summer school for tomorrow's doctors

Michelle Regan
June 28, 2022

For most students, summers are spent at the beach, driving around with friends, eating shave ice. But a few college students interested in medical careers spend their summer days delving into research projects, shadowing doctors, and observing surgeries at Hawaii Pacific Health and The Queen’s Medical Center.

Both programs are competitive but the lessons and connections they impart pave the way for tomorrow’s doctors in Hawaii.

HPH’s Summer Student Research Program
About 100 college students apply to HPH’s Summer Student Research Program each year. The 12 who are chosen spend eight weeks working on research projects to improve patient care.

“For the past 35 years, program physicians, staff, and administrators have invested in promising young students aspiring toward a career in medicine,” says S. Kalani Brady, M.D., program co-director.

“Our founders laid the foundation for a program that, today, provides incredible access to the inner workings of the health care system.”

While students spend the majority of their eight weeks collaborating with physician mentors on research projects, they also tour medical facilities, attend Q&A sessions led by practicing physicians,  and participate in community service projects. Each activity is designed to demonstrate the many facets of a medical career.

“Year after year, the Summer Student Research Program has added enriching experiences and physician engagement, both from within our organization and throughout the community,” says Andras Bratincsak, M.D., program co-director. “COVID-19 challenged us, but we were able to find new ways to preserve this unique, hands-on program.”

The ties the students build while in the program serve as an important support system as they continue with their studies. “The Summer Student Research Program was extremely helpful in solidifying my desire to pursue a career in medicine,” reflects Lauren Au, 2018 alum and student at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine. “I’m incredibly thankful for my mentor, who helped guide me for years beyond the program with personalized advice and constant support.”

Queen’s Summer Research Internship
The Queen’s program selects six students who excel in their scientific studies and have a passion for a career in medicine. They collaborate with UH Manoa’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health on public health research, lectures, and campus tours.

Todd Seto, M.D., director of research and academic affairs at Queen’s, says that they want to help students become competitive applicants for medical school. But the program has a larger, lasting impact for both students and staff.

“We, the doctors, the nurses, the pharmacists, the hospital, benefit from having young learners around and they benefit from being here. It’s part of who we are,” says Dr. Seto.

Whitney Limm, M.D., chief physician executive at Queen’s and an HMSA Board member, went to medical school at UCLA. But being part of the Queen’s internship in 1977 made him want to come back to Hawaii to practice.

“I did my residency training here. I was attracted to Queen's on two levels,” says Dr. Limm. “One is the fact that it’s a hospital for anybody. It’s not limited to socioeconomic class or race. Number two is, I saw the education focus. Almost every medical student at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine rotates through Queen’s at some point.”

Dr. Seto says that no matter which program students choose, it’s a valuable investment in Hawaii’s future physicians. “We all recognize the need for mentorship, the need for exposure, and that is a wonderful thing that we‘re all doing.”

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