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six students in white coats
The second cohort of the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Kauaʻi Medical Training Track.

In an effort to address the physician shortage on the neighbor islands, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine‘s (JABSOM) Kauaʻi Medical Training Track was launched in 2022 thanks to private funding. This month, the second cohort of the program started their training on Kauaʻi. The students kicked off their program with meeting leaders of the Kauaʻi healthcare community at an event held at The Plantation House by Gaylords on August 18.

The program is funded by a $10 million commitment from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg to help directly improve the health and wellness of Kauaʻi’s families, today and in the future.

This second annual event was an opportunity for the six first-year medical students to meet the island’s healthcare partners and to hear from a member of the inaugural cohort, which is starting its second year in the innovative program.

The second cohort’s first-year medical students are: Nicole Hada, Zackary Kon, Nikki Ooka, Kennedy-Kain Tamashiro, Darcy Tokunaga and Heather Zimmerman.

Through the Kauaʻi Medical Training Track, six JABSOM students, with ties to Kauaʻi or another neighbor island and/or a strong interest in rural health, are accepted into the program each year. The program funds tuition and fees for all four years, as well as transportation and lodging.

First year success

Dylan Lawton of the inaugural cohort, a second-year medical student who has family on Kauaʻi, told them that he was able to shadow two physicians, Dr. John Funai, a cardiologist, and Dr. Eugene Lao, a family medicine practitioner, during his three months on Kauaʻi last spring.

“Through my observations of these great physicians, I not only observed their compassion, and their care for residents, I was also able to ‘talk story’ with a lot of residents and really enjoyed learning about their livelihoods, their families and their hobbies.”

Related UH News story: Medical training track to have prolonged, impactful presence on Garden Isle

Lawton told the audience, “I was also able to connect with them through my own Kauaʻi ʻohana and found that it’s such a small island that everyone knows everyone.”

In addition to Lawton, the members of the first cohort of returning second-year students are Brent Fujimoto, Jaime Emoto, Erin Evangelista, Ivana Yoon and Kirra Borrello.

“We’re really grateful to Priscilla and Mark, JABSOM, Hawaiʻi Pacific Health and all others who made this amazing opportunity possible,” Lawton said. “We’re especially grateful to the Kauaʻi community for welcoming us with open arms into their homes and being able to serve.”

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