With Reid Kubo’s impressive leadership from the onset of the pandemic, the IT team ensured that access to integral components of the pharmacy program have remained accessible to students.
By Emily Burkhart.
Students in the pharmacy program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo depend on face-to-face interactions with patients and faculty to gain the skills needed for their future careers. But once the pandemic hit, students in each year of the program, especially the fourth and final year, faced a significant problem with forced closures of key learning sites at hospitals and clinics across the state.
To meet this challenge, Reid Kubo, a UH Hilo alumnus and now information technology supervisor at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, is leading an IT team to update critical linkages for virtual infrastructure, sometimes traveling around the islands at the drop of a hat when closures began in March. Leadership at the college has taken notice of Kubo’s collaborative and supportive presence at the college, valuable skills during a time of great change.
“Reid is such a team player,” says Lara Gomez, associate dean for academic affairs at the pharmacy college. “His perspective is always [about] how is this going to help the students and how can we make it a better experience for them?”
Kubo was born and raised in Hilo. He graduated in 2003 with a bachelor of science in nursing from UH Hilo, an experience he is “humbled and grateful for.” He fondly remembers his experience in the (then) newly constructed University Classroom Building during his final year of nursing school. “We were lucky to be one of the first classes to use the lecture halls,” he reminisces. He also feels fortunate that Joan Thompson Pagan, now director and associate professor of nursing, was one of his clinical instructors; she taught him important life-saving skills in nursing school on which he still relies, like vitals and pulse locations.
Before joining the UH Hilo pharmacy college as an IT specialist in 2015, Kubo worked as a pharmacy technician at Hilo Medical Center from 2004 to 2007, and then as a pharmacy technician at Shiigi Drug in Hilo from 2007 to 2015.
Call to action
Carolyn Ma, dean of the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, says experiential lessons for students, which involve faculty-guided rotation at hospitals and clinics to conduct the patient care rounds, can’t easily be transferred to a lecture on Zoom. But with Kubo’s impressive leadership from the onset of the pandemic, the IT team is ensuring that access to integral components of the pharmacy program remain accessible to students. This includes, in some cases, connecting with sites to hold virtual patient care rounds.
“Reid and the IT team worked tirelessly to set up Zoom and IT linkages to all of our experiential rotation sites this summer and fall, sometimes at a drop of a hat depending upon the surge situation at each hospital or clinic across Hawai‘i Island, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i,” says Ma. “For example, one week a site would allow students, next week they shut down and the team had to shift to virtual.”
The dean says this is much more than updating software, as the technicians had to work with Zoom to obtain strict compliant accounts adhering to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) privacy laws to allow faculty and students to discuss patient information on a secure platform.
“Coming into compliance with these complex federal laws from an IT perspective, where such things as security and privacy are of the utmost importance, can be enormously difficult,” says Ma.
Kubo is adamant that he is not alone in the work. He credits Royd Liu, IT video operations manager for the UH System Information Technology Services, and his team with smoothly handling HIPAA compliance.
“Through their recommendations and assistance, we were able to obtain HIPAA compliant Zoom accounts on short notice, which gave our faculty the ability to host virtual meetings with our fourth-year students currently on rotation,” he says.
Kubo also graciously credits Jeryd Teramoto and Dean Takamine, IT specialists who have played a vital role in facilitating virtual lectures.
“During the online transition in March, they assisted faculty with troubleshooting technical issues that arose during lectures,” says Kubo. “Secure, cloud-based storage was utilized to manage and distribute lectures for each course. A dedicated room at Hale Kihoʻihoʻi [the new pharmacy building] was also configured for faculty to deliver virtual lectures synchronously.”
With the implementation of this crucial virtual infrastructure, pharmacy college leadership and faculty are assured they can continue carrying on the college’s educational mission to students without having to skip time, which the dean points out can lead to delays in education, graduation, and the incurring of more student debt.
“Especially in a time when we need healthcare students to be graduating on time, [the IT work] is really essential to continuing to serve not just the college’s mission, but to serve the state,” says Ma. “I don’t think people see those domino effects that can disproportionately affect nurses, physicians, and other front line health care workers. Front line personnel are supported by professionals like those in IT.”
Both Ma and Kubo note that everyone at the college has shown incredible resiliency and teamwork to pull through for the students during the changes brought by the pandemic. Ma notes that she has been very impressed with students, faculty and staff, who she says are creating new skill sets as they adapt to this different style of learning and its additional demands. Kubo notes that “Lara Gomez, Daryl Masanda, and the student services department did an excellent job of ensuring that our lecture halls at Hale Kihoʻihoʻi were compliant with social distancing guidelines and ready for use on short notice.”
The new normal in health care
Ma, who has over thirty years of professional pharmacy experience, feels that the shift to this virtual interface, or “telemedicine,” is here to stay. “Healthcare in general is going to see a shift,” she observes. “We are most likely not going to go back to how healthcare was delivered before COVID-19.” This is especially true, she says, now that University Health Partners of Hawai‘i, a health care provider whose doctors are faculty at the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine, is requiring all their providers offer telemedicine to patients.
Thanks to the work Kubo and his team have completed in the last six months, says Ma, UH Hilo students are on the forefront of this move, which is also a crucial step in bridging the noticeable longtime patient-provider gap in the islands. Healthcare in Hawaiʻi is evolving, she says.
Kubo and the IT team have played a vital role in not only keeping the island’s pharmacy students ready to meet these pandemic challenges but has furthered the college’s mission of powering healthcare improvement and innovation in the islands. Thanks to the IT work, students and faculty are fully ready to embrace changes such as these in their education and careers, ready to serve their college and state with pride.
Story by Emily Burkhart, a senior double majoring in English, and Gender and Women’s Studies, at UH Hilo.