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  • JABSOM Dean Dr. Jerris R. Hedges with Howard Lee, UHA president and CEO

The John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) received a $100,000 gift from longtime medical education advocate University Health Alliance (UHA) Health Insurance to help launch its newest curriculum fostering the physician-patient relationship.

The “Learning Communities” program, which began with the new MD Class of 2024, is designed to help JABSOM MD graduates learn to develop trusting doctor-patient relationships that have been shown to improve health outcomes. The program is also supported by the Dr. Max Botticelli Memorial Endowment for Innovative Medical Education. UHA has been a major contributor to the endowment, which was established by the Botticelli family in 2012 to honor the values he held as a practicing physician, as JABSOM faculty and as a co-founder of UHA in 1996.

Through the program, the new MD class was divided into six smaller Moku (supportive pods) led by faculty/community physician mentors that will remain together for all four years of medical school. These moku meet twice weekly and allow students to merge what they learn from the books and understand it from the lens of a patient. These mentors will continue to support students through their four years of medical school. The Learning Community mission statement is to foster a collaborative environment that supports the growth of clinically competent, culturally sensitive, compassionate and professional physician leaders who are connected and committed to our communities.

“The art in medicine gets lost sometimes when they (students) are focused on reciting medical facts to an instructor in a classroom. The Learning Community provides a way to interact with students and to fulfill many of their professional and personal needs, giving them a more resilient character for the future,” said JABSOM Dean Dr. Jerris R. Hedges, who embraced Dr. Botticelli’s vision that JABSOM be at the forefront of medical education and curriculum development by emphasizing teaching excellence.

“Dr. Botticelli and other physician-teachers established UHA with the goal of offering health plans that support strong doctor-patient relationships,” said Howard Lee, UHA president and chief executive officer. “We believe this is the kind of effort he would have supported, and very much hope that this will help attract other donors to a program that is critical to the health of Hawaiʻi’s people.”

The idea for the Learning Communities Curriculum was developed by Dr. Alan Otsuki, former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and faculty members from the Office of Medical Education. Their hope was to address challenges students face when attempting to digest the complexity and scope of information inherent in medical school.  JABSOM continues to honor Dr.  Botticelli’s vision by continually creating innovative curriculum to best prepare our students to be well-rounded physicians that care for the community.

Questions? / More Information

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.

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UHA Health Insurance provides medical, drug and vision plans to nearly $4,500 Hawaiʻi employer groups and approximately  59,000 members. As the only health plan in Hawaiʻi founded by physicians, it was the first to offer preventive and wellness care focused health plans in the state. It continues to be physician led and now offers the largest physician network in Hawaiʻi. By meeting strict quality standards to ensure clinically sound decision-making that respects the rights of patients and medical providers, UHA received accreditation in Health Utilization Management through URAC, the independent non-profit that promotes healthcare quality.

For information, visit or follow @uhahealth on Twitter.

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.