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Residency Program Trains Physicians To Treat Families

By: DiGuilio Advertising for Wahiawa General Hospital

In Hawaii, the concentration of physicians is in and around Downtown Honolulu. This can leave rural areas, outer islands, and indigenous peoples with poor access to quality health care providers. This, along with a growing trend towards holistic care, led to the creation of the Family Practice Program, a partnership with Wahiawa General Hospital and John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program, which started in 1992 and had its first class entering in 1994, has a very specific mission: to serve rural communities and provide indigenous healthcare, concentrating on Hawaiian Healthcare and the Pacific Basin.

"There is a movement across the United States towards coordinating care," explained Dr. Neal Palafox, Director of the residency program and Co-Chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine. "Each family would have one primary doctor. The residency program addresses this trend as well as some of the special needs of Native Hawaiian and other indigenous patients."

Every year, six new residents begin the three-year program. In addition to treating patients, each of the eighteen residents volunteers their time for a number of community activities. All residents participate as team physicians and health educators for Waianae, Waialua, Leilehua, Mililani, and Waialua High Schools. They make house calls and travel to other islands in the Pacific Basin to treat patients and conduct cancer research in those areas that have been exposed to nuclear testing, particularly the Marshall Islands.

"Everything these physicians do during their residency is to enhance the idea of family and community," said Dr. Palafox. "Upon completing the program, many of the physicians remain in Central Oahu to practice, myself included."
                                                   



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