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Caring for athletes a rewarding experience for sports doctor

“I had difficulty with problem-based learning in medical school initially, but after the first year, I realized problem based learning was ideal for my education,” says Dr. Jill Inouye of her first year at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). The JABSOM curriculum is built upon problem-based learning, which places students in small groups to discuss cases that in turn lead to self-directed learning.

“In some medical schools, you sit in lectures, you take notes, and you take tests,” she says. “At JABSOM, you learn it on your own. At first, I thought, ‘Oh no! This is so difficult; I made the wrong decision to choose problem-based learning!’ But it got better, and this method really helped me prep for my boards and beyond, because I figured out how I learn best.”

Road to medical school

Until recently, Inouye was the team physician for all UH Mānoa athletes. The Hawaii Baptist Academy graduate was a two-sport athlete in high school, and her science teachers encouraged her to consider a career in medicine. With an eye on medical school and sports medicine, she majored at UH Mānoa in kinesiology and sought a variety of experiences for developing leadership skills.

Inouye wanted to continue her involvement in community service as she entered UH Mānoa, so she joined Golden Key, the international honor society founded on values of academics, leadership, and service. Dr. Lori Ideta, the group’s advisor, urged her to become president of the Mānoa chapter.  She remembers thinking, “I could never be president!” Yet she cites the experience as critical in her personal development, and encourages undergrads aspiring to medical school to get involved similarly.

Hard work and varied experience

As team physician, Inouye attended to ill and injured athletes. “Working with the athletes was a rewarding experience,” she says. “A lot of them express their appreciation when they feel better, or when they get back from an injury. That’s the best feeling.”

Now Inouye is working with other physicians in the Hawai‘i Pacific Health system, in a new bone and joint unit at Pali Momi Medical Center. She says, “It will still be sports medicine, but I will be in the clinic more. I’m looking forward to having other doctors to bounce ideas off of.”  She will continue her involvement with athletes as well, helping with sideline coverage at Pearl City High School in her new position. She also looks forward to more time with her family and young son.

To the undergrad aspiring to medical school, Inouye advises, “Don’t just study all the time. Do some community service, work with doctors, volunteer at clinics, and build up your résumé. And don’t underestimate the power of hard work. Medical school was difficult, residency was difficult, and I’m not a genius. But hard work gets you pretty far. It helped me.”

University of Hawai‘i Alumni