STUDENTS & DIVERSITY: Kīhei Ceremony symbolizes journey to honored role of physician for Native Hawaiians in Class of 2012

The University of Hawai`i’s John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) is especially proud that it is the nation’s only accredited medical school with a clinical department dedicated to the health of an indigenous people of the U.S.–Native Hawaiians.
A unique annual ceremony, the Kīhei Ceremony, honors the achievement and commitment of our kauka ‘ōpio (young doctors) of Native Hawaiian Ancestry.

Making a kīhei, May 5, 2012 at JABSOM

This past weekend, the Native Hawaiian members of the MD Class of 2012 gathered to craft a kīhei, or a Hawaiian cloak, a garment that rests over one shoulder. Each kīhei tells the story of that student’s journey to medicine. It is the custom for the kauka ‘ōpio (young doctor) to make his/her own kīhei.

At the Kīhei Ceremony four days later, the students received their kīhei from kauka (Native Hawaiian physicians) who are part of ‘Ahahui o nā Kauka (an association of Native Hawaiian physicians) and/or the JABSOM Department of Native Hawaiian Health.

Participants at the ceremony unite in pule, or prayer

Similar to a physician’s white coat worn by all U.S. physicians, the kīhei symbolizes the responsibility the young people embrace as future Native Hawaiian physicians. The Kīhei Ceremony also includes mentoring from current kauka who will speak to the importance of kuleana (responsibility), pono (doing what is right), and lōkahi (teamwork).

JABSOM holds as a high priority the education and training of physicians from underserved communities, including Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Census data from 2011 showed only 3% of physicians practicing in Hawai`i are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, even though 26.2% of the population is of that heritage.
The new Native Hawaiian MD graduates will wear their kīhei during the MD Convocation Ceremony honoring all 64 of JABSOM’s Class of 2012 MD graduates on May 13, 2012 at the Kennedy Theater at UH Mānoa. The annual kīhei event is sponsored by the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence at JABSOM and ‘Ahahui o nā Kauka.
Our main photograph features 2012 Kīhei recipients Leah Wang and Taylor Choy.
Story and ceremony photos by Tina Shelton. 
The Native Hawaiian students of the MD Class of 2012 are:
Natalie N.Y. Albanese
Taylor J. K. Choy
Bianca K. Chun
Kanoe-leuha E. C. de Silva
Melanie Payanal
Leah K. Wang

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