2015 UH West Oʻahu Public Administration graduate Mike Brigoli is spending the summer working and enjoying time with family before heading off to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine this fall. We asked Mike to share his inspirational story.
Where are you from?
I am from Pāhoa on the Big Island, but I had a rather transient childhood.
Where did you graduate from high school?
I graduated from Waipahu High School, but also attended Pāhoa High School and James B. Castle High School in Kaneʻohe.
What was your major at UH West Oʻahu?
Public administration with a concentration in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.
When did you first become interested in medicine?
I worked in emergency medical services for 20 years, most recently as a fire fighter/paramedic on the Big Island. After seeing the impact of not having enough physicians to care for the communities of Hilo and Puna, my family and I decided that we needed to do something to help the situation. My wife Joy, who is an occupational therapist, and I began to speak to high school classes to encourage them to pursue medicine. After a while I came to the realization that medicine was a personal passion for me as well. The aspect of my job that I enjoyed the most was patient care and interaction. That was three years ago. Since then I received my AS from KCC as a Mobile Intensive Care Technician (prior to this I only had a certificate), completed my medical school prerequisites, and completed my BA in public administration from UH West Oʻahu.
What did you like best about UH West Oʻahu?
The two main things I liked the best about UH West Oʻahu was the flexibility of the available courses and the accessibility of the professors. Courses can be done in person or online, which is of great benefit to those already in the workforce. Professors are eager to assist and very experienced in their field.
What advice do you have for UH West Oʻahu students interested in pursuing medicine or other professional and graduate schools after graduation?
The best advice I can think of is to find your passion and utilize it to optimize your extracurricular experience. Graduate school, especially medical school, look for well-rounded applicants who show a commitment to the community and the profession. Being passionate about an activity makes it that much easier to accomplish on a regular basis. For example, I liked soccer and took the opportunity to start a non-profit soccer academy in Hilo. It allowed me time to spend with my sons and give back to my community. While it may not have been medicine specific, it showed an engagement with the community and allowed me to gain valuable administrative and organizational skills.
I am a nontraditional student who spent time homeless and in foster care as a child. The biggest obstacle that I encountered was my own disbelief. I didn’t feel equipped to attend college after graduating high school and instead went into the military. As a result it took me a long while before realizing that becoming a physician was actually possible. I would encourage the students of UH West Oʻahu to remove the personal obstacles in their lives. Just because no one else in their family attended college or graduate school, doesn’t meant that it is not possible for them as well. Kulia I Ka Nuʻu, “strive for the highest.” It is possible, and they can do it.