Hawaii Island Family Medicine Residency Program Announces Its Second Class of Residents

Hilo, Hawaii – Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) aims to train and retain primary care providers to relieve the severe shortage of primary care physicians and improve access to healthcare in Hawaii. HHSC is embarking on year two of its Primary Care Training Program (PCTP), an emerging model of success in Family Medicine Residency for Neighbor Island and rural communities throughout Hawaii. 

On Friday, March 20, the National Resident Matching Program® notified officials at Hilo Medical Center’s Hawaii Island Family Medicine Residency Program (HIFMR) – Hawaii’s PCTP hub – and members of the second class of residents, Will Chapple, MD, Tuy-Ngoc “Unity” Nguyen, MD, Karen Rayos, MD, and Gaku Yamaguchi, MD, that they have been matched. 

“We welcome the second class of residents into our ohana,” said Dan Brinkman, Interim East Hawaii Regional CEO of Hawaii Health Systems Corporation. “We look forward to the opportunity to provide them with the best possible training experience.” 

In its first year, the Primary Care Training Program received 138 applications for the four Residency Program positions. In 2014, the program’s second year, applications soared to 560. “This group of residents really represents our Pacific Rim culture here in Hawaii,” said Dr. Kristine McCoy, Hawaii Island Family Medicine Residency Program Director. “Together we will be reaching out to a broad swath of our community and building the platform for better health here in East Hawaii and across the state.” 

This second class of residents were matched to the program in Hilo out of an initial total of 560 qualified applicants, bringing the total number of residents in training to eight. They join the inaugural class of residents Hamed Ahmadinia, MD, Kaohimanu Dang Akiona, MD, Svetlana Shchedrina, MD and Seren Tokumura, MD. These physicians have been matched to one of the most dynamic three-year training programs in the country that integrates its teaching among fellow learners from The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s School of Nursing, The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, and I Ola Lahui, a behavioral health training program specialized in rural communities. 

The 2015 report by the “Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment Project” presented to the Hawaii State legislature forecasts that a best case scenario for future workforce numbers is by 2020, the statewide shortage will stand at 800 physicians, 200 of which will be needed on Hawaii Island. The HIFMR physicians and their teams will provide routine screenings and proactive care for debilitating diseases, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, that when caught early can prevent avoidable emergency room visits and hospitalizations and keep the community healthy. For more information on the HIFMR Program, go to: www.hifmr.org

Since the 2006 revival of the HIFMR Program, hospital leadership and the Hilo Medical Center Foundation have garnered broad-based support from the community, local businesses, medical community and county and state legislators. The training program, legislatively known as the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Primary Care Training Program, is seeking $3.6 million for Fiscal Year 2016 through House Bill 847 HD 1. In 2014, the state released $1.8 million in appropriations for the program. 

In 2006, significant seed funding to revive the program started with the offices of Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka facilitating a Centers for Medicaid and Medicare grant and additional funding by TriWest and HMSA Foundation, respectively. Since 2009, the Hilo Medical Center Foundation organized a campaign that has raised over $700,000, including $250,000 from UnitedHealthcare in 2013 and ongoing funding from private and public donors, businesses, local and state government, organizations and grant writing. All funds raised have been managed by the HMC Foundation since the beginning of the Foundation’s commitment to the program in 2006. For more information on contributing, contact Lisa Rantz, HMC Foundation Executive Director, at 935-2957, lrantz@hhsc.org  r go to: www.hilomedicalcenterfoundation.org

 Resident Background Information

Will Chapple, MD

Attended University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the University of Hawaii at Manoa for Masters in Public Health and Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies. He also has a Master’s of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the World Medicine Institute in Honolulu. Dr. Chapple was raised in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and a graduate of Kahakai Elementary and Kealakehe Intermediate. His wife and children are accompanying him to Hilo. 

Dr. Chapple’s shares his interest in becoming a Family Medicine physician in the following statement: “As an EMT, Emergency Medicine inspired me to consider medical school...I enjoyed being there for people on their worst days. Now I am interested in not only that day, but also the days and years before and after. I was pleased to discover the family physician is what my vision of a physician has been for many years. It is a physician who can take care of any patient, any time, and who knows when and where to send them for help.” 

Tuy-Ngoc “Unity” Nguyen, MD

Attended University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health for a Master’s in Public Health, and the University of Michigan for a Bachelor’s of Arts in Natural Resources and Environment. She also has a Master’s in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the Academy of Chinese and Culture and Health Sciences in Oakland, CA. 

Dr. Nguyen shares her story that piqued her interest in medicine in the following statement: “While working with the Peace Corps to address the threat of deforestation by planting 50,000 trees in Ghana, West Africa, a boy who had befriended me and visited daily hadn’t come around for a few days. When I went to check on him at his mother’s hut, I found him nearly dead in her arms from malaria because she did not have the two dollars for choloroquine. I bicycled with the limp child to town to get treatment. The next day he was back on his feet and calling my name. Filled with gratitude, I saw that the underlying goal of all of my cultural and ecological work was to improve people’s health. To do this more directly, I decided to study medicine.”  

Karen Ann Rayos, MD

Attended the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Philippines, and earned a Bachelor’s in Science in Biology at the University of California, Irvine. She has participated in the Hawaii Physician Preceptorship Program in Waipahu, Hawaii every year since 2012. 

Dr. Rayos says: “The passing of my grandmother from a stroke, a condition I did not understand then, had ignited my interest to choose a path in medicine. With the expectations of a single working mother and raised to be ambitious, I set my goals and pushed forward by taking the first steps toward a career in medicine, a step that no one in my family had taken.” 

Gaku Yamaguchi, MD

Attended Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean, and earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. His family moved to Hilo from Japan last summer. 

Dr. Yamaguchi says, “I have decided to pursue Family Medicine because it allows me to provide integrated care and to have a long term, close and trusting relationship with patients and their families…I envision myself working in rural areas providing healthcare to underserved communities in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.” 


HIFMR Program Timeline

  • 1990’s: First push to create the Hawaii Island Family Medicine Residency (HIFMR) Program
  • 2006: Support revived to create the HIFMR Program
  • 2009: Hawaii Island Family Health Center established at 45 Mohouli Street to care for patients and house the HIFMR Program
  • 2011: The HHSC East Hawaii Regional Board, governing Hilo Medical Center, voted to assume the HIFMR Program as a part of the region’s responsibilities and commitment to the community.
  • 2013: The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) notified the HIFMR Program of 2-year accreditation, starting July 2014
  • 2014: July 1, the HIFMR Program welcomed its inaugural class of residents
  • 2015: March 20, the National Resident Matching Program® matched the second class of residents
  • 2015: July 1, the HIFMR Program will welcome its second class of residents 


About Hilo Medical Center

As the Big Island's leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care, Hilo Medical Center (HMC) delivers a full range of services and programs. Our 20-acre campus consists of 275 beds located throughout the 141-bed acute hospital, 20-bed behavioral health unit and a 134-bed long-term care facility. We have 1,000 employees and a medical staff comprised 250 community physicians, physician assistants and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, representing 33 specialties. As a medical center, we have a network of ten outpatient clinics offering primary and specialty care. The hospital is a Level III Trauma Center which  includes the second busiest emergency room in the state that provides 24-hour care to more than 43,000 patients annually.  

HMC is the recipient of Mountain Pacific Quality Health's Quality Achievement Award. We were recognized in 2012 by the insurer HMSA as Hawaii's leading hospital in improving quality and reducing the cost of providing care. HMC was also named 2012 Press Ganey Top Improver Award winner for patient satisfaction for improvements. In 2014, we received the American Heart Association Silver Award for cardiac care. In 2013 and 2014, we were also recognized for quality long term care by Providigm for Quality Assurance & Performance Improvement Accredited Facility and Embracing Quality Award for the Prevention of Hospital Readmissions. Our long term care met the requirements for the American Health Care Association's Three Tier Level Quality Initiative Recognition Program. 

In 2014, HMC's EMR team, HealthConnect, attained the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) Meaningful Use Stage 2. In addition, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recognized HMC for achieving Stage 7 on the EMR Adoption ModelSM.   We are part of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, a public entity established in 1996 by the State of Hawaii to fulfill the promise to provide quality, hometown healthcare. For more information, go to: www.hilomedicalcenter.org.