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U H medical students

Hawaiʻi has a shortage of healthcare providers, and University of Hawaiʻi health sciences training programs are working to meet those needs.

The new UH Homestay Aloha program seeks to recruit UH alumni and community members to serve as homestay hosts for UH health sciences students who are training on different islands from where they live. Data indicate that exposing students to new training sites, including rural and underserved areas, increases the likelihood that they will practice there. However, Hawaiʻi’s expensive housing and rental market is a barrier to UH health sciences students doing rotations on other islands.

“Providing additional clinical training opportunities for our health sciences students, especially in underserved areas, is critical to improving access to high quality healthcare across Hawaiʻi. We are extremely grateful to our alumni and community partners who are making it possible for us to expand these opportunities by extending their aloha and support to our students,” said UH President David Lassner.

The University of Hawaiʻi currently faces a shortage of clinical training sites for its medical, nursing, pharmacy and allied health students. Without enough clinical training sites, including on neighbor islands, UH health sciences programs will face difficulties in growing or meeting community needs. Declining clinical sites statewide are the result of multiple factors, including increasing time and regulatory pressures on health providers, competition among clinical sites, and limited housing near available clinaical sites.

“If housing were more readily available and affordable, I feel confident that we could find more clinical training sites for UH health sciences students,” said Kelley Withy, executive director of the Hawaiʻi/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center. “More students training in more locations across the state would help us to address health workforce shortage issues in Hawaiʻi.”

Called a win-win situation

The UH Homestay Aloha program was developed as a cross-discipline UH System initiative, in a partnership with the John A. Burns School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene at UH Mānoa; the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo; Kapiʻolani Community College’s health sciences, EMS and nursing programs; and nursing programs at UH Hilo, Hawaiʻi Community College, UH Maui College and Kauaʻi Community College.

“University of Hawaiʻi alumni volunteers have been attracted to the UH Homestay Aloha program since it gives them an opportunity to give back to their alma mater in a meaningful way,” said Aimee Grace, director of health science policy for the UH System. “By opening up their homes and sharing their personal experiences with current UH health sciences students, UH alumni and community volunteers can forge long-term relationships with students and invest in Hawaiʻi‘s future health workforce.”

Homestay volunteer Nem Lau, a UH alumna and Kona community member, said, ”I understand that one of the major challenges for the [placement of health sciences trainees in rural communities] is affordable short-term housing for the students. It’s a no-brainer and a win-win situation for all: opening up our homes and hearts to those students will increase the chance they may come back as future workers/providers, thus enabling Kona to build and nurture healthcare capacity in and resources for the community.“

The program, run through the Hawaiʻi/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center at the medical school, provides homestay hosts with a stipend of $250 per month per student. For more information, go to UH Homestay Aloha program web page or call (808) 692-1068.

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