April 12, 2024 | Source: Pacific Business News

Waipahu High School unveils new Academic Health Center

Waipahu High School on Wednesday introduced its new on-campus Academic Health Center, “the first of its kind in the country, where high school students serve a role in a school-based health clinic,” according to officials with the Hawaii Department of Education.

A traditional Native Hawaiian blessing ceremony was held on April 10.

“When we have leaders that embrace the importance of education, helping to make connections for students, and then providing the resources necessary to enable the department and schools to build these kinds of facilities to support student learning … this is why it’s the most exciting time in public education,” said HIDOE Superintendent Keith Hayashi, who also created the concept as Waipahu High School’s former principal.

The bid price was $1.5 million and the final construction cost was about $1.7 million, according to the project’s design and architecture firm G70.

G70 President and CEO Charles Kaneshiro told Pacific Business News this project aligns with the company’s mission statement “to create hope for future generations.”

On the medical front, Kaneshiro said, “It’s helpful to have a fully operational clinic like this in the community. But at the same time, we’re creating a job force that can learn what it really means to be in health care through hands-on experiences and set them up for success to earn a livable wage here in Hawaii.”

In partnership with Hawaii Pacific Health, nonprofit Hawaii 3Rs and the University of Hawaii at Manoa John A. Burns School of Medicine, Waipahu High School’s Health and Sciences Academy’s students and faculty will begin to train with physicians and other medical professionals at the 1,870-square-foot primary care and OB-GYN clinic to treat patients within the local community.

The clinic, which features four exam rooms and one treatment room, will start taking appointments this week, Hawaii Pacific Health noted.

“This is a huge step forward for health care in Hawaii,” said Dr. Leslie Chun, CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health Medical Group, in a statement. “We are immersing ourselves in a community to help serve people’s medical needs while empowering high school students to become Hawaii’s health care professionals of the future. This is a model for how we all can contribute to the health and well-being of our state, both physically and economically.”

While the health care worker labor shortage is a national issue, the local workforce continues to feel impacts.

Chun told Pacific Business News last May, “We’re also partnering with the [state] Department of Education and the local colleges to produce more [workers]. We’re investing in students and those training programs so that we have that pipeline for the future. … But again, it’s a national issue and certainly there are local issues that we’re all part of.”

At the time, he added, the Academic Health Center “provides hands-on training for students interested in health care, particularly primary care.”

Construction of the new Academic Health Center, formerly Waipahu High School’s adult education center, commenced in summer of 2023. Leading construction management for the project was Hawaii 3Rs, a nonprofit committed to repairing, remodeling and restoring schools in the state. G70 oversaw design and S&M Sakamoto was the general contractor.

Kaneshiro told PBN, “The design and the architecture part went very smoothly. We worked directly with Hawaii Pacific Health on standardizing the clinic’s rooms and outfitting them for medical-grade equipment to treat patients. The bigger challenge was on the policy side, creating a memorandum of understanding between the DOE and HPH on how it will operate.”

Despite the challenges, Kaneshiro said, “at least now there is a template of what we’ve done here that can be replicated elsewhere.”

“When you look here at this clinic, it is about ensuring that we have a workforce-ready population, especially in the health care industry, which is in need. We are benefiting our students, the state of Hawaii and the community of Waipahu,” said Waipahu High School Principal Zachary Sheets in a statement.

Sheets added, students from the school’s Academy of Arts and Communication worked on original artwork displayed throughout the facility, and culinary students within its Academy of Natural Resources will also utilize the space focused on nutrition.

“Teenagers like [me] are privileged to act as the next generation’s best,” said Carlo Golez, a junior in Waipahu’s academy of health and sciences, in a statement. “Waipahu has the chance to be self-sustainable, finally giving back to the community that raised us.”