I wanted to work at Lānaʻi Community Health Center because of what I learned there as a student, and then to come back to serve the community as a provider was such an opportunity,” said Jared Medeiros, a nurse practitioner and the associate medical director of Lānaʻi Community Health Center, as he reflected on his return to the place where he completed his service obligation for the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship that he was awarded in 2012.
The Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program (NHHSP) was created out of the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act of 1988 to improve access to acceptable health care by increasing the number of Native Hawaiian healthcare professionals serving in rural and underserved Native Hawaiian communities.
The program is now celebrating 31 years of scholarships to students in the following health professions: clinical psychology, dentistry, dental hygiene, dietetics/nutrition, nursing, medicine, physician’s assistant, and social work. To date, 312 scholarships have been awarded to a total of 285 scholars. Approximately 90% of our scholars continue to serve the communities in which they were placed, which is encouraging for the communities that supported the launch of their careers.
Applicants must be Native Hawaiian, enrolled full-time in an accredited program, and must be willing to relocate as needed to fulfill service obligations. Awardees are supported with an assigned program coordinator, enrollment in a formalized mentorship program called ‘Uaʻu Lele, access to leadership mentorship with Dr. ‘Aukahi Austin Seabury of I Ola Lāhui, and numerous cultural activities.
With NHHSP at its core, Papa Ola Lōkahi has recently expanded its health workforce development with the establishment of a new department at Papa Ola Lōkahi called Mauli Ola Mālamalama (MOM). It houses the Ola Nā ʻŌiwi webinar series, which offers continuing education and information to our network of Hawaiian and Hawaiian-serving health professionals; the Hui Healthcare Workforce, which convenes professionals from various Hawaiian-serving health organizations; and a new initiative that supports allied health professionals called Kākoʻo Ulu ʻOihana.
MOM’s 8-member advisory council that provides visionary oversight of the NHHSP is made up of members from Oʻahu, the neighbor islands and the continental U.S. Mahalo to Kaleo Correa, Dolly Crawford, Kamahanahōkūlani Farrar, Babette Galang, Andrew Justicia, Malina Kaulukukui, David Peters, and Wendy Schofield-Ching.
Our purpose is to support and facilitate the continued development of Native Hawaiian health professionals to create an environment of accessible, familiar and acceptable health care. “The students of today, will in 10, 15, 20 years be the leaders across Hawaiʻi’s healthcare system. This is the quintessential grow-your-own program,” states Sheri Daniels, executive director of Papa Ola Lōkahi. “More importantly, we’re building the capacity of Hawaiian leadership that will serve the lāhui.”
Lisa Kaʻanoʻi, MPH, is an engagement specialist with Mauli Ola Mālamalama, Papa Ola Lōkahi’s Health Workforce Development department.