UH Hilo pharmacy students, staff, alumni aid Lahaina wildfire survivors

Within a day of the fire, UH Hilo pharmacy alumni were among those who stepped in to help impacted residents refill vital medications.  

Group of five stand for photo with relief tents in background.
From left: UH Hilo pharmacy college alumni Trisha Nobriga, Vy Tran, and Shane Naeole; pharmacy college technician Christina Requelman; and alumna Elissa Brown helped fill prescriptions for Lahaina residents. (Courtesy photo)

When wildfires swept through Lahaina in August, destroying the historic community, the buildings housing its two pharmacies were spared, but the businesses had to close, temporarily, leaving nowhere for wildfire survivors to access critical medications.

Within a day of the fire, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy alumni Vy Tran and Shane Naeole, were among those who stepped in to help impacted residents refill vital medications. The pharmacy college graduates are employed at Mauliola Pharmacy in Wailuku and were led by pharmacy owner and pharmacist Cory Lehano to distribute medicine for conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular health, and mental health. Due to the unprecedented tragedy, in many cases, prescriptions were filled for free.

Duty calls

UH Hilo pharmacy alumna Trisha Nobriga and students Tyler Caliva and Jarod Hanchett-Ching also rushed to help Lehano and his staff.

“That first weekend after the fire, Tyler and I helped out in Wailuku as couriers, carrying bags of filled prescriptions from Mauliola’s main location near Maui Memorial Medical Center across the highway to the War Memorial Complex where emergency services were being offered,” Hanchett-Ching explains. “The work going on there was really valuable, bringing important resources to people displaced from all their worldly possessions, and helping to minimize their struggles a bit by providing comfort and a little convenience for them.”

Hanchett-Ching also volunteered with the Hawaiʻi Red Cross in Wailuku before returning to Hilo for the beginning of fall semester the following weekend.

Large group stands for photo in tented relief area.
Alumni and current staff from the UH Hilo pharmacy college pitched in to help staff at Mauliola Pharmacy on Maui following the wildfires. (Courtesy photo)

Close to home

Christina (Method) Requelman, a clinical education support specialist and certified pharmacy technician at the pharmacy college, accompanied alumna Elissa Brown to Maui to support Mauliola staff during the hectic first week of emergency response.

Brown, who works as pharmacy manager at KTA’s Puainako Store in Hilo, is a Lahaina native, whose family lost their home to the fire.

“We have a good relationship with many of the Mauliola staff, and had just spent time with some of them at a pharmacy conference the weekend before the wildfire,” recalls Requelman. “In the days after the fire, I kept reaching out to them to see how they were doing and if there was anything we could do to help. They were putting in long hours, filling hundreds of prescriptions a day.”

Pharmacy staff were also providing first aid supplies to help treat burns and skin infections, and offering COVID-19 tests.

“Dr. Lehano and his entire staff have helped so many people in their community during this tragedy,” Requelman says. “They are a perfect example of the important role pharmacies and pharmacists can play during an emergency.”

In 2022, the pharmacy college named Lehano Preceptor of the Year for his dedication to host and train student pharmacists on rotations.

UH System News

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