Kudos For Caring



Mariah Carey says it best in her hit song Hero: “So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong, And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you.”

As the Healthcare Association of Hawaii salutes its Healthcare Heroes of 2016, we reflect on the qualities and characterization of someone who is idealized.

What makes a hero?

The dictionary says it is a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities or personal qualities to be regarded as a role model or ideal.

Folk singer Bob Dylan says it’s “someone who understand the degree of responsibility that comes with freedom.”

Superman portrayer Christopher Reeve says it’s “an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Actor Robert Downey Jr. suggests that “hero is not a noun, it is a verb.”

We like all of these definitions for the five health care heroes of 2016.

But shouldn’t we commend also the individuals who nominated their health care professionals? The patients or family members themselves often exhibit boundless courage and resilience.

Here are five profiles in courage:



founder and director, Kane Orthopedic Institute, The Queen’s Medical Center
Nominated by: Maria Neil

Why: “I had congenital hip dysplasia. Most of my life I have walked with a limp because of flattened femoral head and leg-length discrepancy. As I got older, the condition affected walking and exercising. As a licensed deep-tissue massage therapist, I consulted with many doctors over the years. I was told that surgery is complicated and risky.

“I was very happy to find Dr. Kane, who is experienced in this type of hip condition and did the surgery. I had no pain after surgery. Recovery was quick, and I was back to work in just over two weeks.

“Soon after that, I joined a hiking group and have been hiking three times a week. I go to the gym daily.

“I can’t thank Dr. Kane enough for the impact this has had on my life. This surgery was truly life changing.”



family nurse practitioner,
Hamakua-Kohala Community
Health Center, Hawaii island
Nominated by: Rae Therrien


“In 2012, I went to see her to inquire about genetic testing because I had two maternal aunts with ovarian cancer. I had endometrial cancer at age 53. It was discovered after tests that I had Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.

“Cathy researched this diagnosis and became my champion in referring me to needed specialists. Her recommendation to have other family members tested led to the discovery of one of our daughters having this syndrome.

“In January 2013, after a strenuous hike to the top of Puu Waawaa, I discovered blood in my urine. Cathy scheduled an appointment for me to see an urologist in Honolulu. It was discovered that I had cancer of the urethra, renal pelvis and part of the bladder. I had surgery to remove the affected issue.

“Cathy is a very compassionate, caring health care provider. Not only has she supported my husband and me through this journey, but she also has supported us upon the unexpected death of our 26-year-old son. I have complete confidence in her professional knowledge, abilities and intuition.”



staff nurse, Hiolani Care Center at Kahala Nui
Nominated by: Laurie Callies


“Phung Le is a charge nurse at Hiolani who believes that the aging population with whom she works should be treated with dignity, compassion and empathy. Her ability to merge these values with her skill and aptitude as a nurse, her proactive measures to ensure the happiness, comfort and safety of patients, along with her sense of humor are attributes that set her apart. She is professional, detail-oriented and her responsiveness is impeccable.

“My 93-year-old, once-independent mother, a retired secretary for Alexander & Baldwin, is still very bright and articulate, but now depends on others to assist with her personal care. This aspect of aging has been the most difficult for her.

“When my mother was dealing with a challenging health situation, Phung took the initiative to call our family with regular updates until the problem was resolved. This type of communication is rare, especially given the number of residents she works with on a daily basis and the often-intense days of caring for those with needs. Phung always has a smile on her face and a very big heart to help anyone in need.”



radiology technician, The Queen’s Medical Center
Nominated by: Dani Anderson


“Like most 34-year-olds, I was not expecting to find a lump in my breast, but when I went for an ultra-sound at The Queen’s Medical Center, they found two masses in my left breast. On March 7, 2016, I drove myself in secret to Queen’s because I did not want to worry my family, especially my mom.

“Little did I know that having two biopsies was going to take the wind out of me. Within minutes of the procedure, I met Pixie, who was the mammogram lab technician. I started to bleed, got dizzy and felt like fainting.

“Pixie immediately sat me down on chair and gave me a hug and said it’s going to be OK. I cried because it was painful, plus it was the first hug I got since my lump was discovered.

“Pixie never rushed me or made me feel guilty that I was holding up her next appointment. She took me to a private room and continued to monitor me.

“She inquired about how I was getting home, gave me her phone number so I could text or call her when I arrived safely home.

“Pixie sends me inspirational messages to start my day, and it warms my heart that she is there for other women and children. When I became aware of her name, I knew she was special because as a child I had a Tinkerbell toy hanging from my bedroom light and my car has Tinkerbell stickers on the window.”



medical oncologist, Straub Clinic
Nominated by: Russell Choriki


“My wife, Viola Sagon-Choriki, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late ’90s. In June 2010, she noticed sores around her chest and arms. Based on a recommendation, we were introduced to Dr. Ian Okazaki, who treated my wife until she passed away in February 2016.

“From the beginning, he took very good care of my wife, not only with her cancer, but also with the mental aspect of what she had to go through. He always explained what he was doing and what might occur. He took time to help whenever we called and always explained in terms we could understand.

“Dr. Okazaki has three traits that put him above and beyond other doctors: knowledge, humility and listening. His bedside manner is always calm and reassuring. Dr. Okazaki reminds me of ‘old school’ doctors who came to your house and were part of the family. He takes patients seriously and wants to help them not only with their sickness, but for the understanding of one’s condition.”

Note: Okazaki received the national Compassionate Doctor Recognition in 2009-2012 and 2014. He states, “Health care is a team effort with the goal of giving patients reassurance that translates to compassionate care.”

Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s awards and scholarship gala is Saturday, Oct. 29, at 5:30 p.m, in Koolau Ballrooms, and includes a silent auction and dinner. For more information, call 521-8961 or visit