Working Out(doors) with Dr. Rolita

By Vina Cristobal, University Health Partners of Hawaii
Photos submitted by Dr. Lydia Rolita

Caring for patients, volunteering her time at community service events and overseeing the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program as its program director — for a physician, it can be overwhelming.

But how does Dr. Lydia Rolita de-stress from her responsibilities?

With boxing gloves.

Twice a week, at 6 a.m., she and personal trainer, Iokepa Bahilot, train at Kapiolani Park to go through some boxing techniques.

“It’s early, so the sun is rising and it’s not too hot,” she said, adding that they occasionally get onlookers, “but not many.”

It also works out for her schedule, as she begins work later in the day, and it gives her more time to get ready while taking care of herself through exercise. She also runs and surfs to add variety to her workouts, adding that she “doesn’t like gyms, so exercising outdoors is important [to me].”


Dr. Rolita’s boxing history dates back to 2004, when she was completing her Geriatric Medicine fellowship at NYU. For her, it was a “great way to stay in shape,” and “added some discipline and skill to her workout routine.” She trained alongside police officers and firefighters in the same gym (WAT Gym in Manhattan) between shifts, and in the evenings, she would watch the boxing matches held at the gym.

“I only trained in the ring, but never actually fought in a match,” Dr. Rolita said. “[But] I did help other girls in the gym train for their matches.”

In fact, Dr. Rolita assisted with three different matches, which were hosted by the Hawaii chapter of the USA Boxing League. She performed physical exams and took care of injuries before and during their matches.

The boxing league is overseen by the U.S. Olympic organization and involves elementary, intermediate and high school-aged children from all communities. Sometimes, local MMA fighter Max Holloway will make appearances at the matches — “a lot of kids look up to him,” Dr. Rolita said.

During the February 2019 match at Wahiawa Intermediate School, she checked to make sure participants were qualified to fight before they entered the ring.

“It’s a lot of fun working with the kids,” Dr. Rolita said. “Many of [the kids] come from underserved areas, and this is a big passion for them being involved in something that requires discipline, but it’s still fun. It’s great for the parents too, as they can go after school. They’re all so respectful and dedicated. It’s really an honor to witness. Giving back to the community is very fulfilling.”

She added that other physicians should consider volunteering for this organization.

“They provide special ringside doctor training and are always looking for physicians to help out,” Dr. Rolita said. “Anyone can contact me if they are interested.”

For those that are still finding the work-life balance, Dr. Rolita definitely understands how much of a struggle it can be.

“It’s always hard to balance work and exercise, but I just have to make a commitment and put my exercise time first,” she said. “Finding something you like to do and sticking to it no matter what — [that] is important. We also have to remember to be grateful for what we have.”