Charles Akiona

Regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, and gender, all have the right to health. However, distinct populations in America and around the world are suffering from the effects of health disparities with little explanation and few efforts to mitigate this suffering.

Charles Gabriel Kawena Akiona, a progressive degree student graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a Master of Science in Global Medicine, knows this firsthand. As a Native Hawaiian growing up in Hawai‘i, Akiona witnessed the impact of severe health disparities on his community. But it wasn’t until college that his passion to study and heal underserved communities took root.

A writing assignment first inspired Akiona as he researched and described factors that influence how health disparities arise, like the introduction of foreign bacteria and viruses, the high cost of living and shifts away from a traditional diet. Akiona developed his understanding further through the Global Medicine program, where he learned how Hawai‘i’s past health determinants, current issues and potential solutions were similar all across the world.

While taking a Global Medicine course in Uganda, Akiona encountered the collaboration of Western medicine with traditional medicine to heal disadvantaged rural communities with limited health care access. Similarly, while studying in Malaysia, Akiona met with policy officials and medical officers to understand how Malaysia’s universal health care system affordably treats citizens.

With global experiences to inform his work, Akiona is excited for the next step in his journey – medical school. Akiona will attend the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine. As a medical student and, eventually, physician, Akiona hopes to work toward tackling major health disparities within domestic and foreign communities.

Reflecting on his journey, Akiona said, “USC has provided me with the lenses to look beyond national boundaries and understand that everyone can provide what someone else in this world needs.”

— Charles Akiona