When Hawaii’s 58 newest physicians received their degrees and awards, they were reminded that they owe a "debt" to the state.
"You have a lifelong obligation to repay that debt," Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, told the graduates at their convocation ceremony last month.
He pointed out that 1,600 applicants were turned away when the graduating students were accepted for the school.
"You were chosen because our admissions committee believed that you would not only become a fine doctor, but you would be a doctor who could make the residents of Hawaii healthier."
Hedges advised those who go to the mainland to complete training to learn all they can "but bring it back here to Hawaii where your services are greatly needed and you can join your classmates who stay and complete their training in Hawaii."
Although 8,000 doctors have Hawaii physicians’ licenses, only about 2,700 work more than half time, and Hawaii is facing a severe physician crisis, Hedges said.
He described the contributions the medical school makes to Hawaii, such as providing bioscience jobs and specialty care for residents – a mission he said the school is continuing after an annual budget cut of more than $6 million.
The school’s leadership team will propose this fall that the state "reinvest in the school," he said. "As the state economy recovers, we believe that investment in our school is imperative."
The school can help diversify the state economy through federal research programs, directly contribute to patient services and prepare the next generation of physicians to meet a severe work force shortage in Hawaii, he said.
This year’s graduates included the largest single class of 12 native Hawaiians. For the first time they had a kihei ceremony after graduation at the School of Hawaiian Knowledge with a garment worn over one shoulder to symbolize their achievement.