A dozen white-coated students deployed to the State Capitol to take part in the annual “Kick Butts” day, which spotlights organizations working to prevent smoking.
In addition to staffing a table on the capitol’s 4th floor, our students went door-to-door among offices at the legislature with an important additional message: physicians trained by the John A. Burns School of Medicine are on the front lines of health care throughout the state, every day, treating the consequences of tobacco use.
“We’re not just a program that runs a few years,” explained third-year medical student Zachary Thielen, “we are taking an active role in helping people stop smoking and treating people injured by smoking for the rest of our lives.”
Dean Jerris Hedges said there is no better use of funds provided to Hawai’i by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement than to support the medical school.
“Patients are more than 30% more likely to take the tobacco cessation advice of their physicians than other advocates,” said third-year medical student Edward Lam, who joined the students at the legislature. Also knocking on doors at the Capitol were fourth year medical students Shaina Sonobe and Dave Yamane, first year student Jae You and third year student Kristin Sawai.
“The medical school, its students, graduates and faculty provide comprehensive tobacco care and counseling in every community, touching every ‘ohana in Hawai’i.” said Dr. Hedges. “Redirecting any of the tobacco agreement funds from the medical school would be a tragedy.”
Some funding the medical school receives from the tobacco agreement is scheduled to expire in July 2011, if the Hawai’i State Legislature doesn’t act to extend permission for the school to use the money. More than 70 medical students also attended a House Health Committee hearing at the legislature on February 8 to express support for the continuation of funding.
“The pay back to the State for its investment in helping ensure future practitioners in Hawai’i lasts for the lifetime of each student’s professional career, touching the lives of tens of thousands of Hawai’i’s citizens each year,” said Dr. Hedges.
Dean Hedges also thanked faculty members Dr. Damon Sakai, Director of the Office of Medical Education, Dr. Jill Omori, Family Medicine and Community Health, Dr. Richard Smerz, Director of the Office of Student Affairs and Associate Dean Richard Kasuya for helping the students get to the capitol.