Medical Professor Dr. Jill Omori honored by Hawaii Women Lawyers for her homeless outreach

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Tina Shelton, (808) 692-0897
Director of Communications, Office of Dean of Medicine
Posted: May 20, 2016

Dr. Jill Omori guides a medical student interviewing a patient inside the H.O.M.E. clinic van.
Dr. Jill Omori guides a medical student interviewing a patient inside the H.O.M.E. clinic van.

University of Hawaiʻi Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health Jill Omori, MD, is this year’s recipient of the Hawai’i Women Lawyers’ Distinguished Service Award for her work with the Homeless Outreach and Medical Education (H.O.M.E.) Project.

“I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award. To be recognized for doing something I love is very special,” said Dr. Omori. “I definitely share the honor with all the students, volunteers, physicians and community supporters that help to make H.O.M.E. Project possible."

Omori earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology, going on to earn her MD degree at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) in 1995. She completed her residency training in Family Medicine in Hawai’i.

Omori was interested in science but says she initially thought of going into engineering.  She quickly learned that engineering was not for her because she sought a more people-oriented profession.  She enjoys the combination of science, healing and compassion -- the fundamental elements of practicing medicine.

“I was also very sickly as a child and spent a lot of time at the doctor. I really loved my pediatrician and I think he also inspired me to want to become a doctor,” she said.

Omori remembers that, during her days as a medical student, she wanted to be more exposed to the care of underprivileged patients.  When she joined the JABSOM faculty, she felt students were not getting enough training in caring for homeless individuals. At that time,  Hawai’i’s homeless population was growing rapidly, including in areas very near to JABSOM’s Kakaʻako Campus.

“It was a dream that I had to start student-run homeless clinics for our medical school and to create a curriculum in underserved care for JABSOM. I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help fund my time to develop the curriculum and the H.O.M.E. Project was born out of that endeavor,” she says.

Omori considers The H.O.M.E. Project to be her proudest career accomplishment.  What started off as a simple dream ended up making an impact within the community, especially to the homeless.

The project began with a single clinic, once a week. But with the help and support of the entire JABSOM community, H.O.M.E. expanded to four clinics per week at six different sites across Oʻahu.  Omori enjoys seeing former students who worked with the project return as community physicians.  And she is gratified when she sees patients transition into healthier lives.

During her free time, Omori enjoys baking and making crafts at her East Honolulu home. She annually oversees a "H.O.M.E. for the Holidays" craft fair to support the H.O.M.E. project. She has hopes that local government will develop housing policies that will reduce the homeless crisis in Hawai’i and that the H.O.M.E. Project can obtain continued funding, so it can grow and become self-sustaining. But her greatest hope is that, one day, there will be no need for the H.O.M.E. Project clinics at all.

Omori also has continued high hopes for the future of her alma mater.  “I suppose my vision for JABSOM is to be a world-renowned medical school that emphasizes not only excellence in medical knowledge, clinical skills and research, but also that highly values equality, compassionate care, community building and social responsibility,” she said.

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