Michael Brigoli

Michael Brigoli has followed a path from Army medic to Hawaiʻi County firefighter paramedic to medical student. His next step is becoming a doctor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and he’s earning national accolades on the way.

The 43-year-old non-traditional student is one of only seven future physicians selected by the Association of American Medical Colleges to appear on its Anatomy of an Applicant: Demonstrating Core Competencies website. He was nominated by JABSOM Admissions Director Ivy Nip-Asano.

Committed to serving hometown needs

Brigoli enlisted in the U.S. Army after leaving college without a degree. He was trained as a medic and, after his military commitment, he became a Hawaiʻi County firefighter. As a paramedic in the rural community where he grew up, he resolved to become a doctor.

“I would arrive at emergency scenes (as a paramedic) and ask a patient who their doctor was, and they would tell me the name of the emergency room physician. They didn’t have their own doctor. Hawaiʻi Island has the least amount of physicians taking care of our population,” said Brigoli. “After a while I just thought, ‘We need to do something.’”

Doing something took audacity. With the support of his wife and two sons, Brigoli sold the family’s Big Island home and moved everyone to Oʻahu, where he completed his college degree at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu. He was accepted into the medical school in 2015.

Brigoli was impressed by JABSOM‘s strong commitment to Native Hawaiian Health, and to training and graduating Native Hawaiian physicians.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t think that being a physician was something that I could do,” said Brigoli. “I didn’t know any Native Hawaiian physicians. I didn’t know anybody from my background, having attended three different public high schools (Pāhoa High, Castle High on Windward Oʻahu, and Waipahu High, from which he graduated). There weren’t a lot of people from my demographic that went on to become physicians.”

Brigoli is scheduled to graduate with his medical degree in May 2019. After completing his post-graduate training, everyone knows where he will likely be practicing medicine—on Hawaiʻi Island, where he is needed the most.

A 2015 interview with Brigoli

See the full story on the JABSOM website.

—By Tina Shelton