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Hara and medical students with a patient maniken. (Photo credit: Vina Cristobal photo)

The pressure in the room rises as a team works together to save the patient manikin, who has just gone into cardiac arrest. The medical students work quickly to resuscitate the patient. It’s a typical day at the SimTiki Simulation Center at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), where students, residents and other healthcare professionals are trained in critical care situations with no real risk of harm to their patients—high fidelity manikins. The manikins breathe, blink and even have pulses, but the person who brings the manikins and these simulated experiences to life is Operations Director and Chief Simulation Specialist Kris Hara.

headshot of kris hara
Kris Hara

The Society of Simulation in Healthcare selected Hara as the recipient of its 2020 Operation Specialist of the Year Award. The award honors a member of the Operations Specialist community who functions beyond the scope of their position, demonstrates superior initiative and creativity, actively promotes the profession and has a record of advanced training.

SimTiki Associate Director Jannet Lee-Jayaram calls Hara “the beating heart of SimTiki” who comes into work everyday with a joyful energy.

“She has incredible insights and this ability to see things from other people’s perspectives, specifically the learner’s perspective, so she really advocates for the learner… this whole center (SimTiki) is her domain,” Lee-Jayaram said.

Prior to a career in education, Hara worked as a respiratory therapist at Kuakini Medical Center and program manager at Tripler Army Medical Center. She joined JABSOM in 2006, a year after the school was built and officially opened its Kakaʻako doors. She remembers unboxing manikin parts and connecting legs to torso. After 15 years at JABSOM, she still loves what she does and continues to enter the school doors with enthusiasm. Seeing students learn new skills such as assessing and diagnosing, from book learning to the bedside, is satisfying.

“It’s wonderful to be able to provide a service and environment where the students can learn without fear. They can make mistakes, it’s not a problem. They can fine-tune their skills and close gaps in learning and when we see them come back as faculty later, it’s just an amazing opportunity (here),” Hara said.

During the pandemic, Hara developed video conferencing platform-based distance learning from which learners could participate in simulation remotely and created a fully online orientation to the SimTiki to streamline the process and decrease face to face time in the center. In addition, she shares her vast knowledge and experience with other operations specialists, as well as budding operations specialists.

“I’m accepting it with a great deal of admiration for the people who have helped me, for the people who work here at JABSOM, nursing schools and institutions across the state. It’s a collaborative community of simulationists that help one another and extend their medical aloha across the globe,” Hara said.

This recognition 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.

Read more on the JABSOM website.

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