Dr. Matthew Makalua – Hawaiʻi’s First Medical Doctor

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Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

By Hoʻoleia Kaʻeo

During the reign of Kalākaua, the government established the “Hawaiian Youths Abroad” program. Hawaiian youth were educated in other lands to develop leaders for Hawaiʻi in various disciplines such as mathematics, music, law and more. Between 1880-1887, 18 students journeyed to other countries. Here are their distinguished names:

James Kaneholo Booth, Robert Napuʻuako Boyd, August Hering, Maile Nowlein, Robert W. Wilcox, Henry Kapena, Hugo Kawelo, John Lovell, Joseph A. Kamauoha, Matthew Makalua, Abraham Piʻianaiʻa, Thomas Pualiʻi Cummins, David Kawānanakoa, Henry Grube Marchant, Thomas Spencer, James Kapaʻa, James Hakuʻole, and Isaac Harbottle.

This is written to honor Matthew Makalua, Hawaiʻi’s very first Native Hawaiian doctor! Matthew Everard Puakakoililanimanuia Makalua was born in Lāhaina to Matthew and Kaipoleimanu Kahoohanohano Makalua.

Matthew Makalua, Joseph Kamauoha and Abraham Piʻianaiʻa were sent to England by King Kalākaua in 1882. The newspaper Ke Koo o Hawaii referred to them as “Nā Keiki Hawaiʻi ʻImi Naʻauao” (Knowledge-seeking Hawaiian Youth). Makalua was educated at St. Chad’s Preparatory School and King’s College. He excelled at school and fulfilled all requirements, receiving awards in anatomy and medical jurisprudence. He became a western-trained surgeon, the first of Hawaiian ancestry.

After the overthrow of the Hawaiian government, he did not return to his homeland. He lived in St. Leonard’s (in England) with his family where he had a reputation as an excellent surgeon. He married Anne Dewar and they had a son, Matthew James Manuia Makalua Dewar.


Today there are more than 300 kauka, or Native Hawaiian medical doctors (MD & DO), and an Association of Native Hawaiian Physicians, ʻAhahui o nā Kauka. Papa Ola Lōkahi has supported 67 (MD/DO) medical doctors with the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship since 1991, of which 48 are graduates from the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Mahalo nui to Agnes Quigg for her scholarship on the Hawaiian Youths Abroad program, Dr. Benjamin Young for his extensive research uncovering the life of Dr. Makalua, and Nālani Balutski and Dr. Willy Kauai for their ongoing work in reinstating the Hawaiian Youths Abroad at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa to provide an avenue for new-age kānaka scholars.

Hoʻoleia Kaʻeo is a population health specialist at Papa Ola Lōkahi.