U med student awarded $10,000 scholarship

By and

The American Medical Association recently awarded Kawehi Au, a third-year medical student, a $10,000 scholarship for her excellence in academics and service to the community.

Au is one of 10 students in the country to be awarded the 2006 Minority Scholars Award, and part of her goal after medical school is to help the people of her native Hawaii.

The AMA recognizes 10 minority students every year because currently less than 7 percent of physicians in the United States are African American, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Hispanic or Latino.

After graduation, Au plans to pursue a career in pediatrics and work in both rural Hawaii and a women and children’s hospital in Honolulu.

“There are a lot of issues with Pacific Islanders that need to be fixed; Polynesian women have the lowest rate of prenatal care in Utah, and diabetes is huge,” Au said.

Being Polynesian has driven her to want to change many of those problems the Pacific-Islander community faces, which is why she currently volunteers with several organizations, including the Pacific Islander Health Network, the Cancer Wellness House, the Fourth Street Clinic and Ke Ola Mamo-a Hawaiian health-care system.

Au also volunteers at local elementary schools talking to children about medical school.

“A lot of minorities don’t feel they have a place in med school. When we volunteer, it gives kids something to look up to,” she said.

Au said one of the most rewarding things about medical school has been being able to help several members of her family who have diabetes. She has been able to help them understand their disease better.

“It has definitely driven me,” she said.

“Au is such a great person. Beyond being bright and having so much potential in medical school, she volunteers a lot with the programs in our office,” said Sunny Nakae Gibson, the director of diversity and community outreach with the School of Medicine.

Gibson said Au is a great fit for the award because she proves that students have the potential to give back to the community.

“I would be really honored for her to take care of my family some day,” she said.

Kamil Krzaczynski

U medical student Kawehi Au promotes healthier life styles at The Gateway during the Salt Lake City Marathon on Saturday. Au was recently awarded a $10,000 scholarship by the American Medical Association.