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Tyler Thorne
July 15, 2022
  • Tyler at Belau National Hospital in Palau

Tyler Thorne is a 2021-2022 recipient of the Dr. Wendell and Mrs. Susan Foo Scholarship, the Medical School Student Travel Grant, the Miles K. Tashima, MD Memorial Scholarship, and the Virginia and Barry Weinman / Queen’s Scholarship.

This is his thank-you letter to donors.

I grew up in Waimea on Hawai‘i Island and graduated from Honoka‘a High School. Growing up, I worked on several farms and ranches, and later picked up odd jobs in construction and catering. I did not consider a career in medicine as an option. If not for my high school English teacher, I would not have applied for college. However, she challenged me in the classroom and motivated me to strive for more.

In college I found a passion for psychology and physiology. These two interests led to a fellowship in Vietnam, where I worked with a team of physical therapists developing behavioral plans to encourage children with cerebral palsy to walk and develop functional living skills.

I enjoyed working hands-on with these patients and seeing them gradually improve. However, due to the nature of cerebral palsy, many of the children had painful contractures refractory to physical therapy, and they required orthopedic surgery. Following surgery, their contractures no longer dislocated their hips, they were in less pain, and they regained function. This was the first moment where I considered a career in medicine and orthopedics.

After college, I returned to Hawai‘i and worked in behavioral health with children who had developmental disorders. During this time, my mother developed cancer, and I began to understand the disadvantage she had, living in an underserved rural community. This was the final factor motivating me to pursue medicine.

Positive impacts on patients’ lives

After my mother’s surgery and subsequent therapies, at UH Hilo I finished my required courses for medical school. I wanted to explore different specialties in medicine, asking multiple physicians if I could shadow. Only two responded, and one was an orthopedic surgeon. Shadowing him, I enjoyed seeing how as a surgeon could make a positive impact on his patient’s life, helping reduce pain, improving their movement and functionality.

My life experiences gave me multiple interests in orthopedics, oncology, pediatrics and caring for rural communities. Through my experiences at JABSOM, my interest in orthopedics has further developed, and I can see ways to incorporate my other interests and goals into an orthopedic career.

Recently, I had a pediatric orthopedic rotation at Shriners Hospital. Through this rotation, I worked with pediatric patients with cerebral palsy, patients with cancers, and patients from rural island communities, thus combining all my interests. Furthermore, I coordinated a pilot study investigating ethnic disparities in total joint arthroplasty in Hawai‘i’s population, especially looking at how factors such as how living in rural vs. urban areas impacts outcomes and complications.

Realizing my calling, and helping others to find theirs

I plan to pursue a residency program in orthopedic surgery, where I will evaluate fellowship options in pediatrics, reconstruction, or oncology. Following my training, I will return to Hawai‘i. More specifically, I would like to provide care for Hawai‘i and complex cases from across the Pacific Basin.

Additionally, I would like to promote an interest in healthcare careers in students from public high schools, to help encourage rural students to become physicians, as it took me many years to realize this was my calling. I have already been working on such a program at Honoka‘a High School, but would like to expand this with the help of JABSOM and the Area Health Education Center.

Mahalo for supporting my dream of becoming a surgeon, and thank you for finding value in my career goals such as addressing health care disparities across the Pacific. I am truly thankful and honored that you have chosen to invest in my future.

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.