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Moloka‘i grad, UH Hilo student earns National Substance Abuse Research Award

University of Hawaiʻi
Susana Helm, (808) 945-1462
John A. Burns School of Medicine
Tina Shelton, (808) 692-0897
John A. Burns School of Medicine
Posted: May 11, 2009

HONOLULU — Molokaʻi High School graduate and University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo student Kaycee "Nahe" Kawano has earned the prestigious summer scholar award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to begin June 2009.

The research award is designed to recruit highly qualified minority students into the field of substance use prevention and treatment careers by connecting them with NIDA-funded researchers and research projects in their area of interest.

Kawano will continue her work on a substance use prevention research project that is investigating ecological factors in drug use among Native Hawaiian youth on Hawaiʻi island. The focus is Hawaiʻi island where Kawano attends college, but the work may be applicable to other rural areas in the State of Hawaiʻi, including Molokaʻi.

The lead Principal Investigator is Dr. Scott Okamoto of Hawaiʻi Pacific University; and the co-Principal Investigator is Dr. Susana Helm of the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Drs. Okamoto and Helm will supervise Kawano‘s work under the NIDA project. They were very impressed with the high quality of work Kawano completed in 2007 when she joined the project as an undergraduate researcher. Resulting from this internship, Kawano became a co-author on a recently published peer-reviewed journal article in Progress in Community Health Partnerships, entitled "Participatory Drug Prevention Research in Rural Hawaiʻi with Native Hawaiian Middle School Students".

Due to her aptitude for substance use research with Native Hawaiian youth, and her excellent work ethic and growing leadership, Dr. Okamoto enrolled his project in the Summer Research Program in the hopes that Kawano would be selected by NIDA and placed in his project. Increasing research opportunities among underrepresented students is critical for the quality of work produced in the scientific community. Without diverse input, the ability to combat substance use problems among Hawaiʻi‘s youth population will continue to have gaps. With the contributions of young Native Hawaiian scholars like Kawano, substance use prevention with Native Hawaiian middle school age adolescents will expand its requisite cultural integrity.

Kawano graduated in 2005 from Molokaʻi High and Intermediate School. She will earn her bachelor‘s degree in 2010 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, majoring in psychology and simultaneously earning a Certificate in Basic Hawaiian Culture.

For more information about the program, contact Assistant Professor Susana Helm from the Department of Psychiatry at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at (808) 945-1462 or