The Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act, Public Law 102-396 (NHHCIA) was passed in 1988 as part of the federal government’s response to hearings and addressing health concerns raised by the Native Hawaiian community that was detailed in the E Ola Mau Native Hawaiian Health Need Study and Cultural Task Force Reports of 1985. Consistent throughout the E Ola Mau studies are findings and recommendations that seek to increase and improve the capacity in the delivery of adequate and culturally appropriate health care services to Native Hawaiians.

In 1991-1992, the NHHSP selected its first cohort of Native Hawaiian scholars (11 medical students – all but one attended University Of Hawai`i, John A. Burns School of Medicine). The guidelines on administering the scholarship program were adopted from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) 42 USC 254l to facilitate the three core components that comprise the NHHSP and that which was envisioned by the Native Hawaiian community through the recommendations of the E Ola Mau study and that of Hawai`i’s congressional delegation:

  • Scholarships to Native Hawaiians pursuing careers in designated health care professions;
  • Training of  NHHSP  scholars  in  ways  to  provide  culturally appropriate  health  care services in Hawaiian communities; and
  • Placement of NHHSP scholars  in  priority  Native  Hawaiian  communities following the completion of their education.

Aligning NHHSP’s goal of recruiting and developing a Native Hawaiian health workforce that corresponds to the health needs of the Native Hawaiian people is described in the NHHCIA (42 USC Section 11703).  The health conditions and needs of Hawai`i’s indigenous people today are identified by Papa Ola Lokahi (POL) in their current efforts toward the creation of the Hawaiian Health Resource Map. As POL facilitates this process and partners with other key community organizations to further identify characteristics and health disparities of the target population, and the resources necessary to address such, the 17 degrees targeted by the scholarship program are in line with the type of health professionals needed in Hawai’i.  Unfortunately, we are nowhere near the number of Native Hawaiian health professionals need in our community today.


Through grants and cooperative agreements with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate (FY 1991-2001) and Papa Ola Lokahi (FY 2002-2014) provided the needed administrative support for NHHSP in Hawai`i over the past 25 years. The outcome of which resulted in 265 scholarship awards made to Native Hawaiians with funding estimated at approximately $23,750,000.

Total Awards by Degree 1991 – 2016

Professional Degrees:



Doctoral Level Medicine (M.D. & D.O.)



Master's Level Physician Assistant (M.P.A.S.)

Physician Assistant


Associate's Level Nursing (A.D.N.)



Bachelor's Level Nursing (B.S.N.)



Master's Level Nursing (M.S.N. & N.P.)



Master's Level Nurse Midwife (N.M.)



Master's Level Dietitics (M.S.)



Doctoral Level Nurse Practitioner (D.N.P.)



Doctoral Level Dentistry (D.D.S. & D.M.D.)



Bachelor's Level Dental Hygiene (D.H.)

Dental Hygiene


Doctoral Level Optometry (O.D.)



Doctoral Level Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)



Doctoral Level Psychology (Ph.D. & Psy.D.)

Clinical Psychology


Master's Level Social Work (M.S.W.)

Social Work


Master's Level Marriage Family Therapist (M.F.T.)

Marriage Family Therapy


Master's Level Public Health (M.P.H.)

Public Health


1991 through 2016

Total Awards



Approximately 70% of the 265 awards were made to scholars who would matriculate to positions in direct-primary health care, with the remaining 30% awarded to scholars to be employed in mental health, substance abuse, marriage and family counseling, and public health education service related jobs. The top three professions awarded were to Nurses (92), Physicians (55) and Social Workers (46). Nearly 80% of the scholars have or will obtain their degrees in Hawai`i, primarily within the public University of Hawai`i state-wide system, and six other private post-secondary institutions. The remaining scholars have completed their education or are currently enrolled in colleges on the continental US, with majority situated in the western and central region.


As of July 31, 2016, 178 scholars have completed their service obligation, of which, 167 remain employed in their discipline in the State of Hawai`i and continue to serve the Native Hawaiian community. The NHHSP scholar service retention rate is currently at 94%. Two- hundred scholars were placed for their service obligation in Hawai`i throughout the six major Hawaiian islands (Kaua`i, O`ahu, Moloka`i, Maui, Lana`i, and Hawai`i Island) in over 100 work sites for approximately 68 organizations. Over half of the scholars found job placements in the priority #1 sites (Native Hawaiian Health Care Systems) and priority #2 sites (Federally Qualified Health Centers), with the remaining 100 scholars finding positions in various communities with HPSA, MUA, MUP designations, and in organizations whose primary target population are Native Hawaiians.

NHHSP Scholar Matriculation & Service Retention (As of July 31, 2016)

Completed Service Obligation:


In Service Obligation:


Currently In Education:


In Post- Graduate Training/ Residency:


In Licensure Phase:


Licensed & Awaiting Placement:


Default Status:


Waiver Status:

Total Awards 1991 - 2016:


















Completed Service Obligation:


Continued Service
In Hawai’i:

  Service Retention
In Hawai’i






The NHHSP scholars as individuals and as a collective body have made a positive impact in Hawai`i and serve as role models for other Native Hawaiians who aspire to healthcare professions and to be of service to the Native Hawaiian community. They have matriculated into leadership roles and have implemented and affected change in health perspectives, best practices and policy development within their work environment, in their respective island communities, among their patients, professional colleagues and associations, and at various levels of local, state and federal government.

These outcomes support the intent of the NHHSP legislation within the context of the capacity-building strategies and health awareness promotion of the NHHCIA. As the work of the NHHCIA continues, so must the efforts of the NHHSP. The complex health adversities of Native Hawaiians persist, and the need for a responsive health workforce to provide and promote culturally relevant approaches and ameliorating interventions is essential. 


Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program
Administered by Papa Ola Lokahi

894 Queen Street
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
Telephone: (808) 597-6550