Health and Wellness Advocate: Christina Yoneshige

We enjoyed catching up with Dr. Christina Yoneshige, previously known as Christina Wu, an Emergency Psychiatrist at The Queen’s Medical Center and a Clinical Professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. Dr. Yoneshige shared exciting updates about her journey since her days at Assets. She passionately supports the Illumination Gala and delights seeing our students' enthusiastic participation.

When did you attend Assets School?
I attended 7th grade with Ms. Lissa Brouwers and Ms. Cassy Bowman (1998-1999) and 8th grade with Ms. Lissa Brouwers and Mrs. Kaye Conway (1999-2000).

After Assets, what school(s) did you attend? 
After two years at Assets, I transitioned to a different high school per my teachers' recommendation. They felt I had developed the skills to integrate into a more traditional educational system.

Since graduating from Assets School, what have you been up to? 
Life has been interesting! After high school, I headed to the University of Washington in Seattle, where I earned a degree in Physiology. I needed to work on a research project as part of my graduation requirement. Knowing I didn't want to spend all day in a lab, I took on a clinical research role at the Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics (BRTC), which focused on developing treatments for complex mental disorders. I loved it so much that I stayed for three years, and although I didn't realize it then, this experience would shape my future career.

After college, I returned to Hawaii, still uncertain about my path. I continued working in clinical research, often reflecting on the connections I built with clients at the BRTC and became increasingly interested in the complexities of healthcare. I was also fascinated by technology in medicine, a passion that grew from being a self-taught programmer since middle school -- thanks to the encouragement of my teachers at Assets School! Although I wasn't sure how to combine these interests, I knew I wanted a career that merged both medicine and technology. I returned to school at the University of Hawaii, where I earned a degree in Computer Science and my medical degree at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. I came full circle from the BRTC by specializing in psychiatry. 

What inspired you to get into psychiatry? 
As I explored various specialties in medical school, I enjoyed everything, but what truly captivated me was hearing people's life stories and seeing how their experiences influence how they see their physical and mental health. I am fascinated by how our upbringing, culture, and personal values shape our perception too. I love connecting with people and creating a space where they can reflect on this. Combined with my experiences at the BRTC, psychiatry felt like my natural choice.

Please share with us the various professional endeavors you are currently engaged in. We would love to hear about your diverse pursuits. What does your job entail? 
I primarily work as an emergency psychiatrist at Queen’s Medical Center, helping anyone who comes into the emergency department with mental health concerns. Mental health crises are inherently chaotic and stressful, and navigating the emergency department adds another layer of difficulty. So I strive to provide a calm, grounding presence for patients and their families during these difficult times.

Apart from patient care, I am a clinical professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine, where I give back through teaching and mentoring medical students and psychiatry trainees. This role is deeply meaningful to me, as I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance that shape my own career path.

Then there’s the whole other side of things that incorporate my tech interests. When I am not seeing patients or teaching, I serve as a clinical informaticist, blending my medical expertise with my background in computer science to improve clinical workflow, patient safety, and physician efficiency. I also conduct research in “digital wellness,” exploring how technology impacts our lives and how we can find a balance between our online and offline worlds. I predict the importance of this will only continue to grow as technology becomes more enmeshed in our daily lives.

Above: Christina in the Assets School 1999-2000 Yearbook photo

Share some ways attending Assets School helped you. How did Assets prepare you for your future and your career? What are some of the lessons you learned at Assets School that you still use to this day? Assets School had a profound impact on me during middle school. They met me where I was and this was life-changing, despite my short time there. They understood my strengths and challenges, adjusting my curriculum accordingly. But more importantly, they helped me discover my learning style, which proved invaluable during the rigorous demands of medical school.

Beyond academics, Assets School celebrated my interests outside of traditional school subjects. During this time, I developed my passion for computer science and programming, which blossomed with support from my teacher, Ms. Brouwers. While others in my life didn't quite understand it, she was incredibly supportive and adapted school assignments to include programming projects. Ms. Brouwers also arranged a mentorship program where I could further develop my skills. Assets School not only taught me to embrace my uniqueness but also fostered creative thinking, an ethos that continues to shape how I approach challenges and opportunities today! 

What are some of your favorite memories of Assets School? 
Everything about Class 74 is captured in this picture. I wish I had a clearer version!

Assets School Class 74 in the year 2000

Above: Christina Yoneshige was in eighth grade in Class 74 in the year 2000.

The Illumination Gala is the most important fundraiser, helping students who need a life-changing Assets education to afford our world-class school. You have attended several Illumination Galas. What do you like most about this event?  Why would you encourage others to attend? 
I learned about the Illumination Gala in 2016 thanks to trustee Jill MacMillan, whom I'm so grateful to have in my life (through her son Jack, a close friend and fellow Assets alumni!). She generously invited me to attend as she was encouraging more alumni to join. Each year, the Gala features consistent highlights: fantastic food, great wine, and an entertaining program. However, the most magical moment for me that night was unexpectedly reconnecting with some of my Class 74 classmates.

Illumination 2016 from left Aleui Lyman, Dr. Christina (Wu) Yoneshige, and Linda (Scheleski) Chang

Above from left: Aleui Lyman, Dr. Christina Yoneshige, and Linda (Scheleski) Chang, Assets School Class 74 from the year 2000, reconnect at the 2016 Illumination Gala.

Since then, I've made it a point to attend every year. It's heartwarming to see everyone come together for a cause that's deeply personal to me. It's hard for me to pick a favorite part of the evening. I will say that I always look forward to the photo booth, and I appreciate my husband, Jack, and Jill being good sports about taking pictures with me!

Illumination Gala 2022 Kyle and Dr. Christina Yoneshige, Jill and Jack MacMillan

Above from left: Kyle Yoneshige, Dr. Christina Yoneshige, former Trustee Jill MacMillan, and Jill's son Jack MacMillan at the 2022 Illumination Gala photo booth.

What do you like to do for fun? And why do you like doing it?
I love anything that lets me tap into my creative side. Besides working on small programming projects, I also love photography, music, interior design ... anything that engages the right hemisphere of the brain!

What’s next for you, personally or professionally?
Assets School taught me the importance of being open-minded and flexible, which has been my approach to life, both professionally and personally. Working in the intersection of medicine and technology involves navigating constant change and development in both fields. Rather than thinking about what's next, I do my best to stay present and appreciate each moment amidst the fast-paced nature of everything else in my life. As I look forward, I am grateful for where I am now and welcome wherever life takes me next.

Assets Alumna Christina Yoneshige, Kyle Yoneshige, Jill MacMillan, Jack MacMillan

Above: Dr. Christina Yoneshige at the Illumination Gala 2024 photo booth with her husband Kyle Yoneshige, former Trustee Jill MacMillan, and Jill's son Jack MacMillan.