REPORT FROM THE UH FOUNDATION – There is good news on several fronts today for Hawai‘i residents in the fight against heart disease, the state’s leading cause of death.
The developments include a generous monetary gift, an impressive accreditation and – soon – brand new, locally trained cardiologists to treat patients in Hawai‘i .
Local philanthropist and businesswoman Judith Dion Pyle has pledged one million dollars to support the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). Her gift will create the Judith Dion Pyle Endowed Fund for the Robert Hong, MD Professorship in the Cardiovascular Fellowship Program.
The Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship, a three-year program, is the only one in Hawaii training physicians to become cardiologists.
“It gives me great joy to have the opportunity to support Dr. Robert Hong and the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program,” said Judith Pyle. She continued, “The Program offers Hawai‘i’s medical students the opportunity for a career in cardiology and it offers Hawai‘i’s people the comfort of knowing that there are highly qualified cardiologists to be available for them if there is a need.”
The Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program began in 2010 as a partnership between the University of Hawai‘i’s medical school and The Queen’s Medical Center. Now, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education has granted the successful program continued accreditation for five years, through 2017.
Among those being trained in the UH program is Dr. Kahealani Rivera, who next year will become the first ever female Native Hawaiian cardiologist. Heart disease and stroke cause nearly 3,000 deaths a year in the state of Hawai‘i. (Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program, 2011.) Native Hawaiians are among those hit the hardest.
“Native Hawaiians are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with or die from heart disease,” said Dr. Rivera. “We have so much more work to do, and I hope, as a Native Hawaiian physician, I will be able to give care to both Native Hawaiians and all people who suffer so much from heart disease.”
The million-dollar gift establishes a professorship to support faculty research, teaching and clinical practice in cardiovascular disease, helping to raise the standard for cardiovascular care in Hawai‘i. Once it is approved by the UH Board of Regents, the professorship will be named after Dr. Robert Hong, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at The Queen’s Medical Center, JABSOM Associate Professor and Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program.
The new endowed professorship will enhance JABSOM’s ability to attract and retain outstanding cardiovascular physician-scientists to serve as the senior faculty member of this training program.
“The healthcare community is facing challenges related to the physician shortage and limited advanced educational training and research opportunities,” said Dr. Hong. “Our program serves as a focal point for education and research at our medical school. Educational and research opportunities, and spinoffs from the program, have improved medical care and contributed to our economy by creating new jobs and careers for the people of Hawai‘i,” Hong said.
The need for cardiologists, in particular, is critical. According to the Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment conducted by JABSOM, Hawaii currently has only 60% of the cardiologists needed to care for Hawaii residents. The shortage is certain to get worse. Half of the state’s practicing cardiologists will reach retirement age within the next eight years, leaving the field at a time when more of our state’s aging population will need cardiovascular care.
“The Queen’s Medical Center extends our warmest appreciation to Ms. Pyle for her support and generous investment in the University of Hawai‘i to create the Judith Dion Pyle Endowed Fund for the Robert Hong, MD Professorship in the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program,” said Arthur Ushijima, President of The Queen’s Medical Center. “We would also like to congratulate Dr. Hong on this extraordinary achievement and wonderful honor.”
Private philanthropic support continues to play a major role in helping JABSOM attract accomplished academic clinicians. To this end, The Queen’s Medical Center is continuing its financial support of the program to ensure its growth and success.
Judith Dion Pyle is currently the President (Member and Manager) of Judith Dion Pyle & Associates, LLC, located in Middleton, Wisconsin, a family office serving as her financial service company managing Trusts, personal and business interests. Judith previously held the position of Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Pyle Group, LLC, a Madison, Wisconsin financial services company that oversees small and medium sized companies, which it has purchased or in which it has made investments.
Judith currently serves as a Board Member or a Trustee of several private and public companies and many foundations, arts and philanthropic organizations including the University of Hawai‘i Foundation.