Every Saturday morning in 46 states — Hawaiʻi included — medical doctors join regular folks for a stroll in a program called “Walk with a Doc,” started in 2005 by a physician who wanted his patients to get healthier.
We spoke to one of our John A. Burns School of Medicine alumna about her experience as a weekend health warrior.
Theresa Young Wee, M.D. (JABSOM MD 1979), a pediatrician, started her nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, “Walk With A Doc-Oʻahu” two years ago. “My passion has always been promoting good health in our keiki, as well as preventing pediatric obesity,” said Dr. Wee, whose practice is in Waipio Gentry.
Dr. Wee held several Family Obesity Workshop Sessions in her office, but she still wanted to reach more families in her central Oʻahu community. That is when she stepped up her outreach to them through “Walk with a Doc.” She meets her group — anyone who wants to come — at Central Oʻahu Regional Park (C.O.R.P.) near the tennis courts every Saturday, “rain or shine, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.”
“I start out with a new health tip weekly, followed by a warm up, then we all walk for 50 minutes and regroup to cool down and stretch. I have fruit refreshments and water for all walkers,” said Dr. Wee.
She loves the project because people of all ages come out to walk with her, and it is free for everyone.
“The health tip I give each week applies to all ages and participants can get educated, empowered and exercise. There are between 30 to 40 walkers each Saturday, and we have so much fun and fellowship,” said Dr. Wee.
Thus far, more than 500 people have come out to join me in the past two years!
“The most rewarding part is witnessing the amazing results that can happen with just a little nudge to walk," she says. "Every week, I hear testimonials from walkers about how this program has changed their lives!”
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that Dr. Wee enjoys trying new activities to stay active. She has recently tried Tai chi, rock climbing, hiking, Zumba, yoga, dance and hula.
“My second favorite activity is playing with my four young grandchildren,” said Dr. Wee. She is also taking time to travel to new countries when she has the opportunity.
“My three grown sons have all returned home and live in Hawaiʻi, but my youngest child, a daughter, has lived in new York for the past eight years,” said Dr. Wee. Her daughter is a freelance dancer and she and her husband love to get to New York when they can to attend her performances.
We asked Dr. Wee to share a message with her class, and this was it.
“Let’s share the wisdom and knowledge we have acquired over the years with the younger physicians,” said Dr. Wee. “Volunteer for mentoring and do not retire completely. We need to have a positive influence on the next generation of doctors in Hawaiʻi. As a primary care physician in private practice, I try to do my best to take in high school, college pre-med students and to precept medical students or have them shadow me at work.”
Dr. Wee also wanted to share that, like so many of us, she has had to overcome some difficult times.
Married to Fellow JABSOM alum, the late Stephen Wee
“My first husband, Internist Stephen L. Wee M.D. (JABSOM MD 1980) and I opened our Waipio Gentry private practice office in 1985. At that time, we were surrounded by pineapple fields and there were only a few new homes around us. We put up our shingle and waited each day to grow our practice, while raising our four children. In May of 2010, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. However, on June 11, 2010, my husband — aged 55 years — died suddenly and unexpectedly,” she said.
“I was left by myself and had to sort out what I wanted to do. My lease was also up in two weeks and the realtor more than doubled my rent and essentially kicked me out of this office space. After three months of desperately trying to figure out what to do and nearly going bankrupt, I was in full clinical depression. I could no longer go on like this and summoned up my energy to say a prayer and give it all up to God,” said Dr. Wee.
“Miraculously, just five days later, a woman who had 20 plus years of experience in Arizona as a Medical Practice manager called Dr. Wee and agreed to work probono to get the healer back on her feet and turn her practice around. “She asked if she could pray for me and I knew that this was the sign I was looking for to move forward.” The woman who helped Dr. Wee get back to work is Lori Ann Wallace. “Lori and I have now worked together for eight years. When I bought a new office, we designed the layout and presently there are four physicians working in my clinic. They include Dr. Jordyn Arakawa, Pediatrics and Dr. Lyla Prather, Internal Medicine. On May 1, I will bring on board another pediatrician, Dr. Karen Ortiz.”
“I still work in the office to see patients,” said Dr. Wee, “but much of my time is devoted to speaking engagements about health and wellness, including appearing on the KHON “Take 2″ program to give monthly tips.” Just like the tips she gives out freely every Saturday to anyone and everyone, through “Walk with a Doc Oʻahu.”
By the way, with her generous heart, Dr. Wee found love again. She is married to Martin Arinaga, who owns his financial advising company, Chinen and Arinaga Financial Group, in Mililani.
For more information about the JABSOM Alumni Association, contact Julie Inouye, Associate Director of Development and Alumni Engagement. Her telephone is (808) 692-0873
Source: Tina Shelton, JABSOM Communications Director