Mo‘olelo on cancer wins student top prize in public health journal

A reimagining of healing through traditional practices has won a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa student the top prize in the public health journal, Leaders Igniting Generational Healing and Transformation (LIGHT) in the story category. Sai “Kamakani” Furukawa, a master’s of public health and Native Hawaiian student, wrote, “The Realm of Po (Night): A Moʻolelo (story) of Spiritual Healing with Cancer,” to creatively address healing and transformation with cancer.

Furukawa’s personal story utilizes his dreams to connect with his kūpuna (ancestors), and expresses how reestablishing spirituality and cultural practices as an important component to one’s health could greatly enhance the health and well-being of Indigenous communities. 

This narrative aligns with his broader master’s research focus, which explores media portrayals of traditional healing practices in Hawaiʻi. Furukawa aims to uncover public perceptions of these practices and their potential impact on future public health initiatives.

“The success of this moʻolelo goes not to me, but to my kūpuna and to all others who have paved the way,” said Furukawa. “I am deeply humbled and appreciate the opportunity to uplift the voices of Native Hawaiian and Indigenous peoples. And I hope to see others continue to share their moʻolelo so that we can foster a more inclusive health system.”

Furukawa is anticipated to graduate this spring and has plans to advocate for integrating traditional healing practices into mainstream medicine. His future goals include pursuing a PhD in public health, further solidifying his commitment to advancing research in Native Hawaiian and Indigenous populations.

“We are so proud of Kamakani,” said Mapuana Antonio, associate professor of Native Hawaiian and Indigenous health in the Office of Public Health Studies. “This paper stems from one of our Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health courses, where we discuss moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) as a methodology. Kamakani beautifully applies these concepts as he integrates multiple ways of knowing and connects deeply with his physical, spiritual and mental realms of well-being.” 

Scheduled for a summer 2024 release, LIGHT‘s upcoming edition will feature Furukawa’s award-winning narrative alongside a diverse range of works, prioritizing underrepresented voices in public health.

Story originally posted at UH News

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