In the summer of my third year as a medical student from Malaysia, I had the opportunity to shadow Dr Paul Esaki, a primary care physician who practices in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii.
I arrived in Kauai late at night tired after a few hours of flying (but many hours of waiting after a last minute flight change). Dr Esaki picked me up in a weathered 4×4 truck (I was expecting a conservative sedan for some reason). Right off the bat, there was warm hospitality and he gave me a lively talking commentary of the island while on route to the beach house where I was to stay. I remember looking to the skies the moment we reached the beach house and I was astonished at how many stars were brightly twinkling thanks to the low levels of light and air pollution. I miss this now whenever I look up at the night sky.
When I woke up the next morning and walked outside, there was a nice sea breeze; something very welcome from the humid heat that I am accustomed to in Kuala Lumpur. Hawaii is a remarkable place, the temperature perfectly warm and sunny with an almost constant breeze from the trade winds.
Throughout my time there, I had a chance to join the Mayor-a-Thon, explore the coast by bike, enjoy the many beaches, climb Sleeping Giant, hike the Hanakapiai trail, see Kilauea lighthouse, watch Wailua falls, kayak and visit a local banana farm.
The cuisine was phenomenal; they blended the many different cultures on the island together to come up with interesting combinations that whet my appetite just thinking about it. Especially good (and fresh) is the seafood: tuna, butterfish, mahimahi and even seaweed were excellent! Not to mention the lau-lau, a chicken or pork dish wrapped and cooked in taro leaves.
The staff at Dr Esaki’s practice were welcoming and friendly. To each patient, they performed a role fundamental to keeping the practice running smoothly. They would call up patients to make sure appointments were kept, check vital signs and even get the chief complaint from the patient. They provided a level of care that I’m not accustomed to outside of a hospital environment.
Dr Esaki is caring, yet professional, with patients. He takes the time to attend to every patient with an interest and respect that I would deeply appreciate if I were in the patient’s shoes. Perhaps the strong sense of community on the island has a part in this. Compared to the case mix in Malaysia, chronic diseases are more common and infectious disease less so. As much as I learned about the different diseases, I learned even more from Dr Esaki’s bedside manner.
It was a privilege to shadow Dr Esaki in his medical practice and a phenomenal experience on Kauai that I will treasure forever.
Author’s email: J Foong