Kahuku’s Adolpho trades helmet for white coat

COURTESY UH Quinlinn Ka‘uakeanihinawelau Onapaliulioke Koolau Adolpho

Sacking an Ohio State quarterback in front of 104,719 predominantly scarlet and gray partisans at the Horseshoe remains a moment of considerable pride for Quinlinn Ka’uakeanihinawelau Onapaliulioke Koolau Adolpho.

But not nearly as huge as the ritual of donning a white coat in front of a crowd of 650 in an auditorium recently.

For all the thrills Adolpho has had in football — an unbeaten (13-0) season and two state championships at Kahuku, earning a scholarship as a walk-on at New Mexico State and the crowd-hushing sack at Ohio State — the traditional "White Coat" welcoming ceremony at the John A. Burns School of Medicine this month brings the most satisfaction.

"At the time, getting the sack was something," Adolpho said. "But being given that white coat meant so much more. For me, it confirmed that I’m really here (at JABSOM). It says that they think I can do this, that I have proven myself thus far and they believe that I can be successful in this program."

Adolpho was among 66 members of the MD class of 2018 that started studies last week at JABSOM, where there were an average of 34 applicants for each opening.

That Adolpho, a former defensive end, would be one of them now at age 29 was something that he scarcely dared to imagine during his playing days (2006-09) at New Mexico State, where he walked on after a church mission.

The original plan was to earn a scholarship, get his degree and return to the family contracting business on the North Shore.

Even as he earned All-WAC scholar-athlete honors as an international business major, medical school seemed a world beyond. Growing up one of 11 children, he said, "that was something that never seemed tangible to me. Doctors like ours out on the North Shore (Marc Schlachter), were pretty important people."

Not until a friend in New Mexico told him about the rewards that came with being a respiratory therapist did Adolpho start to think of a career in a medical field. Even then, with a wife and growing family that now numbers three children, returning to school to earn accreditation seemed about as far as he planned to go.

It wasn’t until he began interaction with doctors in his clinical studies, Adolpho said, that he began to imagine himself as one of them. "At first in clinicals, you had to build up some courage just to talk to the doctors for fear of them saying, ‘What? That’s dumb question.’ But the more that I mixed with them, the more I started to think that I could maybe do this, too."

It inspired him to take pre-med classes as he and his wife, Berenice, juggled schedules. And it paid off this year when he was named pediatric respiratory therapist of the year for the Texas Southwest Region and earned admission to JABSOM.

Adolpho, who said his Hawaiian name means, "the white mist that tiptoes on the Koolau Mountains," still savors his scrapbook moment at Ohio State but won’t be defined by it.

"That white coat says that what I’m doing now is about moving onward, challenging myself and doing something for my family."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.