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classroom of kupuna
Kamal Masaki welcomes the fall 2023 Mini-Med School participants.

Rafia Hasina, 64, has been waiting for years to attend a popular program that engages the local kūpuna (elder) population at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). The Dr. Rosita Leong Mini-Medical School on Healthy Aging is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

“One of my friends took these Mini-Med School classes before COVID. Since then, I’ve waited to be accepted and finally got in,” Hasina said.

Rafia Hasina
Rafia Hasina

She was all smiles on October 14 as she finally got her hands on a 300+ page binder that she said holds the key to unlocking a healthier life in her later years.

The fall 2023 semester covers topics such as rheumatoid arthritis, breast and prostate cancers and spine strengthening. It also dedicates sessions to topics such as what to expect when undergoing surgery and how to use exercise as medicine.

“There is so much we need to know about our health, especially aging,” Hasina said.

In addition to the binder containing her “homework,” Hasina will return to JABSOM each Saturday morning for the five-week course tailored to issues affecting Hawaiʻi‘s kūpuna.

“I’m especially interested in learning how to reduce suffering and pain,” she said. “Mini-Med School also offers timely advice on future life planning and decision making if something serious happens. This knowledge will make me feel more comfortable if I’m ever forced to make these tough decisions.”

Each year, there are 10 new topics over five weeks in the spring, and the same speakers and topics are repeated during five weeks in the fall.

“One thing we really want people to do as they age is to remain as healthy as possible and to continue to be lifelong learners,” said Kamal Masaki, JABSOM’s Mini-Med School director. “The philosophy of the Mini Medical School is to be mentally active. Our students are doing that by learning here. We encourage them to be mentally, physically and socially active, and to have nutritional balance.”

Masaki, who is also the chair of JABSOM‘s Geriatric Medicine Department, is glad to see the program flourishing and believes the messages during the program will lead to a healthier kūpuna population in Hawaiʻi. So far, roughly 1,000 people have participated over the past decade.

The Mini-Medical School was started in 2014 by Virginia Hinshaw, who was a faculty member at JABSOM and chancellor emeritus of UH Mānoa.

During the pandemic, Mini-Med School went entirely online but is transitioning back to in-person classes.

For more information on the program, email Read more on the JABSOM website.

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