In 1981, Geri Young was newly married and had recently graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine.
“My pediatric residency at Kapiʻolani (Hospital) ended on June 30, and I started work on July 1, 1981,” she remembers. “I just got married to my husband, Dr. Robert Teichman.”
Both 1978 JABSOM graduates, she and Teichman decided to start their married and professional lives on Kauaʻi. The move was prompted by her husband, who got a job as an ER doctor at Wilcox Medical Center.
Little did she know she would spend the next four decades practicing medicine and serving the people of Kauaʻi while also working for her alma mater as an assistant clinical professor for JABSOM’s pediatrics department.
“I just thought it would be a couple of years. I thought I would keep my husband happy for a couple of years, and then we’ll move back to Oʻahu, but that never happened.”
Rural training on the neighbor islands
While their time spent on Kauaʻi was longer than anticipated, Young said the journey to the Garden Isle was not unexpected for her and her husband. Neighbor island and rural training have long been part of JABSOM’s mission, and during an externship on Maui, they were drawn to the idea of settling on a neighbor island.
The people here are so welcoming. The practice was incredible. It just kind of grew on us.
“When we were third and fourth-year students, my husband and I had the opportunity to go. We really went there to go scuba diving, but it occurred to us in that brief time that we could probably live on a neighbor island,” Young said.
Young was born and raised in Honolulu and grew up in Waipahu. She went to Pomona College in California before returning to Hawaiʻi to attend JABSOM. Between her experience on the U.S. continent and living in a large city like Honolulu, Young said the opportunity to learn in a rural setting like Kauaʻi is unique.
“The people here are so welcoming. The practice was incredible. I think I realized that over the years, it wasn’t a sudden decision,” Young said. “It just kind of grew on us. Because it’s so small, everybody kind of knows everybody else, and it becomes like family. I think that’s a big part of why people stay here.”
Growth opportunities on Kauaʻi
The opportunity for JABSOM students to learn on the Garden Isle has grown significantly this year. Priscilla Chan and her husband and co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, made a six-year, $10-million commitment to fund the new Kauaʻi Medical Training Track to help Kauaʻi address the physician shortage and improve access to healthcare services.
“If you are only in training in the city, you might not consider it anywhere else,” Young said. “The advantage of the Kauaʻi Medical Training Track is that it will give these students a chance to really spend some time with the people, the medical and nursing staff.”
As Young reflects on her time on Kauaʻi, she marvels at how much the medical services have grown. “Through the years, I’ve seen way more female physicians employed, and way more subspecialty services being offered. I think a big part of that was because of the formation of Hawaiʻi Pacific Health in 2001, where we merged with Kapiʻolani, Straub and Pali Momi,” she said.
Young’s career has thrived while on Kauaʻi. For more than 12 years, she was the chief medical officer at the Kauaʻi Medical Clinic and is the current Kauaʻi medical director for Hawaiʻi Pacific Health Medical Group.
Sadly, Young lost her husband this year. Teichman was JABSOM’s first permanent gross anatomy instructor.
“I think my husband was a country boy at heart,” Young said. “He didn’t want to live in Honolulu, so that’s how I ended up on Kauaʻi.”
Spending her career on Kauaʻi was never Young’s intention, but she says the last 41 years in the lush, tropical landscape have been like a dream come true and hopes future doctors will follow in her footsteps.
“For any young person who is thinking of rural practice, really consider the neighbor islands because it’s different from practicing on Oʻahu or a city,” she said. “You really do get to know the patients and their families and feel a huge part of the community.”
—By Matthew Campbell