National recognition for firefighter paramedic turned medical student

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina Shelton, (808) 554-2586
Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Posted: Jan 4, 2018

Michael Brigoli, MD Candidate, JABSOM 2019
Michael Brigoli, MD Candidate, JABSOM 2019
Brigoli being congratulated at JABSOM for being named a Kahanamoku Scholar, 2017.
Brigoli being congratulated at JABSOM for being named a Kahanamoku Scholar, 2017.

Michael Brigoli has followed a path from Army medic to HawaiÊ»i County firefighter paramedic to medical student. His next step is becoming a doctor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at the University of HawaiÊ»i at Mānoa, and he’s earning national accolades on the way.

The 43-year-old non-traditional student is one of only seven future physicians selected by the Association of American Medical Colleges to appear on its Anatomy of an Applicant: Demonstrating Core Competencies website. He was nominated by JABSOM Admissions Director Ivy Nip-Asano.

Committed to serving hometown needs

Brogoli enlisted in the U.S. Army after leaving college without a degree. He was trained as a medic and, after his military commitment, he became a HawaiÊ»i County firefighter. As a paramedic in the rural community where he grew up, he resolved to become a doctor.

“I would arrive at emergency scenes (as a paramedic) and ask a patient who their doctor was, and they would tell me the name of the emergency room physician. They didn’t have their own doctor. HawaiÊ»iIsland has the least amount of physicians taking care of our population,” said Brigoli. “After a while I just thought, ‘We need to do something.’”

Doing something took audacity. With the support of his wife and two sons, Brigoli sold the family’s Big Island home and moved everyone to OÊ»ahu, where he completed his college degree at the University of HawaiÊ»i–West OÊ»ahu. He was accepted into the medical school in 2015.

Brigoli was impressed by JABSOM‘s strong commitment to Native Hawaiian Health, and to training and graduating Native Hawaiian physicians.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t think that being a physician was something that I could do,” said Brigoli. “I didn’t know any Native Hawaiian physicians. I didn’t know anybody from my background, having attended three different public high schools (Pāhoa High, Castle High and Waipahu High, from which he graduated). There weren’t a lot of people from my demographic that went on to become physicians.”

Brigoli is scheduled to graduate with his medical degree in May 2019. After completing his post-graduate training, everyone knows where he will likely be practicing medicine—on HawaiÊ»i Island, where he is needed the most.

See the full story, which includes a video, on the JABSOM website.