Kalani Ruiz and Ryan Yee

A newly minted emergency medicine resident and a 2020 graduate of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) recently found himself in the middle of an emergency scenario 30 minutes into a red-eye flight to Philadelphia.

JABSOM alumnus Ryan Yee, now an MD resident at Crozer Medical Center in Philadelphia, along with his friend Kalani Ruiz, a third-year student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, were on board the flight in early January. A passenger, a man in his 50s, had suddenly fainted. They rushed to the back of the plane to render aid.

Yee throwing a shaka with mask on
Ryan Yee

“I never thought that an emergency scenario would happen to me, but I remember taking the (Hippocratic) oath on the first day of medical school and realized it was my duty to help out to the best of my ability,” Yee said.

“Attempting to think critically when a plane full of people are staring at you is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” he added. “Fortunately, I was able to mentally calm my nerves and utilize the skills and education that JABSOM provided for me. All the problem-based learning truly paid off!”

Yee advised the airline staff to turn the plane around and return to Hawaiʻi, where an ambulance took the passenger to the hospital. The following day, when Yee and Ruiz returned to Philadelphia, a flight attendant notified them that the passenger had recovered.

The airline thanked Yee with extra mileage points for his service, noting, “without a doubt, you greatly improved a difficult situation…Nevertheless, we wanted to know how much your efforts were appreciated.”

I was able to mentally calm my nerves and utilize the skills and education that JABSOM provided for me

“This situation reminds me a lot of the emergency department,” Yee said. “I must think on my feet and make quick, but rational decisions with limited information. It was quite the adrenaline rush, but that’s one of the exciting aspects of why I chose emergency medicine.”

Yee said that residency thus far has been quite an experience. As a frontline worker who sees many COVID-19 patients, he calls the ER “comparable to a minefield.” But he goes forward, knowing that he is ready to face any emergency situation, much like the one he faced on the airplane that day.

“Overall, it was certainly a unique situation and I am thankful that JABSOM and my residency program prepared me well,” said Yee.

Read more on the JABSOM website.

By Vina Cristobal

This story is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Enhancing Student Success (PDF), one of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.