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May 6, 2021

Video and story by Deborah Dimaya, JABSOM Interim Communications Director.

As a young father who simply wanted to provide the best care for his child, Kamuela Andrade began to crave the medical knowledge behind the rare bleeding disorder diagnosed in his infant son. He was inspired by his son’s pediatrician, Dr. James Raelson, who went above and beyond to care for his son, making home visits and teaching Andrade and his wife how to provide lifetime treatment in the form of daily infusions. As a lifeguard turned firefighter, Andrade naturally had a passion for helping people in dire situations.

“I’ve done a lot of rescues in my life but what he did for us and my son for those first few months of his life—he rescued me, he rescued my family, he rescued my son,” Andrade said.

“I wanted to experience that, I wanted to do that kind of rescuing.”

Andrade made the ambitious decision to pursue his third career as a doctor but it was not without hesitation due to the financial impact it would make on him and his family. The thought of the burden almost stopped him from applying to medical school, but with the full support of his wife, he moved forward. Although he wasn’t accepted into the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) on his first try, he was accepted into the University of Hawaiʻi ʻImi Hoʻōla post-baccalaureate program, which he considers a blessing.

Foundation and support

“I’m so grateful that I got into ʻImi instead of getting into medical school first, because they provided me with that foundation that I needed; they taught me how to study; they taught me how to manage my time,” Andrade said.

Part of the JABSOM Department of Native Hawaiian Health, ʻImi Hoʻōla is a year-long preparatory program recruiting students from historically underprivileged or disadvantaged backgrounds. For years, the Queen’s Health Systems has provided students with monthly stipends, allowing students to commit their full attention to the rigorous premedical program. Upon successful completion, these students matriculate into JABSOM’s newest MD class.

In 2019, QHS provided four-year, full-tuition scholarships to three graduates of ʻImi Hoʻōla, including Andrade. Chuckling, he recounts his wife’s reaction to the news of his scholarship.

A different way to save lives

“She made this weird sound—I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped on a little animal and they made that little shriek like a yelp—and then she started to cry. And when she cries, I start to cry and my kids are wondering, ‘Why are we crying?’ Andrade said.

“And it was just jubilation after that.”

Andrade added that receiving a full-tuition scholarship was “affirmation for everything that I’ve been through so far—what we were trying to accomplish together as a family, what my son went through and how his pediatrician inspired me to go on this path.”

A second-year medical student, Andrade hopes to pursue family medicine and would like to return to Kauaʻi, where he worked as firefighter, to provide rural community health care.

“To this Queen’s Scholarship and to all the donors out there: Mahalo, mahalo nui to what you guys provide for us,” he said. “You give us the opportunity and the freedom to focus on what we need to focus on and become the physicians that we aspire to be. Thank you.”

Kamuela credits his wife for her support

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.