Today, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) announced a six-year, $10 million commitment from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg. This gift will fund the new Kaua‘i Medical Training Track, a multi-pronged program on Kaua‘i to help address the physician shortage and improve access to healthcare services.
University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner said, “We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg for their generous gift and commitment to our island’s community health. This gift will have a lasting ripple effect that will directly improve the health and wellness of Kaua‘i’s families today, and in the future.”
According to the University of Hawaiʻi’s 2021 Annual Report for the State Legislature, Kaua‘i needs more than 61 doctors to meet the local community’s current healthcare needs. Kaua‘i health indicators also note that the Garden Island has more uninsured people, more strokes and hypertension, and more adults with cancer than the rest of Hawaiʻi. The physician shortage, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, poses serious challenges for all residents — especially for those struggling with chronic illness and preventable diseases.
JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges said, “We know that doctors who train in rural areas, especially areas where they have family and community ties, are more likely to practice in a rural setting. To address Kaua‘i’s physician shortage, we need more medical students from Kaua‘i and we must expand medical training on Kaua‘i.” Hedges continued, “JABSOM selects 80% or more of its student population from the state of Hawai‘i and has one of the highest rates of graduate retention in the nation post training. This six-year initiative will help us grow medical student and resident trainee numbers on Kaua‘i and help practicing doctors on Kaua‘i benefit from the stimulating educational environment associated with training new doctors.”
Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg said, “Expanding the medical community will help improve access to healthcare services for local residents — which is crucial to building a healthier community on Kaua‘i. We’re honored to support the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaiʻi as they strive to address the physician shortage by creating a more robust pipeline of doctors.”
Through the Kaua‘i Medical Training Track, six JABSOM medical students, with ties to Kaua‘i or another neighbor island and/or a strong interest in rural health, will be accepted into this program annually beginning July 2022. The program will fund tuition and fees for all four years, as well as transportation and lodging.
The gift will also enable JABSOM to:
- Develop a faculty base and offer rural residencies to equip future physicians with the experience needed to practice on Kaua‘i and in other rural communities that do not have multiple specialists readily available.
- Add 21 residents to Kaua‘i annually.
- Hire a Kaua‘i Director for Interdisciplinary Training and Simulation and support staff to oversee and expand interdisciplinary training and education with Kaua‘i Community College health sciences students.
Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman added, “Being the District Health Officer on Kaua‘i for five years, including through the pandemic, has highlighted for me the critical importance of healthcare providers who are deeply embedded in and committed to our community.”
Berreman continued, “No one brings the level of intimate knowledge and skilled attention to the health of the community as well as someone who is from the community, trained in the community, and chooses to serve that community. This program is a much-needed opportunity to support the medical training of Kaua‘i’s future physicians, while ensuring that their training prepares them to live and practice here.”
Kaua‘i Medical Director for the Hawai‘i Pacific Health Medical Group Dr. Geri Young has been a practicing physician on Kaua‘i for more than 40 years. She said, “We very much appreciate the generous gift from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg to help address the state’s physician shortage.'' She continued, “Having the opportunity for medical students and residents to train on Kaua‘i is priceless, as many will ultimately decide to practice in a rural area such as Kaua‘i.”
Young added, “My husband, Dr. Robert Teichman, and I are both proud graduates of JABSOM. Over the years, we have seen how so many of the JABSOM alumni who practice on our neighbor islands serve in our communities for their entire career. The rewards of practicing medicine and supporting good health and wellness for our friends and neighbors are great. This program will give our future physicians a meaningful opportunity to experience this.”
Chief Medical Director for Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i Dr. Kapono Chong-Hanssen added, “By providing such a longitudinal opportunity for budding physicians to experience healthcare and life on Kaua‘i, this program has wonderful potential to address the physician shortage on the neighbor islands and inspire more of our own healers to return to serve our communities after completing their training. We believe the collaborative relationships built between the various healthcare organizations on Kaua‘i will provide a valuable experience for these medical students and help them appreciate the famous saying "Maika‘i Kaua‘i, hemolele I ka malie (Beautiful Kaua‘i, peaceful in the calm)."
Dr. Travis Hong, who was born and raised on Kaua‘i, has been appointed Director of Rural Training and will oversee the program. Currently a physician at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children specializing in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Dr. Hong is passionate about medical student and resident education and mentoring.
“Like all physicians who grew up on Kaua‘i, I left the island for school and training, but Kaua‘i has always been home to me. Having an opportunity to significantly improve healthcare on Kaua‘i has been a dream of mine since returning to Hawai‘i and I am so grateful and honored to be a part of this targeted and very timely program,” said Dr. Travis Hong.
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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. uhfoundation.org
The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa offers a unique environment to excel in science-based efforts to eliminate diseases which disproportionately affect people in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region. Annually at JABSOM, more than 300 future physicians are learning medicine, JABSOM researchers secure up to $52 million annually in grants, and the overall economic stimulus to Hawaiʻi from the school tops $456 million annually. JABSOM also confers degrees in Quantitative Health Sciences, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Tropical Medicine, Cell and Molecular Biology, Medical Technology, and Developmental and Reproductive Biology. https://jabsom.hawaii.edu/