Community Health and Native Healing in Kaua`i (Spring Break Global Health Seminar)


*Note: The Spring Break Seminar in Kaua'i is only offered during the week of March 16, 2019. For other Spring Break Global Health Seminar program on the Big Island of Hawai'i, visit this page

Almost 1,500 years ago, Polynesians arrived in Hawai`i after navigating the Pacific Ocean using only the stars, ocean currents, and winds as guides to discover uninhabited lands. As Hawai`i became a destination for explorers, missionaries, sugar plantation and other economy investors, the influx of immigrant workers settled in Hawai`i brought much diversity to the Islands. Today, the diverse culture of Hawai`i is expressed in its languages, music, art, food and festivals. Hawai`i calls this vibe, “the spirit of aloha.” Behind the colorful publicity and communications of Hawai`i, there exists a growing need for quality healthcare and resources for its rural communities. Kaua`i island is known as the “Garden Isle” due to its lush and tropical topography which is known for its fragrant flowers and panoramic hiking trails. Due to Kaua`i being so remote from the other Hawaiian islands, Kaua`i is also known as one with the most challenges in providing its residents with adequate health care. 

Participants in this 1-week Global Health Seminar will grow to understand health and healthcare practices in Hawaii through a holistic lens, examining health disparities and the social determinants of health in this unique island context. Participants will learn about health challenges including poverty, lack of access to healthy food, and many other themes while also examining innovative and successful community-based approaches to address these issues. Study Native Hawaiian cultural values, beliefs, history, and the components of traditional kanaka maoli lapa‘au (Hawaiian medicine). Cultural visits and activities are woven throughout this program, dubbed “Kumulau” or “many roots of the tree” by local leaders, who emphasize that culture is not separate from health, and we cannot help to improve health until we understand a person’s culture and history.

Intrinsic in Hawaiian medicine are the linkages between human health and the health of the environment, a major theme throughout the seminar. The seminar will also incorporate a focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension, and will examine local efforts to address these health challenges through outreach and education initiatives at the community level, NGO's, and within the school system. Through immersion in the local community, cultural activities, hikes, shadowing at an optometry clinic, NGO’s, and health service providers in at-risk communities, students will gain insight into the health challenges faced by the community on Kaua`i, as well as groundbreaking approaches to holistic public and community health.

Participants lodge in tent cabins on the beach in Anahola, a Native Hawaiian community on the east side of the island, where they learn about the cultures of Hawai`i as well as work with health care providers and community groups in Lihu`e. Through this seminar, participants will learn to see beyond the romantic view of Kaua`i that the world is accustomed to seeing, and, instead, they will learn about developing and sustaining quality healthcare for rural Hawai`i, from local leaders and experts. Aloha!

This Seminar includes pre-departure training, guided ongoing reflection, and a brief essay at the end.

CFHI offers options for students and faculty to fit your interests and schedule. Choose your program duration, or for a comparative experience, choose to participate in multiple programs. CFHI can also often accommodate alternate program dates upon request. For more information see our How to Apply page.


1 Week $1,500
Arrival Dates: 
Mar 16, 2019 

Public Health Placements and Health Activities:

Participants learn from a wide variety of cultural sites, healthcare settings, NGO and nonprofit organizations, and ecotourism activities. These include:

Community Health Center
: A health center that provides quality and affordable healthcare, diabetic care and education services, dental care, and behavioral health services.

Botanical Garden and National Reserve Site: Participants will visit these sites throughout the duration of their program on the South Side of the Island.

Optometry Center & Rural Vision Mobile Clinic: Students rotate at a optometry center and a mobile clinic that provide a wide range of optometry care and services. They work closely with a doctor and health specialists.

Agriculture/Farming: Students will visit sites to understand how Hawaiians sustained rain-fed (unirrigated) intensive farming for centuries, and how they have implemented current efforts to live sustainably. Participants will work in planting and must be ready to dig in the dirt and connect with the land!

Other sites:  Organization working with PTSD Veterans, a couple of rural clinics, significant cultural sites, as well as community organizations who promote health and wellness engagement activities.

This program takes place on Kaua`i Island.

Students on this program stay in tentalow or yurts arranged by the local team. Two meals are provided per day. Washer/dryer is available but in town at a laundry mat. Wifi is available in town at coffee shops. Transportation is a mix of local public transit and private transport by local team for certain activities. The accommodations are in a camping setting. Be prepared with a sleeping bag. There is covering on beds, but you will be near the beach and have outdoor, yet private showers to use.

This CFHI program is ideal for students and non-students of all levels and health disciplines and welcome anyone interested in and passionate about global health and medicine. In particular, this program will focus on challenges faced in providing adequate medical care in both urban and rural settings and deepening understanding of rural/urban divides.

For more information, please read CFHI's general eligibility requirements.

Language Required: English

Hawai'i is the only U.S. state with two official languages: Hawaiian and English, with a 3rd unofficial language: Pidgin. It is helpful to know some basic Hawai'ian vocabulary, but you will also learn this during your program! 

Students should plan to arrive into LIhu`e Airport on the first Saturday of their program. They will be met at the airport by our local team. Please plan to depart on the Saturday after the week-long program ends.

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your onsite expenses. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco before departure
  • Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.

On-Site Services

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to lodging site in Anahola with local CFHI representative
  • Welcome dinner
  • Welcome orientation with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics
  • Orientation including national park visits, cultural shows, and dance
  • Public and private transportation to official site visits in West Hawai`i
  • CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response
  • Week health and education lectures
  • Placement and coordination of clinical/public health/education activities
  • Accommodations and two meals per day 

Post-Return Resources

  • Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health
  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, resources, and ways to stay involved

Uniquely CFHI, 60% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically underserved health systems.

Dr. Māhealani Yamashita, CEO of Peahi Education Group (PEG):

Dr. Yamashita is a community leader, educator, and cultural consultant from Hawai`i. Her experience in the educational profession spans over twenty years in public, private, and charter schools, as well as recently at the Kaua`i Community College as a Career and Transition Counselor/Specialist. Her expertise includes integrating project-based learning and Hawaiian culture and values into experiential, environmentally engaging educational experiences. She has also been an Administrator for a K-12 Charter School. A Native Hawaiian born and raised on Hawai`i Island, she is also proud to have served her country and is a military Veteran.  She holds a BA in Secondary Education, Language Arts, MEd in Education Counseling, and an EdD in Education Leadership, K-12. Presently, she is an online adjunct Professor for Grand Canyon University (College of Education).

Michelle Yamashita, Director of Program Management of PEG:

With a wealth of professional experience, Michelle has been in roles in quality assurance, such as Director of Quality for GE Aviation where she was responsible for Quality Systems, improving FTY and integrating Quality and Lean Six Sigma tolls and best practices. She served 4 tours, (3 tours to Afghanistan, 1 to Iraq), Michelle is retired with experience in Navy aviation. Her hometown is Littleton, Colorado. Michelle’s experiences include working for Raytheon as the Quality Assurance Manager, Kauai, Hawaii (2008-2010). Michelle then became the Quality Assurance Manager for Manu Kai, a subsidiary for Ke`aki Technologies, Inc. and largest private consulting LLC working for the Government at Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facilities (PMRF). Michelle holds a bachelor’s. Emry Riddle, as well as an MBA, with an emphasis in Information Systems, from Hawaii Pacific University. Michelle also has a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Program Management Certificate from Villanova University.

Brittney Embernate – Programs Coordinator:

Brittney graduated from Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi Campus and continued her education at Oregon State University where she graduated with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts - Emphasis in Graphic Design and Art History Minor. After graduating from OSU in 2011, she returned home and started working for a local directory company where She became the Regional Creative Director. She continued her education and expanded her knowledge in website design. By doing so, this led her to many design advances for the Hawai`i region. As a designer, she is passionate to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture and to create brand identities. She is able to do so by creating brand identity elements for local business and incorporate Hawaiian elements into their designs which give their identities with a “local” feel.

Lani Isaacs - Cultural Expert:

Founder and Director, Kumu Lani Isaacs, a lifelong dancer, teacher and choreographer opened the `Alohi Polynesian Dance Academy in Kamuela, Hawai`i in 2011. Since 1978, her professional careers ran hand-in-hand as a Cultural Resource Director, Certified Corporate Trainer and Concierge Manager in the Hospitality Industry, and a professional entertainer. Under the direction of Kumu Hula Ke`ala Kukona, Kumu Lani owes her success as a seasoned dancer to her formal training. Hands-on experiences, accumulated over many years, has awarded her a fluency that is essential to not only the hospitality industry, but to that of the performing arts as well. With a compassionate heart & a firm hand, Kumu Lani continues to nurture her haumāna (students) – striving to develop their skills & talents in order to provide them opportunities for their future.