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Dr. Tuiolosega to keynote ASCC graduation

The American Samoa Community College (ASCC) will hold its fall 2011 Commencement Ceremony on Friday, December 23rd, beginning at 9 a.m. in its Gymnasium. The ASCC Student Services division estimates that 155 young men and women will receive their degrees and certificates during the College’s 55th commencement, although the final number is always subject to final examination results. The College strives to always feature a successful son or daughter of American Samoa as its graduation speaker, and for this commencement, Dr. Malouamaua Puleisili Tuiolosega will join a long line of distinguished speakers who have addressed the ASCC graduates.

Currently the sole medical doctor serving the Manu’a Islands, Dr. Tuiolosega is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Puleisili and Meleane Tuiolosega, and between both parents he can claim roots in Olosega, Pago Pago, Vailoa, Palauli (Savaii) and Niue. He is married to Caroline Ruppert of Aurora, Colorado and they have three children — one son and two daughters. He spent his youth in Tutuila’s Tualatai District, attended Leone Midkiff Elementary and Aoga Samoa, and graduated with the Marist Brothers High School class of 1981. Following service in the local Army Reserve, he saw active duty in America and Europe between 1982 and 1989. Returning home following his Army experience, he attended ASCC and served as Student Government Association Vice President and Student Representative to the Board of Higher Education before graduating as Class Salutatorian in 1992.

After ASCC, Tuiolosega began his study of Medicine & Surgery at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, with Clerkship at both the Colonial War Memorial Hospital and Lautoka Hospital. Over many years of training, he returned home to serve at LBJ in 1996 and 1999, and again from 2000-2001 before spending spent eight years affiliated with the University of Colorado Health Science Center and Anschutz Medical Campus in the areas of Literature, Research & Analysis, and Science & Culture. Concurrently with his work in Colorado, he was an Independent Contractor for the US Government and US corporations between 2003 and 2009.

Because of his initial career outside the United States, Dr. Tuiolosega underwent a complicated review process to achieve his final certification.  By 2005, he had fulfilled the requirements for medical certification by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), the sanctioning authority that authenticates and certifies medical credentials of international medical graduates of foreign medical schools. To gain ECFMG certification, a candidate also needed to pass steps 1 and 2 of the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) and submit graduate credentials for verification. An equivalency report issued by the International Education Research Foundation, Inc. in 2005 rendered that Dr. Tuiolosega possessed a degree comparable to the Doctor of Medicine degree awarded by regionally accredited US universities. Next, Dr. Tuiolosega successfully passed the USMLE Step 1 (concepts of sciences basic to the practice of medicine) in 2006 and Step 2 (clinical knowledge and clinical skills) in 2008, after which he was awarded his ECFMG certification in February, 2009.

Upon his return home and assignment to Manu’a, Dr. Tuiolosega soon achieved positive notoriety for his efforts on behalf of his patients. Last year, he collaborated with the local Women’s Hospital Auxiliary (WHA) on the acquisition of a “coagulation monitor”, a machine worth approximately $1600. Thanks to the WHA, Manu’a patients with blood disorders no longer need to travel to Tutuila twice a month to receive vital monitoring of their blood’s ability to clot. Given the expense and unreliability of inter-island transportation, by acquiring the necessary machine, Dr. Tuiolosega and the WHA alleviated a major hardship for Manu’a patients.

This past April, a story by Radio New Zealand International focused on Dr. Tuiolosega and his work in Manu’a. The story reported on his efforts to try and change people’s thinking regarding health care, which involves both taking more responsibility for their own well being in terms of prevention, as well as taking care of ailments at home.  With unusual candor, he spoke of how the limited medical facilities on Manu’a often resulted in people with minor ailments “leaving with something more serious” from exposure to other very sick patients at the hospital or clinic. What’s important, he emphasized, is a change of mindset regarding when to see the doctor.

Given his many years in the health care profession as well as his recent experience in some of American Samoa’s most isolated locations, Dr. Tuiolosega’s keynote speech promises to be a memorable one.

ASCC Dean of Student Services Dr. Emilia Le’i reminds the public that this semester the commencement ceremony will begin at 9:00 a.m. rather than 10:00 as it usually has begun in the past. “We had some unusual factors to consider,” she explained. “First, there are more graduates than usual this time, and so the ceremony is sure to take a little longer, and second, we know that people will want some extra time to focus on their Christmas preparations.”