What They’re Watching: Aimee Grace, MD, University of Hawai’i System

Aimee Grace, MD, MPH, is the Director of Health Science Policy at the University of Hawai’i System. In her role, Grace directs strategic health initiatives and federal affairs for the University of Hawai’i System and leads the UHealthy Hawai’i initiative. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss health workforce challenges in Hawaii.



“At UH we’re thinking a lot about the health workforce challenges of our state. So, we know we have significant physician shortages — those have been well-documented through our Area Health Education Center for quite a while now. But we’ve been really pleased to work through the health care sector partnership with the Healthcare Association of Hawaii to hear more about all of the different professions that are in need across the state. For example: certified nurse aides, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists. We’re trying to think through how do we as a UH system respond to those needs that we have in the state. And we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that.

For example, for physicians we’re proposing a rural health hub on Maui to be a sort of satellite campus for JABSOM to start. So, we can hire faculty and have students that will be trained on Maui. We’re also thinking about how do we engage folks like pharmacists who are very highly trained and don’t often get integrated as well into primary care as we want them to be. We’ve seen incredible outcomes when they’ve been partnering with primary care providers in terms of getting diabetes better under control and high blood pressure better under control. So, we think those are real opportunities to plug into the community in different sorts of ways that are really going to improve the health of our communities and address workforce shortages at the same time.

I’m most excited about our innovation around the use of pharmacists and primary care. I can’t share a lot of the details just yet, but we are really excited about trying to explore different business models that are going to enable this partnership to work better. We’ve been hearing that it’s really difficult in terms of going to a primary care provider and then making sure that each one can have access to a pharmacist. And so, we’re trying to work on how do we make that more streamlined and easier for our patients and our providers.”