WAILUKU - Once a quiet teenager in a high school summer medical mentorship program at Maui Memorial Medical Center years ago, Anne Yoshizawa has come full circle. Now, she's back at the hospital as a third-year medical student.
Dr. Melvin Burton, who organizes an annual medical mentorship program for high school students, said he remembers Yoshizawa in his first medical mentorship program on Maui in 2004 as being a "little quiet."
"She didn't really stand out in a major way," he said. "But (she) was very observant in those sessions we would have together. . . . I'm not surprised she is doing well."
Third-year medical student Anne Yoshizawa stands next to Dr. Melvin Burton. Yoshizawa’s participation in Burton’s annual summer medical mentorship program for high school students helped her decide to pursue a career in medicine. Yoshizawa is enrolled in the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine. She is spending five months at Maui Memorial Medical Center as part of her studies. Yoshizawa was part of Burton’s first class of high school students who participated in the summer mentorship program in 2004.
Yoshizawa, now 24, said Burton's program was a great influence in her pursuing her interest in medicine because she got to see a "clear picture of what it really is to be a doctor" and that experience was better than any undergraduate experience or hospital volunteer work she had in college.
"I would say that's one of my more valuable experiences and influences in deciding my future in medicine," she said.
Burton, who has spearheaded the program for eight years with the help of colleagues and the hospital, said that with seeing Yoshizawa thrive, "it sort of told me we must continue the program, there's no doubt."
Yoshizawa is studying medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine, but now she is spending five months at Maui Memorial Medical Center as part of her third year of medical school.
On Maui, she's at the hospital and at doctors offices and "you can test everything out" as she studies surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and internal and family medicine.
"I'm enjoying it a lot," Yoshizawa said recently.
She interviews patients, does physical exams and works with the doctors to come up with a diagnosis and proper care for the patients.
She also has been able to participate in surgeries and has closed up wounds and helped hold cameras during surgeries to help doctors see what's going on inside a patient's body.
"It's really exciting, because our first year of medical school was in the classroom, and reading and studying through books," said the Kahului resident.
While Burton may have been responsible for Yoshizawa's early inspiration and getting high school students to the hospital, Dr. James Jones, a nephrologist, is responsible for getting college students like Yoshizawa to Maui Memorial.
Like Burton, Jones' goal is to see students return to Maui to practice medicine.
"We are short of doctors here," Jones said.
He said doctors don't want to come to Maui because it costs twice as much to live here, and, on the Mainland, doctors make twice as much as they would here.
He added that with the shortage of doctors, Maui doctors carry a heavier workload because they have more patients.
And HMSA, part of Blue Cross and Blue Shield medical plans, in Hawaii also pays lower than their Blue Cross and Blue Shield counterparts on the Mainland, Jones said.
Both doctors hope the allure of family and home will bring students back to Maui to work.
Jones described Yoshizawa as "delightful," "very bright" and "very motivated."
He said she would make "a great doctor, no question about it. We hope she comes back here as a doctor permanently."
Yoshizawa, said she, too, would like to return to Maui where she is familiar with patients.
So far, she already has come into contact with friends of family and said she feels that having a doctor who knows your background puts one at ease.
She especially enjoys "finding that connection with each patient that I'm working with" and then finding how best to treat the patient.
Yoshizawa said she isn't quite sure what kind of a doctor she would like to be, but if she had to decide now, she would choose family medicine, where she can maintain a long-term relationship with her patients.
Yoshizawa is a 2005 graduate of Baldwin High School and attended Pomona College in California, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. She began medical school at UH-Manoa in 2009.
Jones said he likes to have third-year medical students at the hospital.
"For me, that's part of the fun of doing medicine. It's the challenge of teaching. The students ask the best questions and you got to make sure you know what you're talking about," he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.