The IKE AO PONO program was piloted in 2001 with only 6 students and became established as a permanent program in 2004 with 66 students. The primary mission of the program is threefold:
- To improve the health and healthcare of Hawaii and the pacific with appropriate and culturally sensitive care.
- To increase the number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander nurses in Hawaii
- To provide young Hawaiians with positive role models.
With these ideals in mind, IKE AO PONO strives to encourage the enrollment and successful graduation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students to the nursing profession from the University of Hawaii Manoa Nursing Program.
IKE AO PONO has been successful in graduating over 150 students in the baccalaureate, graduate, and doctoral programs with over 90 students currently enrolled. In 2010 the program was a recipient of a national AACN Award for Innovative Education in recognition of this unprecedented success. IKE AO PONO is the first native nursing program to achieve such sweeping successes in the US and the Pacific. IKE AO PONO was listed in the Congressional Record by Senator Inouye because of this achievement. IKE AO PONO is the first native nursing program to achieve such sweeping successes in the US and the Pacific.
Among these successful students are the first native Hawaiian and Samoan nurses with doctoral degrees in nursing to graduate from UHM Nursing Program.