
The Valentine’s event is one of three holiday parties that the current crop of WISH students have hosted at Kuakini Home, part of the Kuakini Medical Center, this year. There were also parties for Halloween and Christmas.
JABSOM Geriatric Medicine Chair Kamal Masaki serves as the faculty director for the WISH program.
The WISH Program activities are student initiated. “Two current fourth-year medical students, Marina Morie and Jenny Chan, actually started the WISH Program, so that the students entering school after they did would have this learning and social opportunity with the seniors,” said Yee.
First-year medical students at the John A. Burns School of Medicine are required to be involved in community service, as a way to increase their exposure to the people of all ages. JABSOM also is one of the few U.S. medical school which also requires its future doctors to perform a clinical rotation in geriatric medicine—a plus, given the population of older adults in Hawaiʻi is growing faster than anywhere else in the country.