Philippine medical school graduates train in hopes to alleviate Hawaii’s doctor shortage

They're working alongside professionals in the Primary Care Clinic of Hawaii's preceptorship program.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 8:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Being a new doctor can be challenging — even more so when you’re learning the medical system of a different country.

About 20 Philippine medical school graduates are working alongside professionals in the Primary Care Clinic of Hawaii’s preceptorship program — it’s meant to help them compete for coveted residency spots in the US.

The preceptees cycle through clinics on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island for three months or longer — filling a critical need in underserved communities.

The preceptorship program also aims to alleviate Hawaii’s doctor shortage.

Dr. Rainier Bautista is one of the program’s mentors and a graduate himself 13 years ago.

“There’s a certain allure to practicing at the forefront of medicine,” said Bautista. “A lot more resources are available to you and you’re able to take care of patient in a more ideal setting.”

Dr. Ralph Sobrevega, another graduate from medical school in the Philippines, said the preceptorship program boosted his confidence.

“It helped us build our confidence to discuss more about our patient cases,” Dr. Ralph Sobrevega said. “And soon in the long run, we can also have the opportunity to practice more.”

The UH School of Medicine said the state is short about 750 doctors, especially primary care physicians who either retire or move away.

“There’s no new doctors coming in to fill the void,” Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Philippine-trained doctors are proficient in English and Philippine dialects. They offer a creative solution to the shortage crisis.

“[Some patients] are much more comfortable having doctors that speak the same language that knows their culture,” Bautista said. “Even just by the language aspect of it, you’re able to understand their health more, you’re able to deliver a better care in that sense.”

Another Philippine medical school graduate Dr. Paula Miguelle Pantig said the program has helped her grow professionally.

“I’ve learned so much,” Pantig said.

“And I’ve grown so much, not only as a student, but also as a doctor.”

Philippine medical school graduates say investing in immigrant talent helps the clinic build a pipeline of future staff.

Many preceptees return to Hawaii after residencies on the mainland.