UH Hilo alumna is one of first students to enter UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine Class of 2024

Melia Takakusagi, from Eleʻele, Kauaʻi, earned a bachelor of science in cell and molecular biology from UH Hilo. She is now one of the first students welcomed to the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine Class of 2024.

Joshua Illustre, Kimberly Yamauchi, Jennifer Wong, and Melia Takakusagi stand for photo.
From left, student Joshua Illustre, ʻImi Hoʻōla Program Assistant Kimberly Yamauchi, student Jennifer Wong, and student Melia Takakusagi, an alumna of UH Hilo. Courtesy photo.

Melia Takakusagi, a graduate of Waimea High School on Kauaʻi who earned a bachelor of science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, is one of the first students welcomed to the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Class of 2024. The students are the 2020 graduates of the ʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program. They celebrated their completion of the program in early June.

ʻImi Hoʻōla (Hawaiian for “those who seek to heal”) is a 12-month post-baccalaureate program in JABSOM’s Department of Native Hawaiian Health designed to provide educational opportunities to students from disadvantaged backgrounds who wish to pursue a career in medicine and are deemed capable of succeeding in medical school.

The new ‘Imi Hoʻōla graduates are now the first seven members of JABSOM’s class of 2024. Classmates who join them in July will likely look to the ‘Imis for clarity and insight as they deep dive into four years of long nights studying, taking exams, and bonding with each other as they pursue their dreams to become medical doctors.

UH Hilo alumna Takakusagi, from Eleʻele, Kauaʻi, grew up with family members who suffered from cancer, diabetes, and heart issues. When she was in high school and college she interned at her local hospital, and that seeded her desire to become a doctor and improve the lives of others.

“We come to ‘Imi with the sensitivity and commitment to serve our communities,” says Takakusagi. “We have similar backgrounds, we are integrated into our cultures, and we are open to the perspectives of others.”

Takakusagi says the ‘Imi course called Humanities in Medicine, covers homelessness, diseases, and other common health ailments—as she has witnessed in her own family. She says the knowledge is important in contributing to students’ success.

“Would I do it again? I would do it over and over again,” she says.

With a very hectic schedule, “the busiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Takakusagi explains she was focused on problem-based learning, learning issues and other medically intense instruction from the time she opened her eyes until she put her head on the pillow at night.

“It is challenging academically, it has made me grow so much as an individual, and as classmates, we are exposed to each other’s experiences. I would recommend it to others,” she says.

Read more about the 2020 ʻImi Hoʻōla graduates.

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