JABSOM welcomes record-sized class, hopes to combat Hawaiʻi doctor shortage

The University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) is conducting a COVID-19 recovery study in which they are seeking those who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 to examine if different immune health can explain why some face serious medical complications while others do not. 

The co-principal investigators are Ruben Juarez and Alika Maunakea. Juarez is a research fellow of UHERO and an associate professor of the economics department while Maunakea is a John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) associate professor. 

Juarez said the goal of the study is to understand how the body produces antibodies to fight COVID-19 in hopes that the findings can help those who may face the disease in the future and to mitigate strain on the healthcare system should there be an influx of cases and medical complications. 

“Beyond the known epidemiologic risk factors that indicate who may be at a higher risk for these complications, our research will allow us to improve on this prediction by incorporating information on individual immune response, where even seemingly healthy individuals may struggle to handle the virus and may need to be hospitalized if this response is not robust enough,” Juarez said. 

Another goal of the study is understanding the disparities between populations who, despite comprising a low percentage of Hawaiʻi’s population, have seen higher rates of infection. 

According to recent data of the DOH, Native Hawaiians comprise 21% of the state’s population while accounting for 13% of COVID-19 cases. Filipinos comprise 16% of the population while accounting for 21% of cases and Pacific Islanders comprise 4% of the population and account for 14% of cases. 

“Although there are certainly disparities in the infection rate of COVID-19 in the state with some populations disproportionately affected, this data may also indicate potential resilience within the Native Hawaiian community,” Maunakea said. 

Maunakea explained that they are looking for a group of diverse individuals who have been affected by COVID-19 to further their understanding of the potential resiliency. 

 “We will be able to understand the sociobiological mechanisms underlying this resilience, and learn from our communities how best to mitigate this crisis while averting severe health outcomes among our most vulnerable. We are reaching out to the community to help us understand this problem more comprehensively, so we can collectively identify the best ways to overcome this challenge that we all face,” Maunakea said. 

The project will be recruiting up to 100 individuals who have been tested positive over the last 60 days with up to $150 per person. 

For more information about the study or for those interested in participating, visit the link below.



Esther Kim is the Editor in Chief of Ka Leo. While she is a Bachelor's of Social Work student, she has a passion for writing and wants to use journalism in conjunction with social work to progress conversations surrounding social justice and equity.