Meshelle Hirashima’s advice to young people is simple: you need big dreams to achieve big things.
She would know.
Hirashima, who graduated from Chaminade in 2017 with a degree in Historical and Political Studies and a Biochemistry minor, receives her Doctor of Medicine degree in May from Boston University School of Medicine. She is seeking to specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and credits strong female role models—including the grandmother who raised her—for helping her believe in herself so she could reach her goals.
“I’ve had remarkable people in my life to be an example and help guide me to where I am today,” Hirashima said. “No one would think I would come this far knowing my history. I just feel so blessed.”
Hirashima was adopted as a toddler by her grandmother because her mother was struggling with substance abuse issues. Her mother has since turned her life around, Hirashima said, and the two share a special relationship. It’s because of her grandmother and her mother that she wants to be an OBGYN.
Hirashima is also the first person on her mother’s side to graduate from college.
And she’s the first person in her family to go to medical school.
In addition to her role models, she credits Chaminade with helping her get there. Hirashima was able to secure an early admission spot at Boston University’s School of Medicine thanks to Chaminade’s articulation agreement program with the institution—and the preparation she got along the way.
She also said immersive experiences at Chaminade helped her build her confidence.
Among them, in 2014, advisors at Chaminade encouraged Hirashima to apply for a six-week summer program at UCLA aimed at helping students from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds get a taste for what it feels like to be a medical student and understand the steps to become a doctor. She said the program put a big emphasis on health disparities and helped her see how she could serve others.
“It gave me a taste for what I could expect, and I was hooked,” she said.
An early dream to help others
Hirashima was born and raised in Hawaii and attended Moanalua High School.
From a young age, she said, she dreamed of becoming a doctor. She wanted to help others like the people who had helped her grandmother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And as she got older, she realized that being a doctor didn’t just mean providing medical care but helping people through everyday struggles and “being with them through momentous points in their lives.”
At Moanalua, many of Hirashima’s friends were eyeing larger universities.
But she wanted something different—a place where she could try out different things and pursue disciplines that intrigued her. That’s why she found herself initially majoring in Environmental + Interior Design at Chaminade before switching to Historical Political Studies with a Biochemistry minor.
How did that fit into her path to medical school?
Hirashima said she wanted to broaden her horizons and take the opportunity to dive into a course of study that would help her better understand the world. To her, the study of history and political studies was the opportunity to figure out why people decide what they decide and why they act as they do.
That foundation of knowledge, she said, helped her become a more empathetic, well-rounded person.
‘I knew what I wanted’
Along the way, by minoring in Biochemistry, Hirashima was able to secure the science and math prerequisites she would need to apply to medical school. And she got a unique taste for what her life as a medical student would entail with those immersive experiences, like the one at UCLA.
Chaminade’s articulation agreement with Boston University’s School of Medicine was key to her admission. The program, in which Chaminade partners with a host of highly-esteemed universities on the mainland, allows students to set an early course to advanced studies in healthcare careers—establishing a strong academic record and completing prerequisites while at Chaminade.
After completing the requirements of her Chaminade degree, Hirashima also spent a year at Boston University preparing for medical school, taking graduate courses and studying for the entrance exam. “It was like drinking from a fire hose. And unconventionally, I put all my eggs in the Boston basket,” she recalled. “I’d never even been to the East Coast, have no family there, but I knew what I wanted.”
And she got it.
She said she was at the pool with a friend when she learned she’d been admitted.
“I just started screaming and jumping up and down,” she said.
From there, there would be more grueling work and long hours ahead. The COVID pandemic sharply curtailed the number of in-person learning hours she got. But in her third year, she moved on to rotations—a chance for medical students to work hands-on in different medical specialties.
Internal medicine. Psychiatry. Pediatrics. Hirashima loved them all.
But the OBGYN rotation was special. “It was about building connections with women. Just kind of through reflection, I thought, ‘Where am I going to make the biggest impact with my career?’ I had such strong female role models growing up and I knew I wanted to help women like them,” she said.
‘I used to be in those shoes’
While one chapter of Hirashima’s journey ends in May, when she earns her medical degree, another begins as she continues on her path to residency.
Her dream of returning to Hawaii to serve the people and communities that helped her remains alive. On Match Day, she was paired with the University of Hawaii’s Obstetrics and Gynecology program.
She is excited to come home, continue her training and cross off another goal from her list. Along the way, she hopes to inspire other young people to think big. “I had lots of humbling experiences growing up, but that didn’t stop me,” she said. “Overcoming obstacles will never be easy. But with help, it’s not impossible.”
Hirashima’s biggest piece of advice to others is simple: take advantage of opportunities presented to you. “It can sometimes be scary to get outside of your comfort zone,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have had people around me, including at Chaminade, who really believed in me and who helped guide me.”
She added that her “humbling experiences” growing up helped her build understanding for others. “When I talk to a patient who is struggling, I know a little bit about what that feels like. I used to be in those shoes,” she said. Her big dream now: serve as a role model just as many did for her.
“I want young people to know there’s so much out there, and they just have to go out and get it.”