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Sam Shomaker wearing lei
Sam Shomaker

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) welcomed Sam Shomaker as its sixth dean on July 1. Shomaker is a 1986 JABSOM graduate and former vice dean from 2000 to 2005 and interim dean from 2005 to 2006. He returns to the UH medical school after leading the Austin campus for the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Related: Thomas Samuel Shomaker named JABSOM dean, May 16, 2024

“This is a special place,” Shomaker said. “It trains the healthcare workforce for this state and the whole Pacific region, so it’s a crucial piece of the healthcare system of the state, and it’s very gratifying and a great honor for me to have been asked to come back and assume the deanship.”

Traditional Hawaiian greeting

Shomaker met the JABSOM community during a coffee hour at Cafe Waiola. The event began with members of JABSOM‘s Department of Native Hawaiian Health welcoming Shomaker with two traditional oli.

shomaker receives an oli from group
Shomaker is welcomed with an oli from the Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

“This oli speaks to this place we’re at in Kaʻākaukukui,” explained Keawe Kaholokula, chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health. “For Hawaiians, the place has a history, and that history connects us to this place. It’s a way for us to bring to life that history in the present.”

The second oli, composed by Kaholokula specifically for Shomaker, acknowledged his journey back to JABSOM. Kaholokula recalled being a junior faculty member during Shomaker’s previous tenure and emphasized that his return builds on the solid foundation already established at JABSOM, continuing its mission of excellence.

Connecting with new and former colleagues

Dozens from JABSOM and the community greeted Shomaker, including Violet Horvath, director of the Pacific Disabilities Center, and second-year medical student Ryan Shontell.

“Despite all the pomp and circumstance and how many people he met before that, he was attentive and listening, so it looks like he is ready to take it all on. We’re looking forward to working with him too actively,” Horvath said.

Shomaker is greeted by JABSOM staff.

“The showing of force from UH faculty, both on the medical education side and all the research faculty, was super interesting,” Shontell said. “I wasn’t expecting the oli Dr. Kaholokula did initially to introduce him; that was pretty special.”

In the coming weeks, Shomaker will outline his goals for JABSOM to become the leading medical school in the Asia-Pacific region and the leading Indigenous-serving medical school in the world.

“The welcome I’ve received has been fantastic,” Shomaker said. “I’ve reconnected with so many old colleagues and friends, and I’m really looking forward to the work and the challenge, and I know I’ll have great help from the talented faculty, staff and students here at JABSOM.”

Shomaker succeeds Dean Jerris Hedges, who retired in 2023. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum served as interim dean and will continue to have a prominent role as associate dean for academic affairs.

Read more at JABSOM.

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