Community partnership provides UH Hilo graduates a fast track to career in health care

UH Hilo and Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‛Ōiwi, a local nonprofit health service provider, will work together to create a career track for graduates in the field of kinesiology and exercise sciences. 

Misty Pacheco, Michelle Hiraishi, Mabel DeSilva, and Harald Barkhoff.
(l-r) Misty Pacheco, assistant professor of health; Michelle Hiraishi, executive director of Hui Mālama; Mabel DeSilva, chairperson of the board, Hui Mālama; and Harald Barkhoff, professsor of kinesiology and exercise sciences . Courtesy photo.

Hui Mālama Ola Nā ‛Ōiwi, a local not-for-profit organization specializing in health services for Hawai‘i Island residents, has formed a new partnership with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Sciences. The two groups will work together to develop a career track that offers UH Hilo graduates the chance to work and provide exercise therapy for Hui Mālama clients throughout Hawai‘i Island via its five offices in Hilo, Pāhoa, Ka‘u, Waimea and Kona.

Hui Mālama offers comprehensive and individual health education, case management, non-emergency medical transportation, and traditional Hawaiian healing. Services are open to all residents of Hawai‘i Island. There are currently over 7,000 registered clients.

“We are grateful to UH Hilo for this collaboration and we know it’s a win for everyone—we get trained staff familiar with local culture and lifestyle, and graduates get the opportunity to use their education right here and serve the people of Hawai‘i Island,” says Michelle Hiraishi, executive director at Hui Mālama. “Most important is we’re keeping our kids employed here at home.”

Hiraishi says the quality of life for senior citizens can be improved in two major areas: nutrition and exercise. She says Hui Mālama’s nutrition education programs are recognized and local physicians frequently refer their diabetes and cancer patients to the organization. However, clients can benefit from exercise programs because mobility and activity are vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The community partnership is the result of UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney’s efforts to develop local career tracks for UH Hilo graduates.

“Chancellor Straney’s initiative to provide career opportunities for our graduates will help Hui Mālama’s clients as well,” says Harald Barkhoff, professor of kinesiology and exercise sciences at UH Hilo. “We will work together with Hui Mālama to develop exercise science programs and secure positions at all five sites. Perhaps this can serve as a model for future kinesiology positions beyond Hawai‘i Island.”

Misty Pacheco, an assistant professor of public health and researcher with the kinesiology department, says, “This is a real partnership in health research with the goal of determining what works well and has the greatest impact in our community. The people at Hui Mālama are wonderful to work with and are truly committed to building a healthier Hawai‘i Island, one person at a time.”

Barkhoff says the field of kinesiology and exercise sciences is one of the largest and fastest growing programs at UH Hilo with an enrollment of almost 250. Students earn a four-year baccalaureate degree in one of three tracks: kinesiology and exercise science, health promotion, or sports medicine and therapy.

More information

For more information about UH Hilo’s kinesiology program, contact Prof. Barkhoff.

For more information about Hui Mālama, contact the nearest office:

Hilo ‘Apana ‘Ekahi
69 Railroad Avenue, Suite A3
Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: (808)969-9220
Fax: (808)961-4794

Pāhoa ‘Apana ‘Ekahi
15-2660 Pāhoa Village Road
Pahoa, HI 96778
Phone: (808) 965-5521
Fax: (808 )965-5527

Na‘alehu ‘Apana ‘Elua
P.O. Box 600, Kala‘iki Street (Behind Ace Hardware)
Na‘alehu, HI 96772
Phone: (808) 929-9700
Fax: (808) 929-9744

Captain Cook ‘Apana ‘Elua
P.O. Box 1278, 82-6127 Māmalahoa Highway
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Phone: (808) 323-3618
Fax: (808) 323-2096

Waimea ‘Apana ‘Ekolu
65-1184 Mamalahoa Highway
Kamuela, HI 96743
Phone: (808) 885-0489
Fax: (808) 887-0581

-Media release from Hui Mālama.