students care for simulated infant
Jester Galiza, Amandalin Rock and Kaimana Kuwada care for a simulated infant patient.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) enrolls students statewide, but currently only offers full-time medical student training at its Kakaʻako location on Oʻahu. With the state presently facing an increasing physician shortage, there is a strong push to expand medical training opportunities for future doctors on the neighbor islands—beginning on Maui. Several medical school students from the Valley Isle shared their thoughts on the proposal.

Related: UH seeks to train more doctors, expand medical school to Maui

UH is asking state lawmakers to consider funding a $1.4-million expansion program of JABSOM to Maui with the hope of retaining more medical students and increasing the number of local doctors. The expansion would include a full-time teaching hub for medical students and residents. If funding is approved in 2020, the UH medical school can hire trained faculty and key staff, and its first Maui-based class could start in July 2021.

Why Maui? While there is need on all islands, the December 2019 Hawaiʻi Physician Workforce Assessment Project Report shows a significant physician shortage on the Valley Isle, up from 141 in 2018, to 153. In addition, there is strong encouragement from established medical professionals there and higher education counterparts at UH Maui College to collaborate and train the next generation of Maui-based physicians.

Maui students speak out

Hear from current JABSOM students from Maui who believe in the much-needed expansion. They are hopeful about the future opportunities it will bring to their island home.

Amandalin Rock

Amandalin Rock, Class of 2022, grew up in Haʻikū, Maui and earned her nursing degree from UH Maui College before she enrolled at JABSOM.

Growing up on Maui, it didn’t feel like a path to medical school was really in plain sight or talked about much as an option. What I did find was the nursing program at UH Maui College, which helped me find my passion for medicine. When I decided I wanted to apply to the UH med school, I was forced to go off-island because not all of the prerequisites were available locally.

When I heard about the expansion, I was a bit sad it didn’t happen sooner! I think it will help grow the prerequisite classes at UH Maui College and increase the neighbor island applicants to the UH med school. UH Maui College has relationships with the hospitals and clinics on Maui because of the nursing program and this can help in getting the expansion going. Even some of the resources that will be needed are already established, like the ITV classrooms and simulation lab.

The expansion also brings hope that in the future we will be able to offer residencies on neighboring islands, which will help keep our local physicians in our state. My long term goal is to return to Maui, or even other neighboring islands like Molokaʻi or Lānaʻi), to practice medicine. It has been tough to be away from my family, my horses, and my island for so long!

Dillon Tacdol

Dillon Tacdol, born and raised in Wailuku, Maui, is part of JABSOM’s Class of 2022.

This program will greatly expose medical students to rural medicine, and in doing so, encourage more of our students to go forward and serve these major areas of need (Maui, Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi).

I am really happy for the students that come from Maui that will be able to benefit from this program. Going to medical school away from home has been a great growing experience for me, but unfortunately also came with some sacrifices, the most important being not able to spend as much time as I would like with my loved ones.

This program will help the students from Maui by giving them the opportunity to stay at home and be with their family, decrease expenditures of having to fly back and forth between the islands and renting a place to stay and increase the networking with Maui physicians.

Madison Williams

Born on Lānaʻi and raised on Maui, Madison Williams, Class of 2023, was accepted to JABSOM as part of its early acceptance program.

I think growing up on Maui and being Native Hawaiian gives me a set of values that will greatly help me as a clinician. Having more Maui-raised doctors could potentially translate to better care. A lot of the people on Maui simply have different values and goals than a typical city dweller.

A satellite site on Maui would be amazing because it would streamline the process of getting into medical school. There are so many smart, talented kids on Maui, but the path to becoming a doctor is kind of hazy if you don’t have doctors in your family. A site on Maui would potentially mean more opportunities for shadowing and research. I had to fly to Oʻahu as a high schooler to do biomedical research to become more competitive. For many people, that isn’t an option.

I see the expansion to Maui as a much needed redistribution of resources. The state of Hawaiʻi isn’t made up of just Oʻahu, so more resources should be allocated to different areas to finally solve the doctor shortage. People tend to settle down in the place they train because major life events happen in residency (marriage, starting a family), so it would be beneficial for more medical training to happen on the outer islands.

Kara Termulo

Kara Termulo of Wailuku, Maui, Class of 2022, is a recipient of a four-year scholarship from philanthropists Barry and Virginia Weinman, Hawaiʻi Pacific Health and The Queen’s Health Systems.

I think that there are a lot of opportunities in JABSOM‘s expansion to Maui. It will increase the school’s visibility and inspire bright, motivated neighbor island youth to pursue careers in medicine. I know that there are many high school students on Maui that are unaware that Hawaiʻi even has a medical school and far fewer know that there are research programs and mentorships that are available to aspiring medical students.

Hawaiʻi‘s physician shortage is glaringly apparent on the neighbor islands and the communities on the neighbor islands are experiencing it firsthand. Personally, I think that seeing is believing and I can’t think of a greater motivator to return to an underserved community than to have grown up in one yourself. Additionally, many of my classmates are able to live at home with their families while they attend school and I think that many neighbor island students would benefit greatly from being able to stay at home with their families while they pursue a career in medicine.

I also hope in the future that this expansion to Maui encourages more physicians to participate in local medical training and ultimately opens more residency training programs so that our JABSOM grads can continue to receive their medical education at home.