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Record number of minority graduates at Hawaii medical school

May 29, 2019

HONOLULU (AP) — A record number of minority medical students have graduated from the University of Hawaii, officials said.

There were 12 Native Hawaiians and 12 Filipinos among this year’s 73 graduates from the university’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

There were six Native Hawaiian and four Filipino medical school graduates in 2018, officials said.

The school is increasing efforts to close the gap for minority students who wish to pursue medical careers through the Imi Hoola program, said Dr. Winona Mesiona Lee, the medical school’s diversity officer who oversees the yearlong program.

Queen’s Health Systems provides a stipend so students do not have to find employment while in the program.

“Historically it really has to do with being in a group that is more underprivileged. They don’t have the same type of access to resources to prepare themselves for higher education. They also lack the role models in the community,” Lee said.

Imi Hoola partners with the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence, a federally funded program encouraging about 2,500 Native Hawaiians per year to consider health careers.

“These students from Native Hawaiian and Filipino groups typically come from working families and immigrant families. They have difficulty pursuing higher education, much less professional degrees like medicine,” she said.

Native Hawaiians make up 23% of the state population but only 3.4% of Hawaii physicians, Lee said.

“In order to solve our health care issues in Hawaii, we have to actually work with students who are dedicated to serve and want to stay home to practice,” Lee said.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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