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In July 2020, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) welcomed 77 first-year medical students into its new curricular initiative, the Learning Community program. The anticipated positive impact of this pioneering medical education on health care delivery has resulted in the HMSA Foundation adding to its initial support of the program, donating $5 million to establish the HMSA Learning Innovations Endowment to support innovative medical education.

group of students wearing masks
First-year medical students (Class of 2024).

The Learning Innovations Center within the Office of Medical Education at JABSOM will continue to evolve medical training to meet the changing needs of Hawaiʻi’s health care system. The center will be named the HMSA Learning Innovations Center in recognition of HMSA’s contribution and commitment.

HMSA President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Mugiishi, said, “HMSA supports this initiative because we need our physician workforce to be prepared for new ways of viewing health, looking to the community as partners in the health of our families. With constant changes in delivery of health care and advances in technology, the HMSA Learning Innovations Center will be critically important.”

Mugiishi added, “At the end of the day, the sustainability of our medical community and the health of Hawaiʻi’s people are integrally connected. Innovation in education is an essential element of the equation.”

“The HMSA Foundation is showing tremendous vision and commitment to advance the health of Hawaiʻi with this strategic philanthropic investment, especially during these tumultuous times,” said UH President David Lassner. “With this endowment as a resource, JABSOM will now have the long-term funding needed to continue to innovate and evolve our medical education delivery with the needs of our people and our islands.”

More about Learning Communities

  • Learning Communities are intentionally designed, longitudinal small learning groups comprised of a faculty member who will mentor 6-7 medical students in each of the four class years.
  • The longitudinal relationship between the students and the mentors, and amongst the students themselves, is the foundation of the Learning Communities program.
  • The program establishes small groups of students and faculty that are divided amongst the geographic mokus on the island of Oahʻu, allowing students to learn about and develop relationships, and to work with their communities.
  • The Learning Community creates a collaborative environment that supports the growth of clinically competent, culturally sensitive, compassionate and professional physician leaders who are connected and committed to our communities.
group of physicians with masks
JABSOM Physician Mentors

Hawaiʻi’s doctor shortage has contributed to health care disparities, especially on the neighbor islands. JABSOM is committed to helping address the shortage and has been increasing its class size to accommodate more trainees.

JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges said, “The solution to the provider shortage is not to simply to train more physicians, but to train physicians differently and to help them adopt a new skill set better suited for the future of practice in Hawaiʻi. Innovation in curriculum and medical training is essential for staying on the cutting edge of what our community needs for optimal, long-term health. We are immensely grateful to HMSA for their generous investment in our collective future.”

This effort 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.

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