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Friday, June 23, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Roslyn Enos, in the Imi Ho'ola office at the
University of Hawaii Bio-Med Complex, with
'Max,' the skeleton in the classroom.

Imi Ho‘ola offers
shot in arm to
students who
seek to heal

The rigorous program
prepares disadvantaged
students for med school

By Suzanne Tswei


Roslyn Enos never thought medical school would be in her future. The odds were she would barely get through life in one piece.

When she was 3, her mother died of a heroin overdose. Her father, Billy Kaui, lead singer of the popular musical group Country Comfort, suffered an aneurysm and died when she was 7. Her grandmother, who cared for her after her parents' deaths, died when Enos was 12.

She drifted from one relative to another, becoming a rebellious teen-ager with no plans for the future. Right after graduating from high school, she became a single mother.

"I really didn't know what I wanted to be. There was nobody there to tell me, to guide me," the 28-year-old Enos said. "Go to medical school to become a doctor? That was impossible."

But Enos is one step closer to her dream of becoming a doctor. Today, she officially becomes a successful member of the 1999-2000 class of the Imi Ho'ola Post-Baccalaureate Program that helps the disadvantaged enter the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. The federal- and state-funded program provides stipends and intensive studies for one year for qualified students. Those who successfully complete the program will enter medical school in August.

"I know I passed all my tests, so I know I will graduate," Enos said. Although today's events on the grounds of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the university are officially referred to as completion and not graduation ceremonies, Enos thinks of them as marking a new page in her life.

Without Imi Ho'ola, which in Hawaiian means "those who seek to heal," she would not be able to realize her dream of going to medical school, which only a year ago seemed out of reach.

"I didn't know I could come this far. Imi Ho'ola is for people who wouldn't be able to make it any other way. And that's me. I never thought I could do this," Enos said.

Enos became interested in the health profession after her son, Justin, was diagnosed with having congenital tumors in his ear seven years ago, she said. She felt inadequate when doctors discussed her son's rare illness, so she went to Leeward Community College to take physiology and biochemistry courses in an effort to understand the medical talk. Other courses followed and eventually she thought about getting a nursing degree.

But Enos decided against being a nurse because she would always have to take a backseat to making decisions that would help people, she said. Then her calabash aunt, Sandra Heu, suggested she become a doctor.

"My answer to her was: 'I couldn't do that.' " Enos said. "I just had my daughter at that time. I wouldn't know where to put my kids if I went to medical school. But my aunt asked me: 'What would you do if you could do anything in the world. Don't worry about money, don't worry about baby sitters or anything else. What would you do?' "

That question gave her the answer. Enos moved in with her aunt, who helped care for her children, and aimed for medical school.

She graduated from the university with a biology degree last year and applied to medical school. She did not get into the medical school but was accepted into Imi Ho'ola, which has given her better study skills, a preview of medical school-type courses and confidence.

Enos, who is one-quarter Hawaiian, has not decided what she'll do with a medical degree, except for "doing something to help the native Hawaiian community."

Aside from preparation for medical school, the Imi Ho'ola program also has given her an awareness and appreciation for her own Hawaiian culture, she said.

About Imi Ho'ola

Bullet Every year, 10 students are selected for the one-year program, which begins in July.
Bullet One hundred twenty-nine program participants have graduated from the John A. Burns School of Medicine. One-third of the graduates are in residency training. Two-thirds are practicing in Hawaii, Guam, Micronesia, American Samoa and the mainland.
Bullet Students receive individual attention and are enrolled in courses ranging from premedical biology and chemistry to speech, ethics and global views of medicine.
Bullet It began in 1973 with federal funds as a premed program that did not guarantee acceptance into the university's medical school. In 1995 it became a post-baccalaureate program, which requires applicants to have undergraduate degrees but guarantees entry into the medical school.
Bullet Call 956-3466 for more information.

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