Alyssa Cruz Graduates From Accelerated Medical Academy

Alexander Ozawa, Reporter

     The Hawaii Pre-Health Career Corps (HPHCC) is a program at John Burns School of Medicine that strives to bring awareness about health jobs to Hawai’i high school and college students. The HPHCC currently serves over 1,100 high school and college students who are interested in medical fields. 

     “I’ve had pharmaceutical mentors (and) medical student mentors that have guided me towards where I want to go. It’s also allowed me to do other research opportunities,” said Senior Alyssa Cruz.

     The program helps to give students more insight into the medical field. Cruz had started the academy during the summer of 2018 and graduated from it in Sept. 2019. “It kinda takes you through career exploration — you can do workshops, participate in research, things basically to prepare yourself for the medical field,” said Cruz. “I graduated from one of the programs inside of it — there’s this program inside of HPHCC called the academy. That one’s for accelerated high school students who are interested in health care.”

     Statistically, the state of Hawai’i has a shortage of doctors. To help with this problem, the HPHCC program helps students gain more knowledge about the importance of doctors. “It’s a very good program. It was made by one of my mentors, Dr. Kelly Withy,” said Cruz. “It was basically targeted to end the physician shortage because in Hawai’i, we don’t have nearly enough physicians as we need.”

     Cruz became interested in the fields of health through pharmacy. Her plan for post educational health careers had changed when she went through the HPHCC. “I learned what pharmacy was and it just seemed so interesting to me,” said Cruz. “Over time, I’ve talked to mentors and kind of transferred my interests less for pharmacy and more towards being a physician or something that is really interacting with patients.” 

     Cruz has also done research on important topics outside of the HPHCC. One of the things she’s learned about were bacteria and diseases found in public places. “I’ve looked at how shopping malls led to an increase of communicable diseases,” said Cruz. “I looked at different research journals that had research that swabbed research samples and found heavily contaminated different aspects of shopping malls.” 

     At HPHCC, students are encouraged to work on research projects. Currently, one of the projects Cruz is working on deals with air quality. “Right now, I’m working on an international research project — it was just made by the medical school at the HPHCC recently,” said Cruz. “I’m currently doing air quality research (and) the recent volcanic eruption on Kiluea — (I look at) how it affected the plant life nearby which further impacted people’s lives surrounding regions.” 

     Being involved with HPHCC has helped Cruz form a better idea of what career she wants to pursue. She plans to stay with the program through her college years. “The HPHCC is really helpful to me — it has let me get all my needs and my wants, where I want to go, and it’s just really great that they’re going to be with me all the way through undergrad to help me get to medical school after that,” said Cruz. “When I was really young I was interested in pharmacy, so I wanted to join a club that could help me (out) and make sure this is where I really wanted to go to.” 

     If you are interested in joining the corps or plan on pursuing a career in health, visit the website