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Hawaii Island Family Health Center opens in Hilo

Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

A first-of-its kind medical clinic and training center for health professionals celebrated its grand opening in Hilo on Saturday (Oct 24).

The Hawai‘i Island Family Health Center is the culmination of several years of effort by island residents and federal, state, and local governments to address a critical shortage in health professionals available to the Big Island’s citizens.

The clinic is staffed by a unique combination of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists. They include faculty from:

  • The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
  • The University of Hawai‘i at Manoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene
  • The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Baccalaureate Nursing Program
  • The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Pharmacy

Along with the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation’s Hilo Medical Center, they will serve patients in the community, while also training future medical professionals to serve in a rural health setting. Dr. Lucy Bucci, MD, MPH, JABSOM Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, is the Site Director. She will lead a staff of two physicians, a nurse practitioner and a pharmacist. They already are seeing about 40 patients a day.

“Our faculty are very excited to be part of this interdisciplinary effort which will offer learning opportunities for nursing, nurse practitioner, and pharmacy students, and medical residents to collaborate together in meeting the health care needs of people in our community,” said Kathryn Daub, Chair of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Baccalaureate Nursing Department.

“This collaboration between nursing, medicine and pharmacy marks a landmark for Hawai’i,” said Mary Boland, Dean, School of Nursing & Dental Hygiene, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “While we have students from all the islands, this is the first time we launched a direct service program with our partner schools, Hilo Medical Center and the community.”

“Specialists tend to train separately,” said Dr. Jerris Hedges, JABSOM Dean. “This is an opportunity to bring people together while they are training, have them work in a interdisciplinary clinic, and build their medical knowledge and patient management abilities while using the skills of each profession to boost their education.”

“Pharmacists have always been an integral part of family medicine, but often don’t interact with the patient until later in the health care process,” said John M. Pezzuto, Dean, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo College of Pharmacy. “It’s essential for us to be a part of this clinic from the inception so that we can not only interact with patients and doctors more directly, but so we can help shape future health care in Hawai‘i.”

Officials believe the interdisciplinary training center will make it easier to recruit needed health care workers from all four health care professions to practice on the Big Island.

“As the sponsoring hospital for the Hawai‘i Island Family Health Center, Hilo Medical Center looks forward to seeing this multi-disciplinary program flourish and contribute to producing more physicians and other health care professionals who practice and live in East Hawai‘i,” said Howard Ainsley, East Hawai‘i Regional CEO of Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation.

Individuals and community organizations came together on the Big Island after state funding for a Hilo residency training program lagged. The Hilo Medical Center Foundation worked to increase awareness and funds for the program. HMSA, TriWest Health Care Alliance and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contributed key financing to establish the clinic/training center.

“Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, led by senior U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, worked tirelessly with the Hawai‘i State Legislature and Hawai‘i County representatives to make this a reality,” said Dr. Hedges. “This is an important step in a goal we all share: to expand health care opportunities statewide.”

TriWest is the health provider for the U.S. military’s active duty personnel. In addition to serving military on the Big Island, TriWest hopes to establish a training model which can be replicated in communities throughout the Pacific, where many military personnel are stationed.

The Hawai‘i Island Family Health Center is located at 45 Mohouli Street in Hilo. The clinic features nine examination rooms in 4,350 square feet of medical clinic and education space. The center’s telephone number is (808) 769-6100.

One Response to “Hawaii Island Family Health Center opens in Hilo”

  1. Tina Shelton says:

    Your video and pics are fabulous! The sound and quality of the video is really, really good. Great job covering a very important story for the Big Island and Hawai’i! Tina Shelton at the UH Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.


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May 27, 2016 / 3:46 pm