September 23, 2019 —
By Tina Shelton, JABSOM Communications Director
Cancer surgeon Christina Wai was interested in working in Hawaiʻi, but it wasn’t the mountains and the sea that convinced her to come. The big draw, she says, was the University of Hawaiʻi‘s Chair of Surgery, Dr. Kenric Murayama (JABSOM MD 1985).
“When he called me about the opportunity to come out here, I just jumped at it,” she said, “He was the big draw, his leadership and the way he runs his department. He has such an open door policy, very communicative and willing to work with all of us to help us excel and do better. He’s just very supportive, and very willing to listen to your ideas and take in everyoneʼs input.”
Dr. Wai, who graduated from the Georgetown University School of Medicine, did her general surgery residency at the Tufts Medical Center, and completed a fellowship in surgical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, first reached out to Dr. Murayama about her interest in the islands a couple of years ago. But the opportunity arose when The Queen’s Medical Center West Oʻahu opened, and in April 2019, University Health Partners (UHP) of Hawaiʻi and the UH John A. Burns School of Medicine hired Dr. Wai to work there as a surgical oncologist and Assistant Professor of Surgery.
Dr. Wai (whose last name is pronounced “Way”) is enthusiastic about teaching both medical students and Residents —
“I enjoy teaching and think itʼs important to train students and residents and for them to have someone to turn to, someone whoʼs gone through what they have gone through and to help them navigate through medicine and choosing a career,” said Dr. Wai.
–But she is enthralled, too, by the people she is treating at The Queen’s Medical Center West Oʻahu.
“The patients are great, they’re just very appreciative having access to care,” she said. “Patients in Hawaiʻi generally seem very accepting and very willing to do what is required. Being in such a unique island environment you are limited by your resources.”
“I have some patients who come from the neighbor islands, who fly over early in the morning–patients who have to go through so much to get care, yet they are always so upbeat and grateful,” said Dr. Wai. “Iʼm happy I can bring something that makes it a little bit easier for them to get care.”
Dr. Wai is Board Certified in General Surgery and Complex General Surgical Oncology. Her specialty areas include cancers of the colon, rectum, pancreas, stomach, soft tissue and skin. Hear more from her in this video produced by Hawaiʻi Now and sponsored by UHP and UH JABSOM. It also features some video by JABSOM Communications.
Also practicing surgery for University Health Partners at The Queen’s Medical Center West Oʻahu is Dr. Riley Kitamura, a Punahou graduate who returned to Hawaiʻi just last month to settle in with UHP and JABSOM. Dr. Kitamura graduated from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he also completed his residency. He is Board Certified in General Surgery and Fellowship trained in Advanced GI, Minimally Invasive Surgery, with a focus on Bariatric surgery and Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Hernia Repair. (We will soon post a separate story with more about Dr. Kitamura.)
University Health Partners, comprised of JABSOM faculty doctors, also has other surgery locations at Kuakini Medical Center and at The Queen’s Medical Center on Punchbowl Street.
Referral to surgeons are usually done by primary care physicians. If you are in need of a primary care physician, UHP also has those providers available. Call University Health Partners to get one at 808-469-4982.