CCD: Tell us about your experience. What were your responsibilities?
KY: Hawaiʻi Pacific Health (HPH) is a nonprofit organization that consists of four different hospital systems, Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, and Wilcox Medical Center. Part of HPH’s mission is to give back to the community and to invest in the next generation, which is why I was able to participate in the Summer Student Research Program (SSRP). My primary responsibility was to conduct a research project titled “Understanding the Landscape of Critical Congenital Heart Disease in Hawaiʻi to Improve Timely Diagnosis.” This retrospective review focused on different demographic factors such as the island of residence, urbanity level, and level of prenatal care and if there was an impact on the likelihood of a prenatal or postnatal diagnosis, and whether these two different times of diagnosis impacted 30-day mortality and cardiovascular collapse. Another main responsibility was to create a 10-minute presentation about hypertension for kupuna (elders) in a local senior center in downtown Honolulu.
CCD: What inspired you to get this internship?
KY: I chose this internship because it is my ultimate goal to come back home and serve the people of Hawaiʻi and to give back to my community that raised me and shaped me into the young woman I am today. I have had a few healthcare experiences in Boston and other places on the mainland, but there is something special about practicing medicine and getting experiences where you were born and raised.
CCD: What was the best thing about the experience? What was the worst?
KY: The most rewarding aspect of my experience was getting a real view of what practicing medicine in Hawaiʻi is like. I was able to find a meaningful connection wherever I went during this internship; from watching a live birth in the hospital that I was born in, to having a “talk-story” session with an orthopedic surgeon who operated on multiple of my family members, or watching a heart valve replacement surgery at the same hospital my grandma had her heart valve replaced, there is something special about gaining experiences in a place that you call home and can make a personal connection with.
Hearing that doctors are stretched thin and asked to do too much with little was the most difficult thing I heard all summer. I saw how the lack of paid time off for patients, lack of social net resources, lack of physicians, and a healthcare system that was overworked due to COVID-19 intersect into a 15-minute interaction. In conversation with the doctor I was with at the time, we discussed how there is a constant feeling of frustration because it can feel like you are doing everything you can to provide and advocate for your patients but the systems in place don’t reflect that effort or provide support for your patients outside of the hospital. However, the physician remained hopeful that there were young, aspiring physicians, like myself, who wanted to come home to work in the medical field and that is what drives me to keep going and pursue a career in medicine.
CCD: What was the most memorable moment of your experience?
KY: I think my presentation in front of the Dean of Admissions at JABSOM was something that I was really proud of and definitely an awarding and memorable aspect of the internship. I think something that was also memorable for me was getting to see the drive and grit the physicians have in trying to do right by their patients each and every day. The time and effort these physicians were putting in to provide the best care for patients were memorable to see, especially when the talk of physician burn-out is so high. To see the passion these doctors have, even during an exhausting pandemic, was inspiring.
CCD: What is the biggest takeaway from your internship position?
KY: My impression of the healthcare field definitely changed this summer. I think I always knew that Hawai’i’s healthcare field was shorthanded, but I don’t think I ever imagined how it affected every aspect of healthcare on a daily basis. I learned so much from listening to doctors and being immersed in their everyday lives. I also learned so much about clinical research and how important it is to ensure that the population in your study is representative of who your patient population is. I am so grateful to have been a part of this internship and I am certain that it positively impacted my career goals. Now, more than ever, I am determined to come back to Hawaiʻi to serve my community and help support the healthcare system that needs young physicians who understand the values and culture of growing up in Hawaiʻi.